It’s August! Which means summer holidays, larking about in pub gardens and generally having a lovely time in the sunshine. Or, at least, that would be the case, if I hadn’t already spent all my annual leave on poetry workshops and gigs earlier in the year! Still, I’ve managed to get out and about a bit too. Here’s a few of the lovely, poetry-based things I’ve been up to this week:
Last Wednesday, I pootled down the A1(M) to the Museum of Cambridge to facilitate some drop-in family poetry workshop as part of the Summer at the Museums series with the University of Cambridge.
The Museum itself is a beautiful place, and it’s one of my favourite local museums in the UK, if only because the collections are treasure-troves of bizarre and fascinating objects documenting the social history of Cambridgeshire – my adopted birth county!
|'The Noted Liar' medal in the Museum of Cambridge|
I spent a little bit of time at the Museum recently, writing poems about the various artefacts and making a poetry trail for families to follow. I wrote ten poems in all, and six of them were pinned up around the museum for kids to find. The poems were all kind of like riddles, and the kids would then have to guess what each poem was about. It was tricky to write to a brief, and there were a couple of false starts – because writing for children is super hard! – but I’m really happy with what I produced in the end. (I might even share a few of them on this blog, so keep a look out for those!)
But my real challenge was putting together a drop-in poetry session for primary school-aged children!
This is not an age group I’d ever worked with before and I have to admit I usually feel more comfortable working with adults or groups of teenagers. (Particularly teenagers, because I think my mental age hovers around fifteen most of the time anyway!)
Still, nothing ventured nothing gained, right?
So, I put together loads of poetry-based activities, and we set out the tables and waited for the mini-poets to arrive!
The morning drop-in session proved really popular! We had eleven children and five mums, all getting stuck in and using their imaginations to create some great writing!
|Cut up words, ready to be made into poems!|
The most popular activities were the old photographs (where we had some great stories about Bob the dog, whose photo was taken in 1941) and the cut up words, which led to some fantastic Dadaist poetry! My favourite line was about a skateboarding pizza, but there were loads of really imaginative juxtapositions across the board!
|Bob the dog (photo taken in 1941)|
The kids also really enjoyed the ‘Guess the Object’ game, and the younger ones had a great time illustrating some poems with their own designs.
One of the children ask me to draw them a mermaid. This was the result:
|What the ef is that thing?!|
Which I think clearly illustrates the idiom ‘You can't be good at everything’ and the lesser-known sub-idiom ‘but you can be genuinely awful at some things’. Ho hum.
For the afternoon session, we had a much smaller group, consisting of one little girl and her mum. But, far from being awkward, it was great to be able to focus on the exercises with her, and she wrote an excellent acrostic poem about a lion and a unicorn too!
|The afore mentioned unicorn and lion|
Then, on Friday, I went back down in the sound studio in the Bonington Gallery to record the titles for my poetry soundscape, which will be premièring in the Sound Booth as part of the gallery’s autumn/winter season.
Rob the sound engineer is going to add some music and effects to the tracks, and I’m really looking forward to hearing how it all comes together. Hopefully, it’ll all be ready within the next couple of months, and I’ve even thought of a name for the project, which is really exciting!
I’m going to keep you in suspense for a little bit though, so as not to spoil the big reveal!
On Saturday, I popped down to the Suffolk coast to perform at the Folk East festival, just outside Woodbridge.
|Folk East festival!|
I absolutely LOVE this festival! Especially the Soapbox stage, which is run by Amy Wragg from Get on the Soapbox and her army of volunteers. Amy fills the bill with new and emerging talent from across East Anglia, and the line-up is 98% local, which is awesome! As well as some really great bands and musicians, Amy also sources home-grown spoken word acts – and that, my friends, is why I was there.
Of course, I’m no longer quite as local as I once was (In fact, I was a seven hour round trip to get to the festival!) but I love the friendly and supportive atmosphere of the Soapbox stage. Plus, it was a great way to catch up with poets and musicians from across the East of England.
It was absolutely wonderful to see Meg Burrows and Christine York perform again. Meg’s lyrical musings really captivated the audience, while Chris’ Punk Rock Granny was witty character poetry at its best. She even got the crowd to toast to ‘dry vaginas’ (a menopausal cocktail) at one point – which had everyone in stitches!
I was also really pleased to see Tom the Zengineer, who I’d never met before, but who completely blew us all away with his incredibly intricate rhymes, full of amazing technical rhythm and more than a little emotional punch too. Oooh, he was good! Definitely check him out if you can!
And I also got to hang out with some lovely people from the Cambridge poetry scene (who I miss desperately, and who filled me in with all the gossip: both poetic and romantic) and have a bizarre but brilliant chat with Dan Clark (who is another excellent poet, and who you should check out here). I also got to listen to a Hurdy-Gurdy playing across a field, and I sold thirteen copies of my pamphlet to festival goers! Not bad for one day’s work!
Seriously though, it was a fantastic festival, and all the more wonderful for being able to share it with so pretty cool people too! Massive thanks to Amy for inviting me along, and thanks as well to anyone who came to see me perform. You’re all very kind to indulge me!
What a busy week!