On Sunday 29th January I went to this year’s Berkshire Music & Arts Festival at Ufton Court and it was wonderful to bear witness to this fantastic celebration of such far-reaching and varied talent.
I was there because I had been asked to judge the Poetry competition and had had a very enjoyable time before Christmas selecting the winning and commended poems from entries in the four categories. However, over lunch I was also lucky to meet the adjudicators from some of the music categories and chat with local author Kit Berry and journalist Francesca Perryman who had judged the Short Story and Factual Writing Awards respectively. I also witnessed an inspiring Explore Learning Workshop for 7 -13 year olds and was entertained royally by local performance poet Becci-Louise and all round brilliant poet and children’s author A F Harrold.
When it came to handing out the certificates and prizes for the Poetry competition though I felt a tidal wave of emotion crash at my feet as one by one writers of all ages came up to receive their prizes and have their photographs taken because, not only had some of the adult winners travelled huge distances to be there, but amongst the winners were so many young voices with something interesting and important to say who had chosen poetry as the medium through which to say them – it was a real tonic!
My adjudication notes are below if you’d like to read them.
Years 3 & 4
I loved the range of topics and poetic techniques the children used in these entries. There was a huge mix of subjects from magic boxes to Christmas, the seasons, football, family life, holidays, dinosaurs, fairground rides, Pokémon, cars and even Andy Murray!
Also, I admired the poetic techniques on show, for example: alliteration, acrostic poetry, rhymes, repetition and even prose poems. What I particularly relished, however, was the way the children mixed the ordinary with the extraordinary. After all, this is what life is like isn’t it!
Years 5 & 6
Again, a great mix of topics and I loved the rhyme of ‘dish’ with ‘delish’! I also admired some of the other poetic techniques used, eg. blank verse, anaphora (where each line starts with the same few words) but what impressed me most was the marvellous storytelling on show in these poems.
Ages 12 to 18
It was fascinating to see how the poets’ preoccupations changed to be more about emotions and identity. Again, there was an impressive array of poetic technique in these entries and I learnt a new word: Anagapesis, for which I will always be grateful!
Another mix of topics and, as I was reading the poems, what struck me was how tender and honest many of them were. It was humbling to bear witness to the ways in which the poets use their poetry to try to make sense of a sometimes nonsensical world.
The poems I particularly admired were those which had interesting ideas at their core. These ideas didn’t have to be zany or outrageous but were perhaps something that looked at everyday subjects from different or refreshing angles. I also admired the poets who kept hold of their argument, exhibited craftsmanship in their choice of form and punctuation, maintained a grip on their language as their poems travelled down the page and chose unusual words and unsettling images, which took me to new places or revealed things to me I hadn’t thought of before. These, I believe, are some of the functions of poetry.
I’d like to thank Hazel Reindorp and Michelle Cane for inviting me to take part, for being such brilliant advocates of the creative arts and for the wonderful lunch and thank you gift! Here is a message about the Festival from Michelle.