This week my Monday was a joy, spent in the company of the wonderful children of Hargate Primary School, in sunny West Bromwich. It was sunny, it was a lovely day.
I first met Hargate Primary when they sent a group of 15 children to The Hurst in Shropshire, for a week on Arvon’s schools programme, at which I was one of the tutors. Since then I’ve become their Poet in Residence, visiting the school every term to celebrate poetry with all ages of children.
On Monday I worked with Years 4, 5 and 6, and we played first at telling what could be a truth, or could be a lie, and I had to guess which was which. In the process, I get reminded of the children’s names!
Then we all enjoyed Robert Seatter’s well-known poem, ‘I come from’, before writing our own versions. So many fantastic lines:
I come from wanting a hamster and a parrot
I come from a house full of havoc and phones
I come from Sandwell Hospital with fireworks outside
I come from a cup of tea
At lunchtime I took my cup of tea to the library, made poems with visiting children, and we read together. At the end of the day I gave a reading, and fielded lots of questions from bright-eyed children enriched by a great range of languages and cultures. Hargate is a very special place. There’s a lot of humanity about.
With four rather marvellous collaborative class poems completed by Much Wenlock Primary School (South of the Severn) and Redhill Primary School (North of the Severn), I went back in to work with the children on creating individual poems. We did this by using their original Poem Notes, made outdoors, plus prompted writing I’d done with them after their trips – and then we developed these ideas to create tankas. Some drafts below:
Meantime, when they weren’t working on their tankas, the children were making huge poetry collages with artist Emily Wilkinson.
and then we wrote up the tankas onto postcards, and shared them –
Two Sides of the Severn has been developed and supported by Clore Poetry and Literature Awards, the Arts Council and the Trustees of Wenlock Poetry Festival.
My involvement in the Impressions of the Past project continues! A big, varied group of families and individuals from the local community converged to meet ceramicist Ruth Gibson and I in Pontesbury a couple of weeks ago. We all walked up through the green lanes and footpaths to Poles Coppice. Ruth got everyone making clay impressions, and I handed out Poem Notes booklets. Everyone set off to explore and write and make.
out of an owl’s eye/ the different/ views of winter
(part of a poem I put together using words the participants gave me up at Poles Coppice – you can read it here).
At lunchtime, we all headed back down to Pontesbury Public Hall, where archaeologists Mike and Teri gave a talk and slide show. Seriously channelling the Iron Age now, everyone set to and created new poems –
and I wrote one based on words I’d collected from the participants during the walk.
A stream of excited children and smiley adults poured into Ludlow Assembly Rooms yesterday evening for the Grand Finale of In woods we forget things, at the wood edge we tell stories.
I laid on cakes (made in Ludlow, and not by me) in vast quantities. There was also tea, coffee and juice – and once everyone had been refreshed, I was thrilled to bits to find over 70 people sitting down to see photographs, live performances and short films of the project.
I am so grateful to everyone who turned out on a dark, cold November night to drive some miles into Ludlow, including teachers, teaching assistants, headteachers and support workers. Your young people are magnificent! And thank you to our experts in the woods, Karen Limbrick from Brineddin, Toni and Ru from Tru Wood, and Clive Dean of SWT at Brook Vessons.
Big thanks also last night to project volunteers Liz Hyder and Dougie Greatorex, who looked after everyone beautifully, and handed out extra cake. Thank you too, to Darren Cadet at LAR, who fixed the technical difficulties I was having embedding the films.
Huge thanks to the funders of this project too – I’ve loved it – that’s the Shropshire Hills AONB Conservation Fund and Shropshire Housing Group. Thank you Cath Landles and Helen Vaughan for travelling to see our Finale.
On the way out, everyone stuck a sticker on the Tree of Evaluation… and if I may say so, the three ‘leaves’ over there on the right were added by very small younger siblings, who just seemed to want to join in. And there were no cakes left.
Last week, on a day with a distinct October nip in the air, I walked back to the woods with Bucknell Primary’s Key Stage 2 class, as part of my project ‘In woods we forget things, at the wood edge we tell stories’. We carried laminated copies of the children’s poems, and cameras to film their performances under the trees they chose to write for.
Once we were in the wood, the children scattered to find their trees. No-one had any trouble remembering exactly the right place. Indeed more than one pair showed me the precise knot or bulge or bark pattern that had inspired a particular line or phrase.
Everybody practised, and then we all trooped round the wood, alternately being the performers, and the audience. The performances were moving and joyful, and the quality of the listening was just as good.
We left the laminated poems tied onto the trees for Toni and Ru to find later. (And we also left a poem for the Composting Toilet).
This project is funded by Shropshire Hills AONB and Shropshire Housing Group. More on the project blog here.