Word Power

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.’

and

‘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.

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life

 

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Poetry Podcast

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?

You’ll see that this podcast was recorded at Ledbury Poetry Festival’s Poetry Salon, where different poets are invited to come and perform, then take part in a Q&A about their work.

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.

Have a listen. See what you think.

And if you’d like to know more about the work I do in schools, you can do so here and here and here.

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life

 

The P-Factor 2017

So excited was I by the prospect of judging the Ryedale Book Festival P-Factor Grand Final this year that I penned a poem. But I only penned it a couple of days before the event. Did I have time to learn it? Did I have the nerve to perform it at the event itself?

As the poem aimed to inspire the children to give the very best of themselves in their performances that afternoon, I decided to take my courage into my hands and give it a go. Here’s the result:

The results that really counted that day, of course, were those of the P-Factor competition itself. Schools from around Ryedale came to Malton to perform the poems they’d learned in front of a panel of three judges – poets Mandy Coe, Catherine Boddy and me (all of whom had performed for the children in the morning).

The P Factor 2017 Judges: Catherine Boddy, Mandy Coe, and me

The P Factor 2017 Judges: Catherine Boddy, Mandy Coe, and me

I knew from the last time I’d judged the competition (back in 2015, along with John Hegley, P-Factor founder Andy Seed and Steven Nash) that I was in for a treat! And this year’s contestants did not disappoint.

The props this year included a real live chocolate cake, which a child proceeded to consume in front of our very eyes as part of his rendition of Michael Rosen’s ‘Chocolate Cake’ poem!

Over the course of the afternoon children performed a wide variety of poems. They rapped, they made us laugh, they brought a tear to our eyes. They all brought poetry to life.

We judges were only supposed to come up with one winner and one runner-up. But the three girls from Kirkbymoorside Primary School were so good that we had to invent a special ‘Highly Commended’ prize category just for them!

The Runners-up of this year’s competition were … the team from Wellburn Hall School with their fabulous rendition of an Anansi Spider poem:

The Wellburn Hall School P-Factor 2017 runners-up, with the Mayor of Malton and a gaggle of poets

The Wellburn Hall School P-Factor 2017 runners-up, with the Mayor of Malton and a gaggle of poets

And the winners were … the Langton Primary School team, with their faultless performance of Michael Rosen’s ‘Strict’ poem!

The Langton School winners of the P Factor 2017 - with the Mayor of Malton and a gaggle of poets

The Langton School winners of the P-Factor 2017 – with the Mayor of Malton and a gaggle of poets

This is such an inspiring event. An entire auditorium full of children cheering about, and performing, poetry – for a whole day. Whoof! And the competition gets live-streamed back to all the schools involved!

Hats off to Karen Saunders and Sarah Tyson of Ryedale Book Festival for all they do to make this event happen. And to all the other Festival volunteers and tech people who made this year’s event go so well. Massive thanks too to the teachers and pupils of all the schools involved, for the time, energy and creativity you put into the competition.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s event!

P-Factor 2017 Runners-Up from Wellburn Hall School in costume!

P-Factor 2017 runners-up from Wellburn Hall School in costume!

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life

Tang Hall Family Festival

There was lots – and I mean lots – going on at the Tang Hall Family Festival in York yesterday. It was spread over three sites – Tang Hall Community Centre, St Nicks and Hull Road Park. And it was all free.

I got to two of the three sites. Here are some snaps to give you a flavour of what was going on at the Tang Hall Community Centre site, where I was leading story-telling sessions.

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What did I get up to there? Well, I led a story-telling/poetry quest, in which Prince Dennis of Tanghallia explored his kingdom and successfully fulfilled his mission, thus becoming King Dennis of Tanghallia.

And then I welcomed princesses into the golden palace of Tanghallia, where they rode on unicorns and sang songs in praise of Tanghallia. (It may have looked to you as if we were in a yellow gazebo standing on beanbag cubes, but that just shows how little imagination you have!) (By the way, you may remember those beanbag cubes from my visit to Tang Hall Community Centre last December, during which they became sledges and snowballs and pyramids.)

And then those same princesses shed their royal connections and created a story in which we all flew (using our magic powers, natch) to Africa, where we went on an adventure to catch a venomous snake.

I learned last time I was at Tang Hall that the children have amazing amounts of imagination and creative energy, and it was a great pleasure to encourage them to put these into action again on this occasion.

Then, just as I was leaving the site to go home, two children came up to me and asked me to perform some poems for them. How could I refuse? To start with they each chose one of my Buzzing! photos, and I performed the poem that went with each one. But have I mentioned how creative the children round these parts are? When they chose their third photo (a caterpillar), I was about to start performing my caterpillar poem, when they decided – quite rightly – that they could do just as good a job themselves. So there and then, they wrote – and then performed – a caterpillar poem of their own. Which went like this:

My spikes are so hairy
They’re big and they’re scary
And people are frightened of me
I change my ways
And how I behave
And crawl from tree to tree.

By Maisie and Nathan, both aged 10

Owzat?!

Thank you to Tang Hall Big Local for inviting me to be part of this Family Festival, and to Tang Hall Community Centre Manager Stephen Collins for letting me use his wonderful beanbag cubes again.

A big thank you, too, to all the fabulously enthusiastic festival-goers who welcomed me back to Tang Hall Community Centre so warmly, and who joined in my events yesterday.

The icing on the cake for me was that I discovered that up on the wall in the Community Centre lounge are two beautifully framed photos taken during my December story-telling workshops. I was absolutely thrilled to see them there.

A participant in my December 2016 Tang Hall story-telling workshops.

One of the photos from my December 2016 Tang Hall story-telling workshops that’s now gracing the walls of the Community Centre.

So, that’s a brief run-down of the Tang Hall Community Centre part of this 3-venue festival. (Though I forgot to mention the belly dancers, the bouncy castle, the ukelele players, the face painter, the pizza making, the ice lollies, the virtual reality headset, and … and … and!) I also looked in at the St Nicks part of the festival yesterday too. But I’ll tell you about that another time.

Meanwhile, if you live down Tang Hall way, do keep tabs on all the great activities that Tang Hall Big Local puts on.

STOP PRESS: And for a video of the Family Festival events, see

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life

Ryedale Book Festival at Scampston Hall

Just a quick heads up about the fabulous event on *tomorrow* (Sunday 25 June) in Scampston Hall’s beautiful Walled Garden, near Malton. ‘A day of nature-themed literary activities for all the family’. I look forward to seeing you there! Find out more here.

Article from the Ryedale Gazette & Herald

Article from the Ryedale Gazette & Herald

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life

Flying High! launch event

In case you were unfortunate enough Image result for emoji wink to miss the York Festival of Ideas launch of my new book Flying High! last Saturday, here’s a little snippet from my show. I’ll tell you a bit more about the whole event below.

The launch event took place on the new Heslington East campus of the University of York as part of the …

The event was a ‘triple bill’ consisting of:

  • A guided bird walk led by RSPB Vice-President Prof. Sir John Lawton, who wrote the Foreword to the book. (To be strictly accurate, John Lawton led *two* guided bird walks, as the first one filled up.) (The second one did too!)

Matt, taking full advantage of the bird walk photo opportunities. (Photo: Ann Taylor)

  • Flying High! show from me in which, as you’ve seen in the video above, I performed a selection of the poems in the book.

Performing my Flying High! show (Photo: Vikki Pendry)

  • And then a Flying High! book signing.

Signing copies of Flying High! (Photo: Vikki Pendry)

It gave me great pleasure to look out over the audience and see ages ranging from under 10 to over 80, smiling and joining in.

And it was particularly pleasing to meet three of the photographers whose sensational photos appear in the book, and who had come along specially for the launch event. Here I am (rather windswept!) with two of them, Mandy West and Roy Lowry (along with  RSPB V-P Prof. Sir John Lawton).

Photographer Mandy West,  RSPB V-P Prof. Sir John Lawton, me, photographer Roy Lowry

I was thrilled that photographers Mandy, Roy – and Lindsey Bowes – were able to attend the launch, and so pleased that the audience applauded their fabulous photos.

With Mandy West, one of the Flying High! photographers

What did the audience think of the event? Well, take a read:

‘Wonderful. So much fun.’ Ruth T

‘Lovely morning at University of York. Fantastic presentation, we loved it.’ Ann T

‘The show was so fascinating and your performance was absolutely brilliant. I was totally inspired: on my walk home I was looking out and listening out to see if I could identify any birds.’ Rowan J

‘A delightful performance and book launch.’ Margaret K

‘A lovely morning of poetry reminding us of the brilliance of birds and creative writing.’ Vikki P

So, that’s Flying High! launched – in York at least! If you fancy a Flying High! show where you are, just get in touch.

A very big Thank You to Prof. Sir John Lawton, for all his Flying High! support and his invaluable contributions to the launch event. Thanks, too, to all the York Festival of Ideas team for including our event in this year’s festival.

Meanwhile, I’ve another Flying High! ‘show + bird walk + book signing’ combo on 28 July at St Nicks in York. See my What’s On page for more details of this and other events – including the fabulous Scampston Hall/Ryedale Book Festival event I’ll be at next Sunday (and where Flying High! will be on sale).

You can find out more about my Flying High! book here, read the first press review here, and order your copy below.


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Much magic at Much Marcle

What an inspired idea! Bring children from different primary schools together at a gorgeous venue, set in fabulous grounds, for a day-long poetry festival in the company of three very different poets.

The idea was Chloe Garner’s. She’s the Director of the – very wonderful – Ledbury Poetry Festival.

Chloe Garner - Director of the Ledbury Poetry Festival

Chloe Garner – Director of the Ledbury Poetry Festival

The gorgeous venue was Hellens Manor, in Much Marcle, Herefordshire, not a million miles down the road from Ledbury:

Hellens Manor

Hellens Manor, Herefordshire

The grounds are gorgeous, both formal:

The grounds of Hellens Manor

The grounds of Hellens Manor

And more wild:

The grounds at Hellens Manor

The grounds at Hellens Manor. (The elephant is a sculpture, in case you were wondering!)

And the poets were me:

Anneliese Emmans Dean at Hellens Manor

Me!

Sara Hirsch:

Sara Hirsch, preparing her next workshop!

Sara Hirsch, preparing her next workshop …

and Rob Gee (who I kept meaning to take a snap of, but didn’t get around to!)

We three poets performed for the children and with the children, we put on poetry writing and performance workshops, and we all came together at the end of the day to listen to the children performing their new work.

Then we did something very similar the next day (with different children).

And the children? What did they make of it all?

Children in our Poetry Festival lunch break

Children in our Poetry Festival lunch break

Well, here’s the – completely unsolicited – letter one of the children gave me:

A letter from one of the participants in the 'Poetry Festival in a Day' I took part in

A letter from one of the participants in the ‘Poetry Festival in a Day’

Can’t ask for much more than that!

And the grown-ups? What did they think? Here’s some feedback from one of the accompanying mums:

‘What a joy it was to join my son’s primary school and 2 other schools for a
Festival of poetry at Hellens Manor.
A trip out of school to such a beautiful yet friendly location was a great
start to engaging the children but then a day of hard listening, thinking
and writing really got them buzzing and creating. The three so different but
excellent poets performed wonderfully right from the start as the children
asked questions; then listened to the funny, serious, challenging and even
slightly naughty material; then enjoyed three absorbing workshops and
finally performed their own work to their friends and new friends, using a
mic.
Conversations and laughing about the poetry continued in the car and I
believe was taken up next day in lesson plan changes by their teachers.
If days like these don’t get children realising that writing and poetry can
be so rewarding, fun and exciting, I don’t know what will.’

As for me … I found it a very enriching and inspiring experience, in a location so beautiful that I could quite happily have stayed there for ever and ever and ever …!

Fortunately, Chloe is hoping to put on a similar events in the future. Next time she invites me, I may just have to refuse to leave the premises at the end of it all …

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life