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Acknowledged or debatable?

We spent Thursday evening at the Northern Poetry Library in Morpeth – the largest collection of contemporary poetry in England outside London (where the National Poetry Library is about to reopen). The Library has 15,000 books: anthologies, collections, poetry for children…

We were not there to borrow a book, however, but to celebrate a web site: the second issue of Acknowledged Land, the online literary magazine for Northumberland. (The title plays on the medieval description of the much-disputed border between England and Scotland as "the debatable lands"). We’ve been trying to promote the alliance of literature and the internet since 2001, and we’re always delighted to see that alliance strengthened.

Acknowledged Land contains some first-rate material, too: I can’t give direct links, because the site design prevents it, but I particularly enjoyed the interview and poems from Gillian Allnutt in the current issue, and the Peter Bennet interview and poems in the first issue (now archived).

The Poetry Library had taken the trouble to keep computers switched on, so that we could look at the new issue, and it looked wonderful: each issue is laid across a strong background image; the first was waving grass the second a twig, all green leaves and red berries against a blue, blue sky. It doesn’t look quite as wonderful on my screen at home, because I am one of those web surfers (I think we are still about 20% of users) whose screen is only 800X600. I have been resisting upgrading, because designing for a smaller screen (and then looking at the result on Roger’s larger screen) enables us to make sites which work for all visitors, regardless of screen size: Acknowledged Land produces a number of ugly and inconvenient scroll bars on my monitor.

This is annoying, but it doesn’t stop me enjoying the magazine: a blind visitor, though, would have trouble using the menu buttons, which are graphics with no text for a voice browser to read; and the text size has been fixed, so that a partially sighted surfer couldn’t increase the print size. I hate to see a site made inaccessible by such easily-fixed mistakes. Still, it gave us an opportunity to give New Writing North‘s Claire Malcolm a quick tutorial in accessible web sites!

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