I’m just back from Herefordshire, where I’ve been putting on poetry performances and workshops with primary-school children for the Ledbury Poetry Festival. I’ll tell you more about it later. For now, I’d just like to share this fabulous – completely unsolicited – letter that one of the children came up to me and gave me. I was completely bowled over. Job satisfaction doesn’t get much better than this!
Well, I never thought when I started up theBigBuzz back in 2007 that I would end up performing at Le Moulin Rouge in the company of Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, Ant and Dec. But that’s exactly what happened this Yorkshire Day (= 1st August, for the uninitiated!)
Perhaps I need to unpack that a little. Le Moulin Rouge in question was a fantastic Spiegeltent temporarily erected in the centre of my home town York, as part of The Great Yorkshire Fringe Festival.
And Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, Ant and Dec were in fact present in the guise of face masks only, aka local volunteers judging the Yorkshire’s Got Talent portion of the day’s events. (And boy, has Yorkshire ever got talent! The contestants all sang amazingly!)
What was the day? Well, it was the family part of the Yorkshire Day Festival, a whole day and night’s worth of acts performing to raise money for the Lord Mayor’s charities, one of which is St Nicks (of which I am a Patron).
It was fabulous to watch so many other talented acts over the course of the day – and in such an amazing performance space.
My contribution to the day was an edu-taining ‘Birds and the Bees’ poetry show. I’m pleased to say the feedback was great – including this on the day:
‘The Birds and The Bees act was very good. My granddaughter loved it and was up on stage holding up drawings. Very good day indeed.’
and this from @FamiliesYork on Twitter:
Can’t ask for more than that!
I hope that much money was raised for the Lord Mayor’s charities. And that the families who came along were inspired by my portion of the day to do plenty of minibeast hunting and birding over the summer holidays.
Thank you to the friendly and professional crew at the venue who were a great help to us all. And to Emma Courtney of The Social Octopus and Kellie Taylor for organising the event.
If you’d like some ‘amazing’ eco-edutainment at your event, just get in touch!
For great cartoons of all the poets who performed at this York Literature Festival poetry feast, go to Sam Zuppardi’s blog: https://brushingup.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/york-literature-festival-programme-launch/ (Scroll right down to the bottom for his cartoon of me performing this very poem!)
‘Step through the magnificent gates into a magical woodland world …’ the Festival brochure said. And it wasn’t wrong.
On Sunday, children, parents, grandparents and godparents galore gathered in Malton’s ‘secret garden’, Castle Gardens, for the Ryedale Book Festival Family Fun Day themed around nature.
The day started off with artist and illustrator Matt Sewell teaching us all how to draw birds, in his Spotting and Jotting workshop:
And the entertainments kept coming! I had had a word with the Mayor of Malton on the previous Friday about securing us good weather for the day, and she didn’t disappoint. It was a beautiful sun-soaked Autumn day. So we were able to enjoy and explore the outdoor space with a book-cover trail, particularly fine face-painting …
… freshly baked pizzas and coffee and cakes, all accompanied by exquisitely crafted book-themed songs written and performed by the fabulous Bookshop Band.
Waterstones was on hand to sell books, with a nice big space for us authors to sign and dedicate copies for our readers.
And whilst we were roaming the Gardens, Matt Sewell was at the boundary wall creating a wonderful bird-themed mural – a flurry of Long-tailed Tits:
All in all a lovely, lovely day with a huge range of inspiring activities and experiences for all ages. If you missed it this year, then do put Ryedale Book Festival in your diary for next year.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the Festival brochure:
‘The Ryedale Book Festival is an inclusive, community-led, not for profit organisation run by a team of dedicated volunteers with a passion for books. If you would like to get involved, contact the Festival team: firstname.lastname@example.org‘
And … it even has its own beer!
Thank you to all the volunteers who put so much work into creating such a friendly and well-run Festival – especially Sarah Tyson, Audrie Woodhouse, Helen Lowdell and Pinelopi Bourke. It was a great pleasure to be part of it.
One of the important things I did at the Insect Festival in York last weekend was to sign up to become a Tansy Beetle Champion. If you live in or near York, do you fancy becoming a Tansy Beetle Champion too?
Buglife has just appointed its first Tansy Beetle Conservation Officer, Sophie Badrick, here in York, and I was very pleased to make her acquaintance on the Buglife stand at the Festival.
As you may know, the Tansy Beetle is also known as The Jewel of York. It’s a stunning green beetle, one of the most endangered beetles in Britain. It’s found along the banks of certain stretches of the River Ouse here in York – and virtually nowhere else.
People have been coming to York since Victorian times specially to see this beetle. I first saw it in 2009, and have been a big fan ever since.
As the name suggests, this beetle is a bit keen on Tansy. Keen to the point of obsession. No Tansy plants, no Tansy beetle. So the more Tansy plants there are, the better the chances of the Tansy Beetle surviving and thriving. Enter the Tansy Beetle Champions …
At the Insect Festival I signed up to be a Tansy Beetle Champion in charge of growing a Tansy plant. I was given a plant in a pot to take home and grow on.
Now, being responsible for the survival of an entire species is a bit of a heavy burden (especially given my track record when it comes to raising plants), so the more of us who grow these plants, the better!
If you live in or around York and fancy doing your bit for the Tansy Beetle (and lifting some of the responsibility for its survival from my shoulders!) then email the new Tansy Beetle Conservation Officer Sophie.email@example.com, or phone her on 07880 316026.
And if you’d like to print off this poster and put it up somewhere, you might be able to recruit some more Tansy Beetle Champions too.
Of course the really amazing Tansy Beetle Champions in York are people such as Geoff and Roma Oxford, who have been working tirelessly for decades to highlight this beetle’s plight and put in place measures to protect it. It was great to see both Geoff and Roma at the Insect Festival. Not forgetting Buglife’s York Officer Vicky Kindemba.
The Museum Gardens in York was teeming with even more insects than usual last Sunday as it hosted the biennial Royal Entomological Society Insect Festival.
Unusual additions included the butterfly above and the fly below, aka the very talented (and just a tad barmy) author of SWAT!, Mike Barfield (with whom I went to the Hay Festival last year):
Mike and I were on hand at the Brambleby Books stall …
… to entertain visitors and sign copies of our respective minibeast-themed books. (Mine being, of course, Buzzing!) Here I am in action:
It was great to see young and old alike at the Festival lapping up the huge variety of exhibits and minibeast-themed activities on offer.
Hats off to the man who swore blind he did NOT like poetry, but allowed me 2 minutes of his time to change his mind. He left, a good 5 minutes later, laughing and with a signed copy of my Buzzing! poetry book in his hands.
This was the fourth time the Insect Festival has been held at the Museum Gardens in York – and the fourth time I’ve been there. (Find out what I got up to at the 2013 and 2009 Festivals.) According to the RES it was the most successful Festival yet, with more people attending than ever before. Let’s hope it will return to York again in two years’ time.
I took the opportunity, whilst I was there, to go along to the Buglife stall and sign up to become a Tansy Beetle Champion. If you live in and around York, would you like to become one too? You can find out more here.
Thank you to Nicola and Hugh Loxdale of Brambleby Books for all they did to make our stall run so well. And to all the other contributors and everyone at the RES and beyond who made the day such a success.
Friday 13th doesn’t sound like a very propitious date for an awards ceremony. But the one held at Clements Hall in York on Friday 13th March was a big hit. I know. I was there!
Six local York primary schools gathered to receive their Food For Life Awards, and to show us what they had been doing to improve – nay transform – the food culture in their schools. It was very inspiring!
The schools received their awards from the Director of York Food and Drink Festival, local restaurateur Michael Hjort of Meltons. As part of the celebrations a variety of food-related activities were put on for the children, including an interactive poetry performance from me, smoothie making with UGOT, and seed sowing with Garden Organic. Oh, and there was poetry writing too …
Yes, ably assisted by Vikki Pendry of York Edible Schools, I ran a couple of poetry writing workshops in which the children created some fabulous poems about mystery fruit and veg.
Here I am trying to guess the veg …
A big thank you goes to Chloe Smee of York Food for Life Partnership, who put so much work into making the afternoon such a success. (And, indeed, into making the whole FFLP work so well in York.) You can read more about what we all got up to here.
Best of all I was given a special invitation to go and enjoy a school lunch at one of the award-winning schools, Fishergate Primary. I’m very much looking forward to this!
However, now comes the hard work, as a group of us grown-ups have to select the very best of the poems the children wrote. Why? Well, these poems will feature on special place mats that are going to be created for local restaurants to use in this September’s York Food and Drink Festival. (You may recall I have performed as part of this festival.) I’ll let you know when and where you can find these place mats. Will you be able to guess the fruit or veg?
(Stop press: You can read about a similar event in Calderdale here. And if you’d like some poetry performance and workshops on the subjects of food, healthy eating and growing where you are, just get in touch!)