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Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
McCartney at Hay Festival
Adrian Mitchell, Willy Russell, Sir Paul McCartney and Tom Pickard
Sir Paul McCartney reading poetry with Willy Russell
Sir Paul McCartney has read extracts of poems - inspired by a friend's death - at the Hay-on-Wye Literature Festival.

Sir Paul took up writing poems eight years ago but has rarely performed them in public.

The former Beatle is among a host of prominent guests at the literature festival in the Welsh Black Mountains, including Bill Clinton and Van Morrison.

Sir Paul McCartney meets fans in Liverpool
Sir Paul meets his fans
He made his debut as a performance poet in his home city of Liverpool last February.

There, he recited excerpts from his first anthology, Blackbird Singing, in front of an audience of 400 at the city's Everyman Theatre.

The musician has also been painting for the past 20 years.

But he only went public with an exhibition in Germany in May 1999 followed by shows in London and New York.

I'm just one of those people who jumps into black holes and does things like this

Sir Paul McCartney
Sir Paul, whose wife Linda died in 1998, declined invitations to read at the Royal National Theatre in London and at the Los Angeles Festival in favour of Merseyside.

In December 1999, he returned for a solo gig at the Cavern Club in Liverpool where his career with The Beatles took off.

He said: "The only time I ever wrote a poem at school was to try and get one published in the school magazine."

It was in 1993 that he was inspired to try his hand again after his close friend Ivan Vaughan died.

Vaughan introduced Sir Paul to John Lennon.

'Jump into black holes'

At his first live performance, he admitted to a dose of first night nerves before the performance, alongside playwright Willy Russell, the Blackbird singing's editor Adrian Mitchell, and Newcastle poet Tom Pickard.

A crowd of around 3,000 fans queued for signed copies of Blackbird Singing at a city centre bookseller.

Sir Paul gave another reading in New York in April.

"I'm just one of those people who jumps into black holes and does things like this," he said, earlier this year.

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See also:

01 Jan 01 | Entertainment
McCartney turns poet
29 Sep 00 | Entertainment
McCartney art makes UK debut
27 Jan 00 | Entertainment
Sir Paul praises Linda's 'goodness'
26 May 00 | Business
Rich chapter in book town's life
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