Every year for the past five years, Cheltenham Poetry Society has gone away for a full day of writing and getting to know each other better at the delightful venue of Dumbleton Hall on the Worcestershire/Gloucestershire border. Every year, we have had glorious weather which has enabled us to break out of the excellent conference facilities in The Bredon Room into the grounds, which are truly excellent. This year was no exception with regard to the weather – and the delights in the grounds included black swans and their cygnet on the lake, a heron in the trees, yellow flag irises in full bloom at the margin of the lake and vibrant rhododendrons.
As usual, Dumbleton Hall Hotel looked after us very well, with generous supplies of coffee, tea, pastries, cake and biscuits … and a hot buffet which catered for a wide variety of tastes. David Ashbee and Stuart Nunn led the workshops on the theme of wood, trees and the landscape … which we gathered under the title ‘Seeing the Wood and the Trees’. A record number of attendees (17) ended the day with at least a poem or two … some of us many more! Attending were: David Ashbee, Stuart Nunn, Roger Turner, Michael Newman, Robin Gilbert, Belinda Rimmer, Gill Wyatt, Alice Ross, Marilyn Timms, Howard Timms, Judi Marsh, Annie Ellis, Kathryn Alderman, Gill Garrett, Samantha Pearse, Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe and me.
Oh, and the date is already in Dumbleton Hall’s calendar – and our own – for May 2018!
Cheltenham Poetry Festival performed a selection of poems from the Cheltenham 300 Anthology at Cheltenham Poetry Festival in May. The anthology of photographs and poems came out of the Society’s summer retreat – the Annual Awayday – in May 2016 – and we were thrilled to be able to showcase poems and projected photographs from the book at this event. Thanks to Anna Saunders for the invitation, and to St Andrew’s Hall in Cheltenham for the venue. Poets reading were Sheila Spence, Roger Turner, Michael Newman, Robin Gilbert, Belinda Rimmer, Marilyn Timms, Howard Timms, Annie Ellis, Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe, Alice Ross and me. Photographs in the book, also shown on the day, were taken by Roger Turner and me. Thanks to Howard Timms and Mr L for their part in facilitating their projection. Thanks also to The Gloucestershire Echo for taking group photographs in Montpellier Gardens after the event and for a short report on the event in the newspaper.
In June we were thrilled to receive an invitation to perform in October’s prestigious Cheltenham Literature Festival, reading another selection of poems from the book, which we hope will again be illustrated with projected photographs. We are also pleased that David Ashbee and Stuart Nunn, unable to join us in May, will be available for the Literature Festival reading which is part of the Locally Sourced programme featuring writers local to Gloucestershire.
Meanwhile, Here’s a photographic record of the event in May’s Poetry Festival which I had the great pleasure of introducing – as well as reading one of my own poems from the book:
The first session of Kickstart Poetry in Cheltenham on 3 January exceeded my expectations in terms of numbers attending – given that it was so early in the New Year, and a cold night at that. We were very grateful to Parmoor House for finding us a bigger room than the one we normally use, which would have been a little too cosy!
Early feedback suggests that fellow Kickstarters agree that the workshop and supplementary information posted in our own Facebook group is helpful. Here are some of their comments:
“Thanks for this wonderfully detailed information … and for hosting us yesterday. I really enjoyed it and enjoyed hearing some wonderful poetry.”
“Really enjoyed the workshop last night. A good kickstart to the new year. Very helpful info thank you … No excuses but to get started now”.
“Have already put down ideas for three of the poems. Couldn’t stop poetry thinking last night.”
“I enjoyed it, thank you … lots of interesting ideas.”
“It was fab and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
“Thanks for a great session … Your group has a good mix of people, poetry and styles. I really feel that I can gain from the structure of it.”
“I very much enjoyed the session … and look forward to more in the coming months and working on the prompts in the book.”
“Fab time this evening at CPS Kickstart poetry workshop based on Jo Bell’s 52 … Good to have a structure to work with.”
“Very well done … pace, tone and level just right … generating plenty of enthusiasm.”
So, the new-style workshops under the auspices of Cheltenham Poetry Society seem to be a worthwhile addition to the Society’s calendar.
Credit must go to Jo Bell, whose book 52 – Write a poem a week. Start now. Keep going published by Nine Arches Press is the inspiration for the workshops. We’ve identified 12 primary prompts to write on in the monthly workshops in 2017, but also drawn up a timetable to keep people on track if they want to take up the challenge of writing 52 poems during the year.
Writing a first draft for one of the 12 primary prompts occupies the first part of each workshop, followed by a read-round, and a ten minute break for a drink and a chat – perhaps about publication opportunities and successes. In the second half we’ll be bringing pre-written poems (on the 3 or 4 other prompts for the month) to the workshop for feedback. There will also be a quick look forward to the prompts for the following month. Comprehensive handouts accompany the sessions but all participants have been encouraged to buy a copy of the 52 book … and The Very Best of 52 book from Nine Arches Press.
Thanks to Roger Turner, Annie Ellis, Samantha Pearse, Michael Skaife d’Ingerthorpe, Gill Wyatt, Penny Howarth, Frankie March, Belinda Rimmer, Kathryn Alderman, Judith van Dijkhuizen, Alice Ross, Marilyn Timms and Howard Timms for supporting the workshop. See you on 7 February! Meanwhile, feel free to post draft poems in the closed Facebook Group for kindly comments from other members of the workshop series. This does not amount to publication; your finalised poems will be free to be submitted to magazines, ezines, anthologies and competitions. And build your (next) collection with Kickstart Poetry!
"Gentlemen, I have dreamed to-night; I'll tell you my dream. Here, here, here be my keys: ascend to my chambers; search, seek, find out: I'll warrant we'll unkennel the fox." Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor, Act III