Sunday, 23 February 2014


It’s been another very busy week here at Poetry Towers! With plans for the Fenland Poet Laureate Awards really starting to come together, and the top ten finalists decided in each category, I’m really looking forward to the prize-giving ceremony on Wednesday 19th March!

On Tuesday, I spent the morning with fellow judges Elaine Ewart and Karen Harvey looking though all the entries for the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition 2014.

We met early, occupying a table at the new café at Dents Garden Centre at Hilgay, and got to work reading through all the submissions.

The entries were split into two sections, adults (over eighteens) and 11-17 year olds. First, we read the poems in the over eighteens category.

The standard of entries was incredibly high, and many of the poets had chosen to reflect on the theme – “The Fens” – in new and exciting ways. It was an absolute joy to read all the submissions and, after a lot of discussion, we managed to put together a shortlist of our ten finalists.

There were at least half a dozen poems that were worthy of the top trophy, and we each championed our favourites, reading the poems aloud and discussing the language, structure and content of each of the shortlisted pieces. Finally we agreed on our first, second and third prizes, and put the winners into a sealed envelope.

It was a bit like being a spy!

Then, I was completely flabbergasted by the wonderful poetry submitted by poets in the 11-17 category, and again there were loads of poems that were worthy of the shortlist. After a quick pit stop for cakes and tea, we chose our shortlist and agreed the winners, and I think all of us were really pleased with our decisions!

The entries were all anonymised before the judging process began – to keep everything as fair as possible – so even us judges don’t yet know who will be crowned Fenland Poet Laureate 2014!

I’m so excited to find out the names of all our finalists, and the folks at ADeC will be announcing them some time next week. I’ll keep you posted!

Also this week, we hosted the fifth Fen Speak open mic night at the Babylon Gallery in Ely.

Twenty-one performers took to the stage to share their poetry, with a great mix of new faces and returning talent, including poets from as far afield as St Ives, Peterborough and even Fakenham!

Our reputation precedes us!

It was another fantastic night, and an absolute pleasure to hear so many great writers sharing their work and encouraging others too! Thank you to everyone who came along, and a special thanks to all those who performed.

One of our regular contributors – Rosemary Westwell – was kind enough to write a few words of review for us, and some of the highlights she identified were as follows:

Caroline Gilfillan’s description of the young Pepys journeying to his grammar school in Huntingdon; Richard McNally’s My Devonian Girl which was straight from the heart; Emma Ormond’s very clever Glove Bird complete with fascinating hand movements and Mike Alderson's Along a corridor tackling mental health issues. There was also Bob Sheed’s entertaining The Snake Oil Salesman; Mary Livingstone’s poem that captured the cat perfectly; Anna, read beautifully by William Alderson, and George Anderson’s take on Mrs Bouquet.

If all that sounds exactly like your cup of tea, then you should definitely come along to the next Fen Speak event! Details can be found on our facebook page, and we’d love to see you there!

Next week, I'm back in the classroom, doing some workshops with Y8 and Y9 students at the Thomas Clarkson Academy in Wisbech. We'll be working on short stories this time, and I've got some great activities for the class, so I'm really looking forward to it! I let you know how I get on next week!

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