I’m all about promoting learning through laughter, rhythm and rhyme, wellbeing through words and sustainability through creativity. So whether you’re a primary school looking for a poet or photographer to visit, a theatre or festival looking for an edu-taining family show, a club looking for an edu-taining after-dinner speaker, or a parent looking for a photography workshop to give your child as a present, then just get in touch, and I’ll see how I can help.
Mooch around this site, read the feedback (from schools and from events) and scroll down through the blog posts below to learn more.
And to find out where you can see a show or take part in a workshop, click here.
Sitting in the train, coming home from Ledbury last week, I was meditating on what I’d experienced over the previous couple of days, and on what we, as poets, had achieved and encountered in all our Ledbury Poetry Festival work with schools over the course of the year. (You can read about the early events we put on here.)
The latest workshops I’d put on for the Festival were with Year 7 and Year 8 pupils. I’d asked them to pull words from the letters that form the name of their school. Then we’d created a poem from the words they’d found.
On the train, I found myself doing the exactly same thing, but starting with the words ‘Ledbury Poetry Festival’. And then, just as in the workshop, I began fitting the words together, coming up with patterns and combinations, a thread, a structure, a story.
The video below is the end result. My ruminations on the six school ‘Poetry Festivals in a Day’ that over the course of this year I had taken part in for Ledbury Poetry Festival (along with fellow poets Sara Hirsch, Rob Gee, Mike Barfield and Matt Black). What I’d seen, what I’d heard, what I’d contributed, what I’d witnessed, what I’d experienced. What we’d unleashed. And its value. The value of giving children and young people a fresh creative space in which to explore and play with words. (Oh how I’d have loved to have had that opportunity when I was at school!)
You can get an idea of the value of these Festival events from the feedback we were getting from the Year 7/8 staff last Thursday:
‘Normally he won’t listen and won’t still still, but today he is so engaged.’
‘We’re seeing a completely different side to them here.’
All this ties in with the discussion I had at Ledbury Poetry Salon recently about the importance of poets working with school pupils. You can hear that discussion – with Festival Director Chloe Garner and fellow poet Sara Hirsch – as a podcast here. (The discussion comes after our initial performances.)
The Year 7 and Year 8 pupils we worked with last week are going to create an anthology from the poems they wrote with us at the Festival. I’m looking forward very much to reading it.
Meanwhile, as I was finishing this poem, I came across an article in the latest NAWE ‘Writing in Education’ journal about ‘the importance of teachers being writers alongside children being writers’. In this spirit I offer this poem to the pupils I was working with at the Festival. To show them how I do just what I was asking them to do. And how, in this instance, it worked out for me.
I hope it might inspire you to find the poems hidden in the everyday words around you, too.
I was in the stunning setting of York Minster last Thursday night, along with many hundreds of other people from the creative scene in York. We were gathered for the second annual York Culture Awards, celebrating cultural achievements in York.
I’m particularly thrilled as the award I was given is absolutely stunning. It’s been created by craftsmen at York Minster from a 14th-century roof beam from the North transept of the Minster (where our ceremony was being held). Priceless!
It looks like it’s charred around the edges, so I’m assuming it was removed from the roof as a result of a fire. I’ll have to find out more!
The whole evening was a great celebration of York’s cultural vitality and variety, and included, in addition to the announcement of the award winners, performances from local choirs. A highlight for me was the sublime performance by the Ebor Singers, in the Chapter House, of Sleep by Eric Whitacre.
I’d like to thank all those involved in the award, including the judges, MakeItYork, and the sponsors of my particular category, RED Publications, who said of my book:
‘Described as ‘poetry meets ornithology’, Flying High! is a gorgeous guide to British birds for children (and grown ups) mixing up entertaining poems, science facts and amazing feathery photos.
Andy said: “Anneliese’s award was well deserved – Flying High! is a brilliant book for getting youngsters interested in wildlife. We were delighted to be involved in this year’s York Culture Awards – it’s great to be able to help shine a light on our local creative talent here in York.
“Well done Anneliese – and congratulations to all the winners!”‘
Congratulations to all the winners indeed. You can see them below, and find out more about them here. ( You’ll see that the York Festival of Ideas won the award for ‘Best Cultural Event or Festival’. As it happens, Flying High! was launched at that very festival!)
Winners of the York Culture Awards 2017. (Photo by Paula Duck)
At the end of the ceremony I was nabbed by Kay Hyde, from MakeItYork, who asked me if I’d like to go on Radio York the next day to talk about the ceremony and my award. Seemed like a good idea to me, so I blithely said ‘Yes’. Only to discover that they wanted me there at 7.30 the next morning!
This is what I sound like when I’m interviewed (by Joanita Musisi) at 7.30am the morning after the night before:
Big thanks to my publishers, Brambleby Books, Flying High!’s designer, Tanya Warren of Creatix Design, Prof. Sir John Lawton for supporting the project by writing the Foreword, and all the talented photographers whose stunning photos appear in the book.
Last Saturday I had the privilege of seeing that put into action in an extraordinary way by the members of York Theatre Royal’s Project B Youth Theatre group, led by Catherine Heinemeyer. Under Catherine’s tutelage, the 5- to 8-year-old children in Project B didn’t just see the world through other creatures’ eyes, they experienced the world as other creatures. They became those other creatures.
And in exploring others’ emotions and behaviours, they were, of course, being able to explore their own too.
Let me explain.
Catherine decided to devote this term to birds, specifically through a selection of the poems in my new book Flying High! Discover the poetry in British birds. I was sent a stonking invitation (taller than I am!) created by the members of Project B, to come to their end-of-term sharing, where they were going to perform for their parents. And where I joined in too.
In their sharing, the children acted out the contrasting behaviours of Starlings – now scrapping with each other, now swirling round elegantly all together as a mass murmuration – to my Starling poem called ‘Startling’.
They divided into (posh) Great-crested Grebes and (common-as-muck) ducks and performed my ‘Different Strokes’ poem.
As I performed my poem about a Blackbird building a nest, they built their own nest together:
Project B children sitting in the nest they built
And then, as we all joined in with my poem about a Blue tit leaving its nest, they experimented with leaving their safe, cosy nest (or not!):
Project B children leaving their cosy nest (or preferring to stay put!)
In my podcast, I also talk about the importance of rhythmic rhyming poetry for developing children’s language and broadening their vocabulary. You can hear this in action in this clip of the Project B children reciting, along with me, my courting pigeon poem:
(The footsteps you can hear in the background are them pattering around as pigeons, trying to attract a mate.)
I was entranced by the use Catherine and Project B made of the material in my book, and hope others will use it in similar ways too. It’s always a complete joy to me when children read out my poems. But watching them performing the poems and exploring the different behaviours and emotions in them like this was remarkable. And very moving.
Catherine described my taking part in the session as ‘a real 360 degree experience’ for the children. It was for me too!
If you’ve ever wondered what it is I do, and why, if you’ve ever wondered what it is poets do in schools, and why, then might I suggest you check out this podcast?
If you’ve ever wondered what my poems for grown-ups sound like in performance, if you’ve ever wondered how my poems for grown-ups contrast with those of another spoken word artist (in this case, the very wonderful Sara Hirsch), then might I suggest you check out this podcast?
And if, like me, you’re just getting into podcasts, and want to try out what’s out there, then might I suggest you try listening to this one?
I relished the opportunity to perform some of my more edgy, contemporary poems for adults, then to listen to the very talented Sara Hirsch perform, and then to discuss with the audience the work we both do in schools. Sara works predominantly in secondary schools and I work predominantly in primary schools. It was very interesting for me to hear her experiences and for us both to explore how we work with pupils and the value of our work.
Identity, empathy, resilience, creativity – these are some of the issues we discuss.
In 2016, despite overwhelming opposition from the community, North Yorkshire County Council granted Third Energy permission to frack for shale gas by the village of Kirby Misperton (KM8) in Ryedale, some 25 miles from where we live. They plan to start fracking soon – by the end of 2017.
Today is Solidarity Day at Kirby Misperton, and this is my small contribution to making sure fracking doesn’t happen there:
The York Culture Awards ‘celebrate excellence in the arts and culture sector and reward outstanding innovation, creativity and quality …’ And looking through the list of finalists makes you realise just what a vibrant arts and culture scene we have here in York. Many talented people! It’s a privilege to be among their number.
The York Culture Awards’ aim is: ‘by showcasing the city’s cultural uniqueness and diversity … to ultimately make culture more accessible to everyone and to encourage more people to take part.’
Amen to that!
I’m looking forward to meeting the other finalists at the award ceremony, which takes place in York Minster next month.
Meanwhile, thank you to everyone involved in the publication of my Flying High! book.
Never has the run-up to a gig of mine been so nerve-wracking, or so top secret! How come? Read on …
It all started when BBC Radio York contacted me to let me know (highly confidentially!) that they’d chosen my ‘Birds and the Bees’ poetry show at Easingwold Community Library that week as the ‘Treasure’ in their Saturday-morning treasure hunt, called Finders Keepers. Not familiar with Finders Keepers? All is explained in this clip, from the 9am beginning of this Saturday’s show:
So, six cryptic clues that listeners have to solve by noon, taking the Radio York reporter (+ side-kick) to locations around North Yorkshire. And come down to the wire it did, this week!
The idea had been that the Radio York reporter would reach me (i.e. the ‘Treasure’) at Easingwold Community Library at around 11.50. My first job, therefore, was to arrive at the library nice and early, get myself set up and ready to hand over the all-important envelope – i.e. the solution to the final cryptic clue – and be interviewed about the upcoming event that afternoon.
And thanks to my driver-and-roadie husband Mike, that I managed to do:
Arrived at Easingwold Community Library at 11.20 with the Finders Keepers ‘Treasure’ envelope
From then on we just had to wait and hope that Radio York reporter Abigail would find her way to us. Diana, one of the Easingwold Community Library volunteers, set up a tranny in the library to follow events:
Library volunteer Diana following Finders Keepers on the radio
It got later, and later, and later – and the final clue was finally picked up, at Ampleforth College Prep School at Gilling Castle, at 11.40. The clue was:
The good news is that a couple of people phoned in not long after, with a possible solution to this clue:
The bad news is that by this time it was around 11.47, and it takes some 20 minutes to get from Gilling Castle to Easingwold. So we in the library were somewhat despondent, convinced that no-one was going to reach us by noon. Which would mean no publicity for the library and my event there.
Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, so library volunteer Diana despatched me to stand outside the library with my ‘Treasure’ envelope to see if I could spot the Radio York reporters and get them to us asap.
So there I am standing outside the library, and a woman comes running towards me with a phone clamped to her ear and she’s waving at me. I assume this is the miracle we’ve been waiting for, and I hand the ‘Treasure’ envelope over to her. She’s puffed and one-handed (other hand occupied with the phone), so together we tussle with the envelope and get it open and she reads out the ‘Treasure’ down her phone.
Now what I didn’t realise was that a) it was 11.59 by this time (i.e. one minute before the noon deadline) and b) this wasn’t actually the Radio York reporter. This is what had been happening whilst I was stood outside the library scouting for BBC reporter Abigail:
The fabulous Jess, at Easingwold Community Library, with the ‘Treasure’ envelope
So, mission accomplished! The ‘Treasure’ was found – albeit in a rather unorthodox fashion – in the nick of time. The ‘Treasure’ being:
The Finders Keepers ‘Treasure’ revealed!
‘Explanation: Easingwold Library hosts poet Anneliese Emmans Dean and her Big Buzz stories this afternoon. TREASURE’
With Jess, Treasure found, outside Easingwold Community Library
Some time later Abigail, the Radio York reporter, did reach us at the library. By this time, though, the Finders Keepers programme had finished, so there was no time to broadcast an interview with us about our event.
BBC Radio York Finders Keepers reporter Abigail with Easingwold Community Library volunteer Diana, and Jess, who saved the day!
However, Abigail did record an interview with us, and it was broadcast around 40 minutes later (as part of the next programme, hosted by Ross Dickinson):
So, our event and the library did get publicity after all!
Following all this on a phone app in her car on the way down from Scotland was Lyn Fenby, one of the volunteers at Easingwold Community Library, and the person who had invited me to come and put on a ‘Birds and the Bees’ show for them. She and her family arrived at the library just in time for the event that afternoon. I’d like to thank her for inviting me to the library for – as you heard – the first of what they hope will be a series of regular, monthly Saturday author events held there.
Having spent quite some time at the library on Saturday (!), I got to see the excellent work the volunteers do there. It’s clear that this library – like all libraries – is very much a community resource, a community hub, and it’s vital that it stay open, continuing to serve its local community. Since April, when it ceased to be run and funded by North Yorkshire County Council, the only way it can continue to perform that vital role, is through the work of dedicated volunteers. Hats off to you all!
Gig-wise, what I really enjoyed about this one was the age range of the audience. From 8 to 80-something, I’d say. And at one time or another I saw smiles on all of their faces. Very gratifying.
Some of the audience joining in
Though most gratifying of all was when, at the end of the show, 8-year-old Gus from the audience spontaneously – and very fluently – read out my Kestrel poem from my Flying High! book. Fabulous!
And finally … as it happens, this was the first show I’d put on since it had been announced – the day before – that my book Flying High! had been shortlisted for this year’s York Culture Awards (in the ‘Excellence in Writing’ category). I was bowled over when Lyn mentioned this in her ‘thank you’ at the end of the show, and presented me with a fabulous bird-themed bottle of wine to mark the occasion. Gosh! It’s been quite a couple of days!
p.s. There’s been some lovely feedback on Easingwold Community Library’s facebook page:
‘We are keeping our fingers crossed that you will come back and see us again, such an excellent, inspiring, educational and buzzing workshop last Saturday, thank you again.’