Tag Archives: Gordon Tyrrall

Whitby Folk Week Summers

The first time I ever went to Whitby Folk Week, in 2003, the very first artist I ever heard perform was Gordon Tyrrall, in the 3pm concert at the Metropole Ballroom. I was very excited to hear he had set John Clare poems to music. And then he sang this, entitled Song, by Clare, but known by its opening line, Sweet the Pleasures I do Find. The song is to be found in A Midsummer Cushion. It remains one of my favourite songs ever.

Last year I wrote this poem using some of the phrases from it as hooks. Whitby is now a regular feature on my calendar, and I now run the poetry workshops (and have for about 8 years). Being a very small thread in such a rich festival feels wonderful. Already looking forward to seeing the friends I’ve made and welcoming people to my writing poetry sessions. And of course, hearing Gordon Tyrrall again. I wrote a book about John Clare, which is available from Greenwich Exchange publishers.


Whitby Folk Week Summers

after John Clare

Sweet the pleasures

Turkish delight ice-cream

Gin and tonic on the balcony

Scented pink roses in damp gardens


When every green is fresh with flowers

                        Spice of earth after summer rain

Cut grass on evening air

Walking back from concerts


And linnets sing to cheer me

                        Seagulls screaming

Sailing ships in the bay

Fish and chips in Royal Fisheries


Heaven to be near thee

                        First sight of the sea from the moor road

Golden hours with special friends

The heather song on the closing night


Banished to some barren isle

                        Warm afternoons of sea swimming

The last sweet notes of every concert

Bunch of heather drying on the window sill



Angela Topping



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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