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.
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.’
In case you were unfortunate enough 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)
A 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.
I love Finn, Paddy and Conor dearly. So dearly that I dedicated my new book Flying High!to them. The day after it was published, I went round to their house to give them each a copy of the book. It was fabulous to see their faces light up when they realised their names appeared in it.
So far so good.
But when we went outside to take a photo of each of them with their copy … well, have you heard the expression ‘herding cats’?
Even with just one of them, it seemed like too ambitious an undertaking …
But persistence is all in photography. And here, at last, is the shot I was looking for:
Happy birding, boys! I hope you enjoy your books!
And if you have a photo of your child with their copy of Flying High!, do send it along to me (letting me know where it was taken), and I’ll pop it on the (soon-to-be-created) Flying High! gallery page of this blog.