This project has been part funded by the Dedham Vale AONB and the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB Sustainable Development Fund


Flying The Purple Carpet

Suffolk Artlink's Jumpstart project, for adults with learning difficulties, started its ‘autumn’ term today with a full day in Bury St Edmunds with groups in Ipswich and Lowestoft to follow tomorrow and Thursday. The theme is journeys and over the next twelve weeks these three groups will certainly be taking us on a few, guided by Maurice Horhut (on the piano) and me (getting the words) and artists Caitlin Howells, Kasia Posen and Gareth Bayliss. We’ll be creating a film to go with our words/poems/songs/artwork at the end of it all. The fun thing for me is to come up with brand new approaches for each session to gather words and lines from each member of the group, like the ‘Purple Carpet’. They were written during a ‘Consequences’ style exercise and then our favourites were collected and ordered and then sung by the group. The best moment was when there was a stand-off about whether the line should be, ‘his big socks’ or ‘his socks’ – the argument being that as this was a hairy giant it is obvious that he would have big socks. It was put to a vote and the ‘big socks’ won in the end (it was decided that 'big socks' was simply funnier). After you read the words, bet you can't wait to hear the song?


We’ll fly a purple carpet
We’ll find a happy man
We’ll find 60s Elvis
We’ll hear the mermaid’s song

We’ll arrive in a tardis
There’s Miss Polly the talking snake
We’ll see a fallen planet
We’ll find a lucky penny

We’ll hide in trees and houses
We’ll see a hairy giant
His big socks flying from a castle
And elephants dancing in the fields




Not Sleeping

D. was a boy whose poems always took a pleasingly unusual view. When asked to write about a time of day, he wrote down '3.15 Friday'.  'But' I asked him, 'is that 3.15 in the afternoon or at night when you're not sleeping?' He seemed more interested in the latter and quickly got down to writing a brilliant middle of the night poem. It's nice to know that the tradition of childhood nocturnal reading continues - you just don't need a torch now...


I can't sleep! Lorries, tractors, cars rumble by

as people deliver pigs and come home

from work.

My stripy pyjamas are sweaty and rough

and rubbing on my leg.

I remember reading my Kindle

underneath the quilt.

The secret is mum and dad don't know.


D. from Wilby Primary, Year 5


The Message Keeper

'A wonderfully creative day,' was how the teacher described it. R. particularly liked what he had written during one of Jeni's warm-up exercises in the morning, so he chose that poem, 'Message Keepers' as the one he wanted to edit and write-up in the afternoon. I suggested cutting up the poem, tearing it up in strips and then re-arranging the lines (the original 'cut and paste' technique! He agreed and disappeared to get some scissors and Prit-Stik and I left him to it. And he surprised us all with what he came up with...



I would hide my message

In the pixel of a computer

In a grain of corn

In the brain of an ant

In the book of a tutor

At the tip of a thorn

In the twinkling of a star


R. from Wilby Primary, Year 5


New Life to An Old Apple at Wilby Primary

As you may have heard, this year I'll be running the 2016 Suffolk Young Poets Competition, all part of a new venture called 'Poetry People'. I've been busy these last few months - along with Jeni Smith and Michael Laskey - delivering workshops   in schools to help generate some poems and entries for the competition. Jeni and I had a really aborbing day at Wilby Primary School, who I had visited last year as part of the Poem for Suffolk project (this was the school who came up with the wonderful 'Why Did the Hedgehog knock' group poem!).

We spent the day with the Beech class (27 students in Year 5) and their lovely teacher Ms Wiseman. Spending the whole day with one group meant that we could really get them to have fun writing lots of poems in the morning and then focus their attention on one particular piece, for them to edit and write-up. We wrote poems containing questions, strange jobs, list poems, guided poems and the names for animals.

And here's a poem from the day that Jeni and I particuarly liked - written by a boy who throughout the day  came up with bright short poems that fizzed with strange lines and images. Giving new life to an old apple...


This apple is so old that

it is as furry as a monkey.


So old and soft and brown like

a stinky old dog.


So old its crunch is on the floor.

So old the mould has taken over.


R. from Wilby Primary, Year 6



Every Road Tells a Story

So, amongst other things, these last few months I've been working in Stowmarket on something called 'Every Road Tells A Story'. It’s celebrating the Unity Housing – otherwise known as ‘prefabs’ – and the people who lived in them. These particular ones were built in the mid-1950s as a ‘temporary’ housing solution to last for up to 30 years but stood rather longer than that and are only now being demolished (having stood for 60 years!) with new rented houses built in their place.

By the end of their lives, these buildings were creaky and damp and a man from the council turned up each year with a bucket of cement to fill the cracks in the walls. The thing is, they were 'home', people invested their lives in the old properties and a community grew around them. They planted magnificent gardens (which were huge)! They buried their pets there. Babies born, parents died there. Many didn’t want to move out. One woman who did – and moved around the corner into a new house – couldn’t look at her old abandoned home and overgrown garden and closed her eyes each time she went past as her husband drove her to Aldi. Eighteen months it stood empty before it was demolished. Lots of stories like that. It’s been fascinating to put them together for a little book which will be part of an exhibition at the Museum of East Anglian Life in May. I hope to tell you more about it in the coming weeks...