Friday was a special day.
North Cornwall looked resplendent in autumn sunlight as we drove from Launceston to the North Cornwall Book Festival. Our Chairman, David Fryer, pointed out the sights to our new poet and illustrator in residence at Cyprus Well, Charlotte Walker, as we passed the slate quarry and creamery before spying Betjeman’s ‘hare’ on the hill – the church of St Endelienta.
A warm welcome from North Cornwall Book Festival founder, Patrick Gale, and a pasty and coffee from the Laid Back Coffee Company awaited us. We were there to present our annual Children’s Poetry Prize and spent a happy afternoon parcelling up books and prizes for the winning poets as cars arrived full of schoolchildren for the day of workshops provided each year for schools in the region. BBC Radio Cornwall interviewed authors and illustrators al fresco and the many dogs in attendance behaved as if they attend a literary event every week.
At 4 o’clock the winners assembled in the main marquee. It was brilliant to see so many familiar faces from the workshops we have been running in local schools to support entries to the prize. This year we decided to ask the resident writer staying at Cyprus Well to go into schools in Launceston to work with pupils to prepare their entries. Amanda Harris, Director of Kernow Education Arts Partnership (KEAP) sent an invitation to headteacher’s, literacy co-ordinators and English and Drama teachers to take up our offer of a visiting poet and the response was quick and overwhelmingly positive. We selected three schools to pilot the newly styled prize: St Stephen’s Primary, Launceston College, and the combined year five classes of South Petherwin, Egloskerry and Trekenna. Each school competed for a First, Second, and Third cash prize donated by Patrick Gale, and a Causley Commendation specifically recognising young poets who responded to Causley’s sensibility.
St Stephen’s Primary School (Year 4)
1st Prize – Imogen Gabriel for ‘Daddy’
2nd Prize – Tia McCartney for ‘Going Downhill on a Bicycle’
3rd Prize – Toby Hannaford-Hill for ‘Eminem’
Causley Commendation – Millie Ritchie for ‘Spies’
Imogen Gabriel of St. Stephen’s Primary School prepares to read her winning poem
South Petherwin Primary School (Year 5)
1st Prize – Ashi Jewell for ‘The Child in the Car’
2nd Prize – Bella Goodman for ‘Down, Down Hedgehog’
3rd Prize – Niamh Tape for ‘Eagle House’
Causley Commendation – Jess Berry for ‘Why?’
Jackie Kay and Causley Trust CEO, Jennifer McDerra, announce the winning poems
Launceston College (Year 9)
1st Prize – Nadine Wright for ‘The Moon Rose’
2nd Prize – Isaac Cude for ‘Comrades: An Episode’
3rd Prize – Sapphire Grace Lord for ‘A Call for Surrender’
Causley Commendation – Minnie Jacobs for ‘A Message to a Bully’
The poems that arose from the workshops moved me greatly. It has been a year since I was appointed to lead the Spark to Flame project for The Causley Trust and days like these make me realise that Charles’ legacy is beginning to reflect his spirit by furthering its reach into a new generation.
Listening to pupils in ‘Causley House’ at Launceston College read their own words; hearing children as young as seven respond to Charles’ commitment to depicting local places by writing their own Eagle House poems (from the Eagle’s angle); encouraging budding poets to try new forms and to ask their relatives and neighbours for stories of Launceston to inform their work. We tapped into a rich well of feeling and enthusiasm which we must nurture through future competitions and projects.
The winning poets were especially excited to hear that they would be given their prizes by the Scottish Makar, Jackie Kay, and their anticipation was rewarded when Jackie went above and beyond the usual awards ceremony, inviting the young poets to take a seat with her on stage to discuss the source of their ideas and the scale of their aspirations.
We’ll be posting the winning poems along with Jackie’s notes on why they were such worthy winners over the next few weeks, but do look out for more opportunities from us and put a note in your diary to head to St Endellion next year to share in the happy atmosphere of the story yurt and the peacock marque.
Thank you to all those who made this possible – teachers, parents, poets, friends. We’ll look forward to hearing how the new voices of North Cornwall develop in the year ahead.