The email asking whether I’d consider being the next Canterbury Laureate came out of the blue last summer, but I didn’t have to think twice before accepting.
It was the right decision. It’s been a fabulous nine months so far – almost impossible to believe it’s been such a short time, unlike my two pregnancies I have to say. I’ve discovered new Kent writers, judged the Canterbury Poet of the Year competition, worked with the festival office on the fabulous Wise Words scheme, visited gardens throughout Kent as part of my creative project, and discovered all over again why I live here.
Follow these links to find out some of the things that have been going on, or are planned for the last three months of my Laureateship…
THE WISE WORD SCHEME - This has been the main formal part of the Laureate Scheme. Teaching students from Canterbury ChristChurch University and MA in Writing Students from the University of Kent have been paired to give writing workshops to community groups under the theme – Wise Words. We will be appearing at the Herne Bay Festival on 22nd August, (information here), and at the Canterbury Festival from 13th to the 27th of October (details here). But you can also find out more – and add your own Wise Words – here. There are some really beautiful words of wisdom there already.
THE WISE WORD TEAM - As mentioned above, we’ve been so lucky with the eight student facilitators for the Wise Word Scheme – step forward… Denica Shute, Kasia Ladds, Delphine Levine, Nicky Gould, Katy Batory, Stephen Ireland, Eleanor Billingsley, Rebecca Varney. All of them have been co-ordinated by Virginia Bower and Patricia Debney. You can read Delph’s account of starting the project here and more first-hand accounts are coming.
KENT WRITERS – It’s been my pleasure to collate information about many of the Kent writers. You can see the growing list here, and new writers are being added every week so do keep popping back.
A LITERARY JOURNEY ROUND KENT’S GARDENS – This has been my creative project during the Laureate Scheme – you can read about it more here. I did imagine that I might be floating round gardens in the sun, but well, this hasn’t been the right year for it! What I’ve discovered though has been some fantastic fantastic stories – the topiary WW1 tank, a hidden shell grotto, the garden owner who was saved from an attacking lion by his folded up copy of Punch magazine, and how gasworks were supposed to be good for asthma. I’ve been writing a literary response to each garden I’ve visited, and trying to put the journeys between them into sense too. It’s highly personal, but gives a picture of Kent today. And also dispels the myth of what exactly might be the English bit in an English garden. I’ll be giving my first reading of the work in progress at the Canterbury Festival – details here.
HOMEGROWN - but before October, during the weekend of 8th and 9th September, you might find four of Canterbury’s public parks changed in unexpected ways! I’ve been working on what we’ve been calling a ‘gentle intervention’ for the Dane John Gardens, Westgate Gardens, Greyfriars and Solly’s Orchard, as part of The Wise Words Festival. Prepare to be surprised.
22nd August – Wise Words at Herne Bay
8/9th September – Homegrown at the Wise Words Festival
27th September – Reading and open mic at Waterstones, Canterbury
4th October – Prizegiving for the Canterbury Festival Poety of the Year Award
13th October – Wise Words exhibition opens at the Canterbury Heritage Musuem
17th October – Reading at the Canterbury Festival
And now I’ll leave you with a selection of some of the favourite words of Kent writers – proof that we are nothing if not eclectic…
elucidate, mofussil, gremolata, bombazine, slither, limoncello, Anna, miracle, deceit, love, Vamonos con la musica al otro lado de la calle, disingenuous, potting shed, aplomb, pudding, Naptime, Mummy, munificent, rococo, vervaine, I love you, Hello Mummy, I will not give up, Can you perform for us?, We’ll give you a fee, oblivion, melancholy, adroit, popinjay, usurp, blubber, fiddlesticks, mantequilla (butter in Spanish), soliloquy, miscreant, Esox lucius, Legato, Tibouchina, Wildebeest, Scrofipascus, possibility, reflection, distillation, dance, aubergine, knuckle, heliotrope, rareripe, crinoline, splay, curl, curmudgeon, azamacaracadoo, cwtch, rhythm, soliloquy, Bougainvillea …