Atelier East

Words on Water: Reflections on the Day

Last week, Welney Wetland Centre provided the setting for a day of poetry organised by the Fen Speak Poetry Collective. The event took place as part of OuseFest 2015, a celebration of the landscape and heritage of the Ouse Washes. It included an afternoon workshop, co-facilitated by Fenland Poet Laureate Jonathan Totman and prizewinning poet Ian McEwen, and an evening performance with readings from Jonathan, Ian and those who took part in the workshop.

Reflecting on the day, Jonathan said:

Words on Water was made special by the unique setting, a willing and enthusiastic workshop group, and a great turnout for the evening reading. The day focused in large part on the landscape and wildlife of the Ouse Washes, and it seemed to me there was a sense of appreciation among those present for what is often a relatively underappreciated area. Both the workshop and reading provided an opportunity to explore and celebrate the Ouse Washes through poetry - for all its beauty, complexity and hidden treasures.

The workshop began with a guided walk around the reserve at Welney. Sadly the weather wasn’t in our favour so the walk was something of a brief foray, but that didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of an eager group of raincoated poets, who gladly huddled under trees to learn about the local flora and fauna. The workshop itself was held in the main observatory, the view from which provided a rich backdrop for the writing exercises. The ink was flowing and some wonderful writing came from the afternoon – amongst other things, we had poems inspired by a teazle, a swans’ wing, cuckoo-spit, grandparents, a cherished childhood rock, and the Fenland wind.

The reading took place in the café at Welney Wetland Centre, and a fittingly spectacular fenland sunset lent a special atmosphere to the evening (with equally stunning views from the huge windows, we arranged the room so as to ensure the readers weren’t competing for the audience’s attention!). It was a treat to hear some of the workshop participants read poems I could hardly believe were written only that day. Ian McEwen gave a terrifically eclectic performance, with poems that by turns moved, amused and, at one point, had us all honking like geese!

Thank you to the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership, who generously sponsored the event; to Emma Brand at Welney Wetland Centre for leading the walk and making everything run smoothly; and to all those who came and made it such a memorable day.

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