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’.

‘no longer the celebrity rock pig’…

Oh, but the poems are still coming in!  I’m enjoying them!

The Half-And-Half Pig

The Half-And-Half Pig

Here’s a beauty from Meg Cox, about That Pig, and the passage of time.






Half and Half Pig

When I first saw a photo of him
the piglet half Old Spot

and half Tamworth,
divided, one end of each,

cradled in a man’s arms,
he was a star already,

had attracted visitors,
been oohed over, gone viral.

When I saw him for real he was older
and he didn’t look quite so special,

blending with his siblings,
no longer the celebrity rock pig.

When I last asked after him
I was answered with a farmer’s shrug.

Meg Cox

and this one:

Agricultural machinery draws my focus,
the craftsmanship of shape.
The pumpkin, orange cart
with scalloped undercarriage
and devilled forked hinges.

A slight bow on the upper ridge,
Paintwork framed in thick, black lines.
I think not of the work of this cart
Horse drawn and hard,
only of the shape and colour.

Nina Lewis

Poems For The Farm event 004








‘I sink into the hammock by the haystack./ This is the life.’

Now you’re halfway through ‘Poems for the Farm’.  There now follows an interval of the most moist, fruity scones, dark red bowls of Acton Scott strawberry jam, with whole fruits bobbing lusciously – and towering dishes of rich whipped cream…

Poems For The Farm cream teas mr

We piled on the cream…

Poems For The Farm audience2 hr

Cream Tea queue at ‘Poems for the Farm’






Then more poetry…

Poems For The Farm Andy FP mr

Andrew Fusek Peters read: ‘Jackdaw handle hinge of the world…’

Poems For The Farm Jean reads mr

I read: ‘He talks of haymaking/ and June storms,/ of the lightning-struck horses/ out in the open.’

Poems For The Farm Mike Turner reads mr

Mike Turner read his son Oliver’s poem. Oliver is 15, a poet, but away at a drama rehearsal.

Poems For The Farm Steve Harrison mr

Steve Harrison read: ‘Wireless chickens/ pecking, preening,/ just solar-powered.’

Poems For The Farm Nadia reads mr

Nadia Kingsley read: ‘His bottom/ curves, in delicate fashion; his anus/ twitches; his lower jaw swings…’

Poems For The Farm Liz Roberts reads mr

Liz Roberts read: ‘He half turns his head,/ and through his whiskers whispers:/ ‘I miss the sea, the hiss and sucking sound…’

Poems For The Farm Adrian Perks reads mr

Adrian Perks reads: ‘I sink into the hammock by the haystack./ This is the life. My girl by my side./ At night we lie together under stars…’

Poems For The Farm Helen Paris mr

Helen Paris reads: ‘Green smothers black as/ the sun, weak for so long,/ pulses and warms.’


‘Roman hens of Dorking/ those blue hills/ and Charlie’

Today over 40 poets and lovely attentive audience members turned up on a hot, humid afternoon to take part in ‘Poems for the Farm’.  It was the culmination of my three month residency at Acton Scott Historic Working Farm – and it was great!  Some 20 poets came along to read, and they generously read  work too from poets who couldn’t be here today.

Poems For The Farm 1st readers mr

Here are the first readers, all ready to go.







Poems For The Farm Meg Cox reads mr

Meg Cox reads: ‘clumps of black suckling pigs/ leggling lambs/ a water of ducks/ and Charlie…’










Poems For The Farm Frank reads mr

Frank reads: ‘the ducks’ green heads, their orange feet/ a drop of brown pond water/ a goose with his head in a bucket…’

Poems For The Farm J reads Jacob's poem mr

I read for Jacob: ‘Piglets/ their little noses/ their hunger/ their curly tails’…

Poems For The Farm Julia Dean Richards reads mr

Julia Dean Richards reads: ‘Then trudge up the cock-crowing nature-knowing tractor track…’

Poems For The Farm Peter Holliday reads mr

Peter Holliday reads: ‘He’s been docking mangolds/ From dawn to dusk:/ In rain, in sleet, in icy cold…’

Poems For The Farm Paul Francis reads mr

Paul Francis reads: ‘Just take a pen, and have a go, she said./ It seemed so innocent. Give it a try./ And that was all it took for me to write/ the words I never knew were in my head.’

Poems For The Farm Nina reads mr

Nina Lewis reads: ‘The pumpkin, orange cart/ with scalloped undercarriage/ and devilled forked hinges.’

Poems For The Farm Colin & audience mr

Colin Fletcher reads: ‘Viewers will remember only that wise head/So steady on its saucer of winged collar.’










Time for cream teas and Richard's squeezebox!

Time for cream teas and Richard’s squeezebox!






























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.



Poems from far away and nearer to

William Mytton cart Wed 11 JunePoems for the Farm are still arriving!  It’s wonderful to receive people’s heartfelt words, about the farms they’ve known and places that are special to them.  A treat to be able to connect them to Acton Scott, such a special place.

Here’s one from Renita Boyle, who now lives in Scotland, but tells me this poem is about where she grew up in Wisconsin in the U.S.

Renita Boyle

Renita Boyle

And this one from Prasad, who lives in Bangalore in India.

Prasad (Bangalore, India)

Prasad (Bangalore, India)

And this from Lorien Nemec in the USA:

Lorien Nemec (USA)

Lorien Nemec (USA)

And this one from Stephen Elliott, of Kenilworth, England.

Stephen Elliott

Stephen Elliott



Opening the door on the Shepherd Poets’ Hut

Here it iInside Poet Hut 2 July mrs… nearing the end of the residency.  All its walls look like this inside – filled up with poems sent to me by a marvellous assortment of young children, published poets and the many people who told me they ‘don’t write poetry’.
Here’s a couple of new ones:

Farmer's Boy by Peter Holliday

Farmer’s Boy by Peter Holliday

The Wheel Turns by Paul Francis

The Wheel Turns by Paul Francis

A poem for Dusty, who makes a noise like a siren

Showers fell every so often, but Freya and her family, visiting from Ireland, had found Dusty.  She wrote this poem with me.  We had very interesting discussions about the colour of the sea at different times and under different skies.  Then we talked about which tense to use for the poem.  Freya’s family, and her little sister, sat in the Shepherd Poets’ Hut and supported her delightfully.  Dusty is one lucky donkey, I think, to have such an admirer.

Freya 8y 9 July 037

Freya, aged 8, with her poem for Dusty the donkey

Here it is, bit easier to read:

Dusty by Freya 8y

A walk through Acton Scott’s Victorian field names

I set off with the Ordnance Survey map, a copy of the ‘Acton Amble’ leaflet and a bad photocopy of Acton Scott’s marvellous map of 19th century field names.  It was a hot afternoon, and I didn’t really have quite enough time, or any water, which was a mistake.  But I followed a faint trail all afternoon, of fields that have shifted slightly from their names, lost paths made narrower from disuse, old fords and markers in the shape of massively coppiced trees.  What follows is a work in progress!

2 Lost green lane

Little Lane Piece was sprung with Oaks./ I wound my way on a narrow path/ through high Hogweed and stinging Nettles.

6 path through barley 1

In Rye Croft Coppy, a Mole turned mortal,/ upside to heaven. Above him brown Ringlets/ wavered the clover.


7 path through barley 2 hilltop

A whispering Ash at Broomy Rye Croft./ The Ragleth was rising from cover. Blue Flies/ moved slowly and thickly in shade.


3 Lane by Little Rye Croft

At the third ford: Rabbit bones, a trim of birds,/ a trembling shade like water. I climbed and had/ to stop for breath. Dried mud. Hoofprints.


11 descending to Chelmick Valley

I walked, and the lie of the old track from Chelmick/ was tagged with shreds of winter-carded wool./ In the squatter village, the hedge-lines grew loose


12 One eyed house on road nr Rogers' Rough

Smell of dung and dead stock. Crow. By Roger’s Rough,/ a one-eyed cottage under renovation. Everywhere/ this local ground makes shift for the duration.