Earls Court Square – Poet in Residence – the day dawned.

P1080150On Friday night when we arrived the area around Earls Court Station was of full of enthusiastic tourists, busy cafes, pubs  despite the papers being full of stories about the dreadful fire that had killed so many. On Saturday a child was selling little pots of strawberries in aid of the victims!

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I was here to spend  two days as poet in residence in Earls Court Square, some way from the fire but in the light of so many other recent atrocities it all felt a bit incongruous. Maybe I think too much, but as I was a child born in the Blitz in 1940 and death was all around us I learned then to be wary of the unexpected. But I know too that everyone tries to get on with their own lives and carry on regardless.

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We check in to a modest hotel round the corner, head for the Square where we meet up with Katrina.  She is chairman of the garden committee and is busy sorting out the gazebo for the musicians,  rushing to and fro preparing for the visitors on Saturday and Sunday, many of whom will be enjoying her tea and cakes.

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Anna, the head gardener, is sweeping up leaves and checking all is just so.   Everyone is intent on making the weekend a success.

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I had already written a few poems as a result of quick visits in previous weeks. I had walked round the Square, talked to Eyre, one of the gardeners and a few local residents. Particularly interesting was Jennifer Ware, now in her 80s, who had led the residents’ successful campaign to save the garden when it was threatened with re-development. She is such a warm and wonderful person and with so many tales to tell!

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The garden is a private space and for the rest of the year provides an oasis of calm for all the residents and a beautiful place for their children to play.

I wrote a series of fragments on both days but not complete poems. But I had collated some of the poems I had written earlier into a double sided leaflet with photographs.

Oh dear still two minor mistakes but hopefully no one noticed!P1080250

My partner did the photo copying and we optimistically printed and folded 50 copies for each day.   Happily, they were greeted with enthusiasm.

We had hoped to pop out to see some of the Open Spaces ourselves but this was not practical. We did however make a quick visit to the Mosaic Rooms nearby to see fellow poet Carol Rowntree Jones. Carol had collaged a mosaic bowl and put fragments of Arab womens’ poems inside inviting the public to take one.

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Other personal highlights:

1. Inspired to write some new poems!

This is the whole idea behind the residences. Poets are spread across some of the Open London Squares for the whole weekend.  The scheme is called Mixed Borders and is supported by The Poetry School.

2  Loved the interest in the garden poems written by famous poets which we copied, laminated and put on display around the park.   Some visitors seemed intent on reading every one.

3. Enjoyed meeting new people, some had checked that there was a poet in the Square and came to seek me out. One woman, a nurse had lived in the Square in the 70s. Another woman was on a pilgrimage from the States to see where her mother had lived in the 30s.  A third woman had written a long poem about the uprising in Warsaw during WW2. All very willing to exchange emails for further contact.

4. I can be confident about many things but less so when it comes to my poetry. Luckily a few fellow poets had given the thumbs up to the new ones about the Square so I gave three impromptu readings under the green parasol provided.

5. I always take my white rabbit (my muse) a marionette from Alice in Wonderland  with his own deckchair to such events.  This time he even danced briefly for a group of Japanese tourists and sat listening while two young children told him stories!

6. We had barely arrived on Saturday when a German TV film company came by and insisted I wrote something on camera and read a poem. Goodness knows if or when it will get to be shown.

7. Sometimes I just walk around and talk to people. How lucky then that one such person was Victor a local resident, he is a little frail these days but I was told that he had been an art dealer and had also looked after the garden for over 20 years!

We talked about poetry and he told me he is a traditionalist and also loved Dylan Thomas, who is one of my favourites..

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Summing up.

I enjoyed it all. Two different groups of musicians played under a gazebo, people sunbathed, children played and hundreds of members of the public admired the flowers, the shrubs, the trees in this lovely Square.

I am a Londoner born and bred and was lucky to get Postman’s Park last year (posts on this blog).   Waterloo Park and Parliament Hill Fields were my happy hunting grounds as a child.  I love all of London’s Open Spaces!

I still miss living in London but was grateful to get on the train back to Brighton to the sea and the cool air. I was also just in time on Sunday to get the last of the elderflowers from my neighbour Simon’s garden to make some elderflower cordial. Simon had also helped choose the garden poems that were displayed in the Square.

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                      Poet in confusion reflected in the wonderful waterfall sculpture.

If you want a poet in residence you could try me.   Ann

Stop Press –  just been sent link to the film

http://www.dw.com/en/london-open-garden-squares-weekend/av-39316029

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Excited to be poet in residence in Earls Court Square next weekend!

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I’ll love watching the changing images in the water feature globe!  Just about ready with a selection of garden poems by well known poets to put around the Square. I’ll be taking my muse, my white rabbit marionette. He was in Postman’s Park last year sitting in a tree but this year he has his own deckchair!

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All the poets for the Open Garden Squares weekend are sponsored by The Poetry school and naturally the main purpose is to be inspired to write some new poems.  So far I have written three and others are work in progress!

Do come and enjoy this wonderful space, read the poems and write a garden poem of your own!   We are promised music, tea and cakes etc.

http://www.opensquares.org/index.html

I have had plenty of fun visiting the Square although twice coming up from Brighton I have been greeted by torrential rain!

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I talked to Katrina, the chair of the Square committee, the gardener and some of the residents.   One person who is in her 80s invited me for tea.   She has lived in the Square all her life and knows all about its history,

It was very run down, particularly after the war, and local residents saved, had it re-designed and now maintain it, Famous artists, musicians, writers and ballerinas all once lived here and some still do.

I have heard from an unexpected source about some of the shenanigans that went on in the Poetry Society many moons ago but on this my lips may have be be sealed!

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Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

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Love it or loathe it, it’s still a highlight in the calendar of artists and art lovers.   We have always loved it.   I used to go with my mother to the private view for years and years before she died. Even when funds got a bit low she was still desperate to go and so we did!

Now it has become a wider family tradition! We buy the guide book choose a favourite in each room and have to guess the price!

This page is just a taster!

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The people looking at the exhibits can in some cases be as visually interesting as some  of the works of art?

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Paintings, prints, collages, sculptures, architecture and an award-winning film about immigration.

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We follow our visit with a picnic on the grass in Green Park, weather permitting…on Saturday the sun was shining!

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Making Dreamcatchers

weaving wool across willow, tassels feathers shells.

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This month Lara Small and Candy Hilton who run Saltdean Crafters taught everyone P1070961P1070965how to make a dreamcatcher. Wonderful instructors with plenty of knowledge and expertise.       A room full of happy potential dreamers.

Lara and Candy set up Small Hill Arts who spread art and craft techniques.

American Indians first created dream catchers using a small wooden hoop covered in a web of natural fibers, they added sacred objects like feathers and beads.

 

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Dragonflies mating

a seemingly endless dance

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of intensity.

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Seagulls enjoy the Lido…

before it opens to the public.

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Taken some photos, sharpened my pencil…

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and I’ve laminated some garden poems by famous poets for a poetry quiz, all part of getting ready to be a poet in residence for London’s  Open Garden Squares Weekend  17-18 June.  I’m one of several poets in various gardens thanks to The Poetry School. Weekend tickets at very moderate prices!

Now I  just need to be in a really good poetic frame of mind when the time comes!

It’s a wonderful weekend where one can visit places not usually open to the public.  I hope to pop off to one or two myself.  But most of time I’ll be based in Earl’s CourtP1070223 Square.

I don’t know the area very well but I vaguely remember it was quite rudely referred to as ‘Kangaroo Valley’ in the 60s.

I have quite a few relatives who emigrated to Australia after the war so by the 60s a constant stream of aunts, but mainly cousins, were descending on my parents’ house in Highgate.  Some stayed for months and one or two got pretty good jobs. But all returned to Australia in the end.

Famous Australians like Germaine Greer, Clive James, Barry Humphreys and others made unforgettable contributions to our lives in Britain and some never went back!

I’ve been reading and enjoying some of the Australian poet Les Murray’s poems, the sort of thing one does when one’s research net gets rather wide! But I have also learned of famous residents that have lived in Earls Court Square including two famous ballerinas and even a little about the sex life of Plane trees!

Extract from Wikepedia about Les Murray

Leslie Allan “Les” Murray (born 17 October 1938) is an Australian poet, anthologist and critic. His career spans over forty years and he has published nearly 30 volumes of poetry as well as two verse novels and collections of his prose writings. His poetry has won many awards and he is regarded as “the leading Australian poet of his generation”.  He has also been involved in several controversies over his career and has been rated by the National Trust of Australia as one of the 100 Australian Living Treasures.

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