Tom Kelly was born in Jarrow and now lives happily further up the Tyne at Blaydon. He has had a varied career from his first job in a shipyard time-office; to writing the BBCTV Arena musical documentary Kelly with Alan Price. After a late degree he worked for twenty-five years as a drama lecturer at South Tyneside College.

He now writes full-time and works on creative projects. He has written many plays and musicals many of which have been produced by the Customs House, South Shields.  

He has seven collections of poetry, his most recent being I Know Their Footsteps published by Red Squirrel Press.



“As a fellow-Tynesider, I was pleased to read this in my ‘native’ idiom. Tom brings it off very well, and I congratulate him on a truly poetic dialect voice perfectly expressed in print. Through his command of the idiom I have loved since childhood, I have been swept back in memory to the atmosphere of all my working-class childhood and youth. The voice is absolutely convincing, and very appealingly managed in print – something very difficult to do with our gruff yet musical gift of self-expression – half proud, half uneasy about the effect it can make – often astonishingly memorable, as for example The Boot and its rough-tongued companion Unmarked. I can smell the coal dust and the drying fishing nets on the Tyne and in all its sloping riverbank roofs. Another poem (among many) I found really memorable is The Business and the translation (not too much ‘after’ T’Ao Ch’ien) whose poems I translated long ago.
“And I was absolutely swept away by the long sequence, Geordie in which both character and dialect are really compellingly evoked. It held me right to the end. I felt that it deserves to be illustrated by some sympathetic cartoonist who really knows and loves the Tyne and its working men – now so often unemployed or grown too old in the shipyards and engineering works that were once the glory of the Tyne. I think Tom Kelly is a unique poet – who ought to write a novel or short stories…”

James Kirkup