The New Year began at breakneck speed, as I started 2019 by co-judging the inaugural East Ridings Poetry Competition, with James Nash and Wendy Pratt, which had the theme ‘My Story’. There were entries from people of all backgrounds, categories included primary- and secondary-school age, entries from prisons and a general category for anyone over 18. There were some really accomplished poems submitted (some of which made me quite jealous!), and it was lovely to see that so many people are interested in poetry. The winners were officially announced at a special ceremony in Bridlington on January 26th.
On Tuesday February 19th I delivered three workshops for children at Leeds City Museum that tied in with their Michael Morpurgo exhibition. It was a lovely event focusing on the idea of a human taking on the traits of an animal, or “becoming the beast”. I used animals synonymous with Otley, such as the weasel, owl and kingfisher, as examples which seemed to go down well. Again, it was inspiring to see such poets writing really interesting verse – especially during the holidays!
Some of you may recall, and contributed to, the Otley VoiceBox project, which was nearly two years ago. ‘VoiceBoxes’ (contributions boxes) were placed at certain venues around the town with a view to create a communal poem. There were some magnificent turns of phrase submitted and it took a while to bring everything together. There is a possibility that the poem will become the lyrics to a song, but I thought it only fair that contributors get to see their words put into verse after such a long time.
A heart beats in the market square,
the bells ring in the church
there's a welcome in your pintpot
enough to quench your thirst.
We're honest and historical;
a gateway to the Dales.
Born and bred, and chosen home
Otley welcomes everyone.
You can see along the riverbank
a child become a fish
she leaps just like a salmon
with otter and screaming swift.
There's slang, laughter, love and mud
in our kind and cosy town -
space to share, space out there
a gem in the Leeds crown.
Bird, beer and cobbles,
a wonderful conundrum
by the river, never still,
under the ever-changing hill.