52 The Event
Jo Bell – creator of 52 and all round people’s goddess of poetry was this year’s resident poet for the Stratford Festival. She organised the virtual poets of 52 to meet up for a picnic at Hall’s Croft (the house of her residency) on Sunday 20th July, I cannot believe it was just 9 short days ago. Writing this blog post (which won’t look like it), has taken hours and brought all the excitement back to the surface again! Julie Gardener likened it to that strange state when you wake up from an anesthetic, relieved you are alive and a little out of your body and mind.
It was a superb day. The word of 52 has spread across the Midlands well, I had a small part to play in that – and so many local known poets were there – it was great to meet all the other 52ers, although I felt a bit anxious on the day (find me a poet who didn’t!) and didn’t mix as well as I wish I had. There were people I didn’t even get to talk to and some of them regularly comment on the poetry I post. Shame on me. All in the same boat a bit by the time we got to the pub at the end of the day hot, sweaty, sun burnt and thriving on adrenalin there were 3 different parts of the pub people sat in so mixing with everyone was somewhat challenging – even saying goodbye to Jo at the end of the day was no mean feat as she was wedged between balcony and table – perhaps she was fed up of hugging people by then!
Shall I start at the beginning?
We all met in the gardens at Hall’s Croft for a picnic, Jo had moving speeches to make and treated us all to a poem. Then there was a free raffle, with bountiful journals and poetry/ writing books being gifted and some silly prizes too. I won the little felt penguin who is now sitting quite happily on the book shelves surrounded by all the books I have bought this past 10 months back in my poetry skin (helping the poetry ecology as Jo would say)!
Jo had some very special socks made by Liz Williamson, to go with her sock poem and during the speeches at certain points Jo sported a colander on her head in honour of Trish Traynor who sports one on her profile picture. Trish couldn’t make the event. Glasses were raised in a toast to absent friends (not dearly departed) just those who couldn’t get to Stratford for this event.
Then the mingling began. Excitement grew as our names were put into the colander (there were 54 poets in attendance I think) room to hear 20 of us at The Shakespeare Centre, for the ‘Poetry from 52’ event. Open to the public and many attended who weren’t 52 picnickers. The biggest audience at the centre for the poetry festival apparently.
Most of us didn’t even see the names coming out but later on Jo announced them. I couldn’t believe it! I wasn’t lucky enough to win the beautiful journal but I did win a spot for the 52 event.
I had only taken 2 short poems to choose from – some 52ers had taken many and there was a flurry of paper and gadgets as people decided what to read. There was also a reserve list of poets. As poets are lovely creatures, we all kept our turns short, avoided hefty introductions and left the stage with enough space for all the reserve list and more – some on the spot (brave) poets performed.
The Shakespeare Centre – 52 Do Stratford
It was an amazing hour listening to entertaining and touching poetry, we have spent the year reading it and critiquing it from the safety of a screen but watching the poet’s perform their own words was beyond a powerful experience.
The Poet’s who performed were;
Carly Etherington, Natalie Baron, John Mícheál Alwyine-Mosely, Sally Evans, Julie Gardner, Ruth Stacey, Nina Lewis, Rachael Clyne, Janice Windle, Carole Bromley, Nicky Phillips, Sue Simms, Simon Williams, Donell Dempsy, Nina Simon, Norman Hadley, Kathy Gee, Bernie Briggs, Tom Sastry and John Lanyon.
Then we had time for the Poets in Reserve;
Clive Dee, Sarah Watkins, Sarah Bryson, Hilary Robinson,
And finally due to no one taking too much time or limelight (egos left melting on picnic rugs), we even had time for some wonderful on the spot poets and I think you can tell they enjoyed a surprise chance of sharing their 52 poetry.
Myfanwy Fox, Susan Taylor,& Tessa Lowe
And the only way to follow that…. a Flash Mob Shakespeare style!
After the event at the centre we all met outside Shakespeare’s Birthplace (next door) for a Flash mob!
This flash mob was rather Stratford in style, in as far as it was announced and rehearsed! We read Sonnet 18 – another wonderful experience.
And to round off the event we all headed for the Dirty Duck pub down by the river, for more food, drinks and conversation. I didn’t really want to leave but Mr G had promised to cook a roast dinner and I had visions of mine being eaten too! So, eventually I had to tear myself away.
The 52 website – formerly ONLY for poetry and DEFINITELY not for conversation threads was inundated with euphoric poets singing everyone’s praises and raving about the spectacular day and hardly mentioning sunburn at all!
A joy and honour to be part of such a talented group of poets!
I must mention Jonathan Davidson from Writing West Midlands as he organised the Poetry Festival and made sure events ran smoothly! Great job, Sir and Mary Norton Gilonne, who came across from France to celebrate this special day! WOW! 52ers travelled from all the UK, I was lucky to live so close!
Here for your viewing pleasure is one of the performances.
Donal Dempsey performing his Proverb poem to the delight of the audience in The Shakespeare Centre.