Don't fence us in! Poets prompt pupils at the Giant Poetry Party
A hint of what Write Out Loud – and especially Young Write Out Loud – want to do a lot more of in the future could be seen at the Giant Poetry Party for primary school pupils staged online by Lily Lane primary school in Moston, Manchester last week.
The event, organised with Marsden the Poetry Village and Young Write Out Loud, involved a mix of songs, dance and poetry, and was compered with infectious, frenetic energy by the school’s poet-in-residence, Louise Fazackerley, pictured.
Louise introduced proceedings, screened from the school but also involving pupils at home, and also watched by children in other parts of Manchester, London, Skye and Norway. She explained that “a poem is a shout, shout, shout, that’s made in a whisper of paper.”
The fine singer Jo Farrow’s rendition of Don’t Fence Me In was in line with the theme for the event, ‘Hear us sing’, chosen because for the past nine months, the organisers say, “we have been discouraged from singing. We want children’s voices to be heard.” As Louise added later: “We weren’t allowed to sing in school for a long time. Then we learned how to sing safely.”
Meanwhile on Zoom fellow poet and educator Matt Abbott came up with some poetic excuses for failing to provide homework – some pirates “looted all my books” … “I did it on my phone, but the rabbit chewed my charger” … and the more traditional “My little brother ripped it up and flushed it down the loo.” But he ended responsibly: “Always do your homework, obviously.”
He then introduced a game of building a character, based on suggestions from children online, by “thinking like a poet”. We ended up with a character called Extreme that could dash down the road as fast as teleporting, with aeroplanes on their feet. “This is the thing about poetry, you can make your own rules,” said Matt. Louise reported that meanwhile back at Lily Lane they had come up with a character called Trampoline Embarrassment.
Music teacher Richard Boardman led a performance of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds – “What a poet he was” – by year 4 and 5 ukulele players; there was a reading of the poem ‘Mother and Father Earth’ by pupils in school and others at home, that was published in Marsden the Poetry Village’s Together anthology; there was dancing led by Olivia Peers; a poem about loving home that was written for Unesco Mother Language Year; adapted lyrics to the song Reasons to Be Cheerful; and a you-can-all-join-in samba with pupils in school, and others at home chiming in with home percussion instruments like pots and pans.
At the end Jacob, a former Marsden junior school pupil now living in Norway, was able to join in on Zoom with his own poem from the Together anthology.