Friday, 18 March 2016

Poetry and Performance - Ralph Thoresby School

Sally Bavage writes:
One thing that was indeed intriguing about the evening was how life followed art, in that a couple of young poets disappeared during rehearsals – and never came back. It's not good to have a lurgy rampaging through the poet group, and it was a real shame for altogether five stalwarts that they missed their moments in the spotlight. Agatha Christie might have thought of the plot device first, but in real life it is less than intriguing and more a disappointment for those young people from the 'Own Your Words' group of writers that their poetry was not heard. At least we didn't get down to 'And Then There Was None'!

What we did get down to was a great mixed programme of performance, the young writers performing their poetry pieces in a drama studio set out cafe-style, tea lights flickering (well, LEDs anyway) to illuminate the audience in a dim glow. We even had some torch singers, an upper school band and a trio of dancers. Oh, and a compere who decided to go a la francaise for the evening. “What do you call a Frenchman wearing sandals?” Philippe Phloppe. It did get better after that.

The young people had musical accompaniment once again from Stella Litras on the keyboards; she carefully crafts the music to fit the mood of the poem or the dance. And once again the young poets had been recruited and supported by a dedicated English teacher, Kate Wolstenholme, in their weekly after-school sessions.

This term additional writing and editing support was provided by local poet – in fact, just recently chosen as the Otley Town Poet – Matthew Hedley Stoppard. He took the young people beyond writing, but worked with them on developing the essential skills honing and paring down their own work. Something of the craft of poetry.

The finale to the evening was an ensemble piece, where some of the poets gave reasons to Sir (Matthew) for 'the empty chair'. Some were a bit like the classic, “A dog ate my homework” - imaginative, intriguing – and others set up possibilities that could have been feasible. The occupant of the 'empty chair' finally bounded on stage and in to the 'lesson', with just a teasing smile and no further explanation. Where had she been? We were left with the intrigue and the opportunity to applaud the bravery of those who overcame their nerves to perform their own work.

Thanks are due to the Outer North West area management committee whose funding allowed the work to be developed and also to the support of Will Carr, headteacher of Ralph Thoresby school. He perhaps summed up the evening in a simple sentence: “This event gets better every year; it is so important to provide for young people to have a safe place to write and try to express their personal ideas when the modern curriculum gives so few opportunities.

Audience Comments
A wonderful evening with some extremely talented young people. An absolute joy to be here!

What a fantastic evening. So much to listen to and enjoy. Thank you. You are all fantastic :-)

A very good evening being entertained by the students at Ralph Thoresby School. This was the first performance by young people I have been to and I was impressed by the poetry, singing and dancing.

Lovely to see so many young people express themselves. Enjoyable and very creative.

Fantastically talented kids; lovely atmosphere

Superb event, lovely atmosphere and huge talents! Loved it.

A lovely showcase for young talent. Thank you to the local councillors for sorting funding to allow it to take place

A lovely performance by everyone - they should be very proud of themselves.

Nice touch with the candles :). Brilliant performances. I'd like to have more of these events.

It was very lovely and the children were sensational.

Very enjoyable and inspiring!

Great to see all the emerging talent once again. On a brief after note - a much better setting this year than last, a proper 'jazz cafe' feel. Many thanks.

Nice to have it in an intimate environment

Lovely evening and inspiring performances from kids and adults alike. Thank you!

Good to see such a wide range of performances.


I think it was very good. My favourite person who performed was Lucy. And also Annie Hallam.

The dancers were best!

Wonderful night. Great performances.

Great talent and a really enjoyable evening.

A very good evening's entertainment, which deserved a bigger audience.

It was good.

I enjoyed it.

Comments from the young people involved included:

“I am now more confident, my writing level has gone up and my teacher has really noticed.” Jack

“It's been fun, man. Feedback on our writing to each other was really worth it and stuff.” Pedro

“I have more confidence in my own writing, and performing. I was timid but now [I have] opened up. Would defo come again if it was available.” Joshua

“Really enjoyable, it's my second time doing this. I even led some workshops on issues to consider when writing. This year we were exploring more serious ideas.” Alex M

“Ideas feedback great, that your ideas count. Enjoyed the writing and appreciated the chance. Feel that my writing has improved and that I have more ideas flowing.” Alex B

“it's been good that I am expressing myself better. Good that it was different ages and what you said was valued. I like poetry, reading and writing now.” Millie

“People were so nice, they were enjoying what they were doing. I am more confident now, and want to write poetry. No-one judges you in this group.” Emma B

“I have more confidence. It was fun, enjoyable, just as the others said. I have more friends. It has helped with my English. Matthew [Hedley Stoppard] has listened carefully to our pieces and given really good feedback. Tough, but safe.” Hannah

“Self-confidence! I enjoy performing with people, a new pleasure for me. My first performance here and I am in year 10.” Lewis [who uses a wheelchair]

“Fun. I am proud of writing my own poetry, and performing it. I want to write more.” Harry

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