A walk on the poetic side of Manchester

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Anne Beswick, one of Manchester’s terrific Green Badge guides, led a group of poetry enthusiasts into the city centre on Tuesday for Poetry in the City, a Manchester literature festival event, and gave a real taste of the inspiration to be found all about us. She started with  Carole Houlston’s ‘Manchester’: “High rising / Energising / Spirit raising / Flag waving / Lowry-loving / Boundary shoving / Cotton milled / Fountain-filled / Sculpture clad / Football mad / Rainwashed / Canal-crossed / Night clubbing / Shoulder rubbing / Culture shocked / Bomb-rocked / Unbroken / Outspoken / Manchester.”

Anne, pictured, moved around the city with verse relevant to each spot. To the high-class shops with a contrasting poem, ‘Oxfam’ by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy; by a  triangle of historic pubs to hear Lancashire dialect poet Ben Brierley’s ‘Home Brew’; and down to the watery boundary with Salford for a reading of ‘The Irwell’ written by Ronald Wye-Digby. By the cathedral we were introduced to the woman founder of the Shakers, Ann Lee, and moved on to ‘60 Seconds of Silence’ by Mike Garry to take in the theme of football.

John Donne’s ‘The Autumnal’ was listened to with reverence at the side of the waterfall sculpture leading to the old poets’ corner near Chetham’s School of Music, where we heard ‘Welcome Bonny Brid’ by Marsden’s Samuel Laycock, before crossing into Manchester Victoria station for ‘From A Railway Carriage’ by Stevenson (with us all mouthing the words memorised at school) and a moving evocation of Owen’s ‘Anthem For Doomed Youth’ alongside the Soldier’s Memorial Gate which had led men to Newcastle and troop ships to Europe for the first world war.

By the station’s massive war memorial, under the glorious railway map, Anne read Lemn Sissay’s ‘Let There Be Peace’ before moving to the magnificent Cooperative Society HQ to hear another Marsden-ite, Simon Armitage’s tribute to the movement, ‘Provision’. Anne finished fittingly with Jim Taylor’s words about the city’s music legacy, ‘A Poem For Manchester’. A great walk and a taste of varied and wonderful poetry to boot. Bravo Anne.


THIS year’s Manchester Cathedral Poetry Prize awards (the 15th) for international inter-faith poetry were judged and presented by poet and theologian Nicola Slee from The Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham.The event was held at St Ann’s church while the cathedral undergoes renovations, but the smaller, intimate setting seemed fitting.

Slee praised the quality of the poetry submitted and after reading some of her own poems invited the audience to listen as commended entrants Susan Elliot, Victoria Field, Diane Pacitti,Chris Fewings, Jonathon Wooding, Susan Bedford and Margaret Wilmot. read their work. The joint second prize was shared by Rosie Garland and Phil Isherwood while the £450 first prize went to Elizabeth Burns for her astonishing and atmospheric poem ‘Annunciation’.

Theological poetry has qualities to touch everyone’s heart and spirit, whatever their beliefs or non-beliefs, and these were fine examples. The winning poem and the others read at the awards ceremony are available in a booklet and profits from the competition go to the Booth Centre in Manchester which helps homeless people.



◄ Poems to Elsi: RS Thomas, Seren

Name that tune, and say where it takes you ►


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