This was my first year of being a ‘performer’ at Whitby, stepping in to the big boots of the lovely Jay McShane, to do the poetry workshops. It was wonderful to get such a great turnout, particularly since the events did not happen last year.There were lots of new people, as well as the loyal regulars. It was particularly good to see Cynthia, Roger and retired pirate Gordon Jackson again.
The first day I took a theme of memories, with the hot penning exercise taken from Michael Frayn’s novel ‘Spies’, ‘even here, even now’. This was interpreted in a variety of ways – the test of a good prompt. An exercise to describe an old toy also proved very stimulating and produced some superb work. We read poems by Elma Mitchell and Li Young Lee, and had a fascinating discussion about line breaks.
Day two was all about the seaside, and Whitby in particular. Typicall, this was the day it chose to rain! We had great fun mentally owning our own beach huts. It was lovely for me that my friend Gordon Tyrrall came to lend his support and do some writing.
Writing an instructional poem based on my own ‘How to Capture a Poem’ and ‘How to Build a Sandcastle’ and Jacques Prevert ‘How to Paint a Picture of a Bird’ resulted in some lovely work. Ann wrote about how to make a patchwork quilt, using it as a metaphor. She illustrated this in the readaround by bringing her quilt; not a scrap of material in it had been purchased, so it literally was made of memories, in the shape of bits of her daughter’s skirt, and other fabrics from the fabric of her life.
Day three was about Special Places and Special things. We designed a garden for a famous person, using an idea of Dave Calder’s, a wonderful Scottish poet who is based in Liverpool and works, like me, with The Windows Project, a charity which puts writers into community venues. We also looked at Pablo Neruda’s wonderful odes and as usual, these beautiful lyrics produced some inspired work from my happy group of blooming writers. They have all promised to send me poems I can upload and share.
After the three sessions, I handed over to Roger and Gordon, affable hosts of the readarounds which take up the final three days of the festival. We sit on a circle for this, and welcome an audience as well as anyone who wants to read or recite a favourite poem or indeed one they have written in the last few days. We chat a lot as well, but everyone gets two goes at reading. It’s really a ‘Do it from There’ for poetry. The spoken word thread is of vital importance at Whitby and it seems to be thiving.
There was much hugging as we all parted, to meet again next year. I hope our new recruits stay with us. Thanks to all for the wonderful participation. And thanks to Jay McShane for starting the wokshops, our lovely steward and Esther Ferry-Kennington (the workshop organiser) for getting us a great venue and for being so approachable. Here’s to next year!