LUCK’S WEIGHT: how a residency turned into an exhibition and a poetry pamphlet

My residency at Acton Scott was a real joy.  I met so many knowledgeable and wonderful people – those who worked there, and those who visited.  Over 100 poems were written about the farm during those four months.  Over 20 poets came back to the farm to perform their work to an audience of over 50 at the end of the project.  And we all had cream tea.

My collaboration with photographer Andrew Fusek Peters began by chance during the residency, but Luck's Weight Launch Andy & Jean bestdeveloped into the touring exhibition Luck’s Weight, which was available to the public throughout much of 2015 in The Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre, Craven Arms; Wenlock Poetry Festival; Ludlow Library; Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery; Oswestry Library.

We also published a poetry pamphlet, Luck’s Weight, the first print run of which has completely sold out, so we’ve just done another one (summer 2016) – contact me here if you’d like a copy!

Luck's Weight pamphlet

Inspiring creativity: Poetry on the Farm

10 Luck's WeightWell, this lovely residency is at an end, at least in its wellies-in-the-midden phase of being actually on the farm and making poetry with people.  Thank you so much, all the staff at Acton Scott, Arts Council England and Shropshire Council, all the poets and visitors – and all of you who’ve read and followed and supported this blog.

I’m really delighted to say that the residency has been featured as a case study on Arts Council England’s website – click here.

And the beautiful photographs taken by Andrew Fusek Peters, and my own poems about Acton Scott, are, we hope, to become a touring exhibition called ‘Luck’s Weight’.

Hanging up the bunting for ‘Poems for the Farm’…

The New Barn is all ready for tomorrow’s final event!

The New Barn at Acton ScottAndrew Fusek Peters appeared with a huge box of photographs, and I set out my poems on boards next to them to make a preview of our exhibition ‘Luck’s Weight’, inspired by the Farm.

Setting up Poems for the Farm 10 best

Setting up our Exhibition: ‘Luck’s Weight’.

Setting up Poems for the Farm 4

Setting up our Exhibition: ‘Luck’s Weight’.

Setting up Poems for the Farm 3

Setting up our Exhibition: ‘Luck’s Weight’.

The cream teas are ordered: home-made scones, and strawberry jam made from strawberries ‘scuffled’ here on the Farm by none other than Dusty the donkey with his little harrow.

And I have a long list of 20 readers, each of whom has visited the Farm, actually or virtually, and written a poem for this special place.  Over 50 people tell me they’re coming!  I’m hugely looking forward to welcoming them.



The Shires and ‘a language/ of pressures and touch’

Thank you Chris Kinsey for this fine poem which she’s contributed to Acton Scott.  Here it is inside the Shepherd Poets’ Hut.

Poem for Hut Chris KinseyAfter I’d put it up, I met Andrew Fusek Peters, for a second session taking photographs of the farm.  I’m writing from his work – it’s turning into a hugely exciting collaboration – and we set off to find the Shires.  Our timing was perfect: Simon was harnessing the horses in the stable, and filing Joe’s hind hoof where he’d lost a shoe earlier in the day.
Simon filing Joe's hoofAndy took photos.  I love this one, of the old Shire mare, Tory, who is retired now, but so gentle she’s first pick for small children to handle and sit on.

Photo by Andrew Fusek Peters

Photo: Andrew Fusek Peters

Then we followed the horses to Hall Meadow and the mowing.  Andy took more photographs (of which more later) and I’m working on some words.
Mowing with Joe & Charlie 1

Working with Andrew Fusek Peters

Goose Eye © Andrew Fusek Peters

Goose Eye © Andrew Fusek Peters

‘…and then the first goose
rouses, behind their gate in the wall –
she calls, yammers, and like fires

they catch and cackle.  They wake
the very stones.  They fluff
their feathers, unbend their necks…’

Last week I drove up to Acton Scott on empty roads to meet photographer poet Andrew Fusek Peters at 7am.  The early morning birdsong was the loudest thing in the landscape as we walked onto the farm before anyone else arrived.

The idea was that Andrew would take photographs while I wrote, and that we’ll collaborate on whatever we produce.

The still loveliness of Acton Scott on an early summer morning was marvellous.  Low sun lit the soft brick of the 18th century farmyard.

Acton S early morning 029

The cade lambs calling for their breakfasts

We woke the geese as we walked into the yard – Merle (the stockwoman) told me they’ve always been kept at night in a stone-lined space deep in the wall, and right by the gate in all likelihood as deliberate early warning of intruders.  They set up a huge racket, right on cue, and Andrew took the wonderful photo above.  I’m working on a poem (extract above).

He took lots more photos, and I’m working on lots more poems.  We plan an exhibition!

Acton S early morning Andrew FP at work

Andrew Fusek Peters at work