Making Poetry in an Extraordinary Place

Acton Scott Historic Working Farm is one of Britain’s leading working farm museums, an extraordinary survival.

A generation ago, Thomas Acton took steps to keep alive the 19th century farming practices he’d grown up with, and the idea of a historic working farm was born.  When you visit Acton Scott today, you’ll find practical demonstrations of historic farming using traditional skills and period horse-drawn machines. You’ll see farm life unfold on the land, around the farm yard and in the cottage.

Jean being Poet in Residence in 2013 at Logan Botanic Garden

Jean being Poet in Residence in 2013 at Logan Botanic Garden

I’m Jean Atkin, a poet new to Shropshire, having spent the last 12 years on a smallholding in Scotland.  I was lucky enough to grow up in Cumbria next door to a working farm, which if it didn’t still have working horses, did have a collapsing barn still filled with huge, dusty, rotting heavy horse harness.  I was hooked.

When I suggested to Acton Scott that a Poet in Residence might bring something new to the Farm, they were wonderfully enthusiastic, and with the help and expertise of Writing West Midlands, I put together a bid to Arts Council England, which was successful.  I have been part of Writing West Midlands’ Room 204 Writer Development Programme 2013, and would recommend it wholeheartedly as a great help, and great fun.

What I plan to do is to make poetry visible at Acton Scott.  I will talk with visitors, cajoling them to read and write poetry during their time on the Farm – much can be done in a mere 5 minutes!  (And even more in 20…).  I will publish the poems that people write, the poems we read together and enjoy, the stories of days making poetry on the Farm here on this blog and make poetry spring up all over the Farm too.

I’ll also be organising a Farm Poetry Workshop for regionally-based poets, published or unpublished, where you can turn up, be sparked into poetic experiment and enjoyment by your surroundings – and I will undertake to encourage, advise and enthuse over your work.

The Residency will start during the Easter holiday, and finish in mid July with a celebratory event at which those who’ve written an Acton Scott Poem will be offered an opportunity to read it before an audience, sustained, I hope, on tea and cake and sunshine…  So please follow this blog to keep up!

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