Whitby Folk Week: The Poetry Workshops

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!



Filed under Education, poetry, Writing challenges

3 responses to “Whitby Folk Week: The Poetry Workshops

  1. anne ward

    Dear Angela,

    I hope this is going to the right place, I am not sure how to send you my poem using a blog!! Anyway I hope this works.
    Interestingly enough I noticed the other day in a book the word salt,meaning tangibility, stability and wholeness. I thought this was a lovely was to describe how I felt the workshops last week had been for me, a way of grounding a whloe range of emotions and ideas which normally swim around my head without exiting!Here is the ‘Quilt’Poem you asked for and thank you very much for the workshops.


    A quilt is made of three layers.
    First layer, take the fabric of your life
    be it whole or in pieces , faded or clear, patchy or torn
    and look for the positives to treasure.
    Hoard them carefully in your mind.
    Then cut each piece into an equally sized square
    and sew together along one edge to make a strip.
    After you have assembled several strips
    join them together to create a piece
    as close to the size of your bed as you can.
    Second layer, to add thickness, comfort and warmth
    remember past moments of appreciation, of loving,
    of friendship and gratitude in your life
    as you lay the top piece onto the wadding.
    Finally add a backing of the supportive people in your life,
    those whose shoulders you have stood on,
    those without whom your life would be worse
    and prepare to stitch all three layers together.
    Using a fine quilting thread and needle
    start pattern handsewing from top to bottom.
    As you work it will dawn on you how the pieces
    begin to mesh together and integrate themselves
    into a new view of your life as it was meant to be.

  2. anne ward

    Second bit!!!!

    Place the whole finished piece
    (it will take six weeks or so to complete)
    in the washing machine which will allow
    the colours to bleed a little
    and the fabrics to shrink together
    so that the scattered pieces of your life
    become more tightly bound together than before.
    The quilt is then ready for use.
    Should you feel blue or a bit discouraged,
    take your quilt and wrap its lovely thoughts
    around your shoulders and be comforted.

    There it is . Thank you Angela and see you next year!!


  3. Thanks Anne. The photos turned out well, and I am so glad you enjoyed the workshops. You made a stunning contribution to them. See you next year. In the meantime, keep an eye on the blog to see what I am up to.