Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Made in Derbyshire - a launch and a farewell

An image from my recent exhibition with the wonderful
Peak Gallery in Bakewell.
After an incredibly varied two years as Derbyshire Poet Laureate, traversing our beautiful county from New Mills to Swadlincote, writing new poems and working with many groups along the way, I said goodbye to a wonderful role in September at the launch of 'Made in Derbyshire: Laureate Poems' in Chesterfield library.

It was a lovely evening, featuring readings from local writers and a taste of a poetry and flamenco performance I'm working on with guitarist Samuel Moore. I will miss being Derbyshire Laureate a great deal, but I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to capture some of my experiences in a collection of poems, featuring commissions, group poems and competition winning pieces by local authors.

Here's a sneak preview from the preface:

I was born in Sheffield and grew up in North East Derbyshire, close to Chesterfield. As a teenager, I used to hide in Chesterfield library on Saturday afternoons and devour the poetry section. I’d go back every week and find more new books to fire my growing passion for rhythm, metre and surprising images. And I’d try to scribble lines of my own. Thirteen years and a large helping of luck later, those scribblings became a first collection of published poems called ‘Division Street’. I moved back to Derbyshire and, from my small house in Hathersage, started to write about the landscape that inspired me and made me want to explore - I began to think about why places like Stanage Edge and Higgar Tor and Ladybower gave me the urge to put vague feelings into words.When I was given the opportunity to be Derbyshire Poet Laureate, I was honoured. I think I assumed I’d just carry on with the pieces I was trying to write about the moors and gritstone edges. I was wrong. I had underestimated the county I loved.

A day reading poems in every cafe the length of Chesterfield’s Chatsworth Road, ambushing the shoppers in Morrisons. A workshop with patients at Newholme Hospital, Bakewell, who taught me that Sheffield was ‘a dirty picture in a golden frame’. A visit to my old secondary school. A poem for Toyota, translated into Japanese. A poem for a football match. A week exploring the history of Eckington. A reading in a beautiful garden in Ashbourne, surrounded by rare flowers. A poem for a film about Shirebrook. A poem for a tea towel. These are some of the things I’ve done, but they aren’t the whole story either.

If you'd like to find out more about any of those strange and brilliant Laureate experiences, you'll have to buy the book! Please contact Ali Betteridge for more information about 'Made in Derbyshire'.

The last two years have been an honour and I've had the pleasure of working with so many great people. I hope I'll still get the chance to do so in the future, celebrating all things 'Made in Derbyshire' through creative writing.