Poet in Residence – Ely Folk Festival 2016

For a second year I found myself invited back to the Ely Folk Festival as Poet in Residence, many thanks to Arts Development in East Cambridgeshire and the Ely Folk Festival organisers. I spent the weekend running poetry writing workshops for children. There was a bit of a bug theme going on at this year’s festival with the Wildlife Trust leading bug hunts, workshops to produce bug themed items for the children’s parade, bug themed stories and bug inspired printing and drawing activities.
Poetry 4  DSCF2845

Naturally my poetry workshops had a bug theme too; I read poems about insects from Ted Hughes, A. A. Milne and others to inspire the young poets. We played rhyming games, I asked the children to name an insect they might like to right about, then we all took turns of coming up with words that rhymed with them. We also looked at acrostics as another way of making a poem about an insect. Then primed and inspired the kids set to work on their poems.

poetry-workshop-sm bee poem

I also I was very pleased to get a visit from the first ‘Bard of Cambridge’ Marion Leeper in between her storytelling sessions, part in a mini workshop with me and wrote a poem. Ten year old Tashi Marley, Young Fenland Poet Laureate 2016 also came along and took part in a workshop.

MLwriting  IMG_0808sm

On Saturday between all this happening, I was wondering around the festival site accosting people and asking them to write a line or two about the festival, for me to shape into a crowd-sourced community poem, to be performed at the Babylon Arts spot on stage in Marquee Two on Sunday afternoon. I also set up a board outside the Babylon Arts tent where people could write their thoughts on a post-it note and place it on the board, all this gave me plenty of very diverse material to work with on Saturday night.

crowd-source-instruction sm        IMG_0345

There were more poetry workshops on Sunday.  As well as the performance slot at 2pm, where three of the children, Bex Bruce, Heather Moss and Tashi Marley got up on stage with me to read their poems, then I read the crowd-sourced community poem, which seemed to go down well.

IMG_0805sm   IMG_0814sm

Sunday also saw me ignoring Sir Thomas Beecham’s advice “Try everything once, except folk dancing and incest.” and dancing among the other Morris sides with the Milkmaid Molly, dance group for people with learning disabilities (Molly’s) and experienced dancers (Buddies), at which I am a very inexperienced buddy.

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and here is the crowd sourced poem, many thanks to all those who helped write it.

Ely Folk Festival 2016
poem made up from crowd sourced material, collated by Derek Adams, Festival Poet.

 Wearing Visi Vests to brighten the day
smiling marshals show us our way

to a flotilla of multicoloured tents,
watched over by the Ship of the Fens.

Kettle on –  organise bits –
walk to site –  collect tickets –
register dog –

Ely started under a damp sky,
but the music keeps us
warm and dry.

Spending time with friends,
Freedom for the kids to roam,
Beer & music,
what more do you need?

Great! The weather’s turning dry.
No more raindrops in my eye.

Children play –
Fun,  dancing,
Kites to make,
Linocut printing.

‘I’m looking for the face painting’

Children fly homemade kites
that dance and whirl on the wind –
tug, tug, tugging at heart strings.

‘Kite, oh, kite when will I see you again?
I lost you, so small, on a cloudy wet fen.’

whiling the time away
day dreaming,
not a care in the world.
‘Is it time for a beer yet?’
Beer flows – Life slows
listen – chat – read – relax –


Nice friendly family festival
on the public side.
Quite a headache
on the organisational side.

Friendly happy people.
‘Hilary is my heroine.’

Heading out east
for a festival feast.
Lots for your money
but don’t tell Jonny.

It is hot
– ice cream melts,
appetising food smells
drift over the site.

‘I love fish and chips.’
‘I love the pizza.’

Wind blows – paper flies – chairs turn over
paper plates Frisbee  and  Flying pizza!

Morris Dancing
In fine feathered headgear.
Morris Drinking
tasty cider or beer.

In the beer tent, the barmaid says –
without the hint of a wink in her eye –
‘Golden Shower’s been very popular,
so has the Slap and Tickle.’

Sound of instruments being tuned –
Sound check –
One two,  one two.
Yeh yeh yeh!!
Uh uh uh!!

Mawkin Mayhem
in a flat County

Music continues into the night.
Muggy,  Lovely,  Ely,
sometimes sunny.
What a wondrous Party.


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