Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Sandiacre Now & Then

I'm just back from Sandiacre Library and another wonderful Wellbeing Day organised by Priscilla Baily and the Derbyshire team. I was late and in a flap after a lorry fire on the M1, but by the time I arrived, the library users were already sitting round a table with tea and biscuits, trading stories about Sandiacre industry and manufacturing - some people had even worked in the same places when they were younger.

I recently wrote a poem about things that are 'Made in Derbyshire' for a county-wide festival, so after sharing my short verses with the group, our conversation turned to products that used to be made in Sandiacre. From lace to furniture, everyone was proud of Sandiacre's industrial past and sad that so much manufacturing and craftsmanship has disappeared from this corner of Derbyshire. The conversation was a chance to celebrate that legacy but also to talk about the things that make Sandiacre a great place to be today: two members of the group had moved to the area from Kent and were quick to remark that 'everyone says hello to you and smiles at you up here.'

Here's the poem we wrote together, based on Margaret's memories of Lace Webb, Melvyn's countless jokes, Glen's time as a crane driver and much more besides:

Sandiacre Now and Then
a poem for Sandiacre Wellbeing Day

It’s a place where everyone talks to you,
where faces smile in the checkout queue.
I knew Sandiacre before the motorway,
though Lace Webb made seats for Ford in my day.
There used to be holes in the lace we made,
now there’s a hole where we lost the trade.
At Stanton they made “old men and pipes”
but we made everything: we were a hive.
I drove cranes at Taylor Brothers, cold as Siberia
but the things we crafted were all superior.
When I grew up, I knew everyone’s name
from Margaret Avenue down to Lock Lane.
Our roots are deep and intertwined.
This place has changed, but it’s yours and mine.

Poem by Margaret Gill, Julianne Gascoyne, Melvyn Kelly, Ken Roycroft, Pam Roycroft, Glen Hayes and Valerie Eyre, with a bit of help from Derbyshire Poet Laureate Helen Mort.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Make a Poetry Promise for 2015

Happy new year! After two blissful weeks of running over the Kinder plateau in snow, seeing friends and reading books, I'm dreading January with its flinty stare and diet of lettuce leaves. We all know it's the worst possible time of year to give up anything, but we feel like we should make some resolutions anyway. But help is at hand....this year, instead of quitting something for 2015, Poetry by Heart is encouraging us to take on a new challenge and learn a poem by heart or read a new poem every month throughout the year. I'm taking the challenge. Will you join me?

Poetry by Heart is an organisation that encourages students aged 14-18 to memorise poems and make them their own. They run a national competition every year (and I'm happy to be part of the judging panel for the Derbyshire & Notts round later this month). But learning poems by heart isn't just for school pupils - anyone can join in and make a 'poetry promise' for 2015.

The phrase 'learn by heart' comes from the ancient Greeks. They placed the seat of thought in the heart rather than the head. I think that's a rather beautiful mistake: after all, when you memorise words you love, you take them into your heart.

Throughout this year, I'll be attempting to memorise a poem every month and I'll share some videos of the poems on twitter (@HelenMort) and here on the blog. Why not join me in the poetry promise? If learning a new poem every month sounds like too much, you could promise to just read a poem a month instead or perhaps even write one. You can find out more about the poetry promise by contacting Poetry by Heart on twitter (@PoetryByHeart) or visiting their website here.

Now, where did I put my memory?