Performing Pupils’ Cuckoo Collaboration in Marsden the Poetry Village

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Two schools, from contrasting areas – one rural, one city - have launched an exciting initiative, a partnership where poetry is used to form friendships, widen pupils’ horizons and build their confidence and skills in English, a language that, for some, is their second or third. 

On Saturday 21stApril, at Marsden’s 25thannual Cuckoo Festival pupils and teachers of Marsden Junior School and Lily Lane Primary School, Manchester, held their first public event. Inspired by the Marsden Cuckoo story, pupils had collaborated to create poems on the theme of ‘No Limits’ which, on Saturday, they performed to a near-capacity audience in one of the festival’s prime venues. 

Before they took to the stage, award-winning Marsden poet Jo Haslam described how, in judging their poems, she had found them of very high quality with some truly memorable lines. You can see the poems in our Marsden the Poetry Village photo galleries and in local shop windows. Some of the children had built model cuckoo enclosures, judged by local architect Gordon Bruce who declared himself very impressed by the intricate detail and sheer hard work that had gone into the crafting of their creations, as you can see from the photos.

“Our poetry groups have weekly lunchtime meetings, though in the build up to the Cuckoo Festival they were meeting every day and working at home, and after school with art teacher Yvonne Baggely to complete their cuckoo containers”, recounted Julia Clark, Lily Lane’s head teacher and member of the Marsden the Poetry Village community group that inspired and organised the initiative.

The children performed their poems onstage before singing Don’t Fence Me In and Born Free, accompanied on piano by Jenny Hanson of Hansons Music. This photo shows one, rather older, pupil standing, not on the stage but slightly apart. Alan Rodney Richardson had turned up out of the blue and, realising that Lily Lane was his primary school in the 1940s, promptly joined his younger colleagues in singing Don’t Fence Me In, as you can see in the video.

Write Out Loud established Marsden the Poetry Village to engage more people in poetry, and to give them a voice, particularly young people. Its annual poetry jam has become a popular fixture at the Marsden Jazz Festival each October, at which Lily Lane children performed as top of the bill in 2017.

The event’s success was thanks to several people: Marsden Junior School head of literacy Elizabeth Adamson and head teacher Sarah Mansell; Lily Lane’s literacy head L Jane Cunningham and head teacher Julia Clark, and Media Consultant Mohammed; pianist Jenny Hanson; Cuckoo Festival organisers Angie and Sharon, Designers Kevin Threlfall, and Beverley Tibbs; and Marsden the Poetry Village members Jo Haslam, Gordon Bruce, Alan Prout, Julia Clark, Ken Bennett and Julian Jordon.

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