The second Otley Town Crier Competition on September 22nd kept me quiet as I listened to the loud proclamations of the contenders that had travelled from different parts of the country. Once again, I was the judge responsible for Diction and Inflection, monitoring the monotony and drama in the delivery of each crier, and John Griffiths of Sleaford was a worthy winner. Well done to our own Bellman Terry and the Town Council for such a unique experience that tied in with Car Free Day.
I mentioned in my last update that I was involved in Leeds/Dortmond50 (www.leedsdortmund50.com), a project celebrating the twinning of the two cities by pairing poets and writers with counterparts in Germany. I read the results of my collaboration with Thomas Kade on Chapel FM October 3rd(National Poetry Day), which celebrates waking up early on my street in Otley over the summer to discover so many of my neighbours awake, too. It was also fascinating to hear the poem translated to German by academic Harry Toye. The event can be heard again at .
On Saturday October 5th, a group of Otley poets and I performed Town Below the Steps, our collaborative play-in-verse, at the Church House for Ilkley Literature Festival Fringe. It had been a while since we last performed it together, so we were completely overwhelmed by the attendance, which was over 50 – the venue was at full capacity! There was lots of positive feedback in the room, including one person who had never been to Otley, but said they wanted to visit after having heard Town Below the Steps. Thank you to Fringe organisers, Jess and Mel, for hosting our event.
The third screening of the Navvies Monument film by Mark Currie took place at Otley Courthouse on Oct 19th, where I read my sestina Three Navigators, 1846 (see previous blog post) and took on hosting duties for another capacity event.
My poetry workshops for children at Leeds City Museum on Oct 29th, celebrating the installation of their pilot whale, was attended by around 30 children throughout day. The results were truly moving, as some young poets made the connection between the whaling industry and how that drastically diminished the number of whales in the sea and the amount of floating plastic that is the new threat to the world’s largest mammal. My thanks go out to Winston Plowes for the use of his commission Whale Song Ghazal during the workshops.
I was very honoured to read my commission for the Remembrance Sunday Service on Nov 10th at Otley Methodist Church. The poem recognised the 75th anniversary of Normandy Landings. As there were no Otley-born soldiers at Normandy, I used the military language found in books on the subject to capture a walk around Otley and how, in times of peace, we are free to do such things, with gratitude to those who fought for such freedoms. I am grateful to Town Councillor Jo Allen who said of the poem: “I felt it perfectly and beautifully expressed a wish to give thanks for peace and it was comfort to listen to.”
A few things to look forward to: I will be appearing again at Nostell Nights for their ‘All That Glitters’ celebrations on Friday Dec 6th if you’re in the Wakefield area. You can get info from their website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nostell-priory-and-parkland/features/nostell-nights
And lastly, I will be running a poetry workshop for adults at The Leeds Library Jan 18th 2020, inspired by their special collections, as part of Becky Cherriman’s ‘Speaking to The Shelves’.
You can follow the Otley Town Poet on Twitter at @MHStoppard and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/matthew.hedleystoppard.