Poetry is coming to the Workhouse in Southwell this month. Starting from Sunday 8th September, this fascinating National Trust property will host the Workhouse Poetry Festival running for 2 weeks, with a theme of Care and Creativity, exploring unique experiences of mental illness and recovery, through poetry. There will be opportunity to hear poetry as spoken word, explore the poetry trail in the house and garden, and take part in special sensorium activities.
A special event on Saturday 14th September brings poet and broadcaster Henry Normal to the Workhouse, where he will perform his poetry in collaboration with Flower Pod, a local social enterprise for people who have diverse learning disabilities. Henry comes from Nottingham originally, and is well known as a writer, poet and TV and Film producer, having written for many TV comedies including The Royle Family and Alan Partridge. More recently, he has written and performed four BBC Radio 4 shows combining comedy, poetry and stories about bringing up his autistic son. His poetry, funny and moving, fits well with the Festival theme of “Care and Creativity”, and Flower Pod clients will also be reading their own poetry. His performance is from 2-3 PM on the 14th, free of charge (apart from normal entry fee into the Workhouse).
There is more poetry performance throughout the 2 weeks. On 11th and 18th September, there will be an opportunity for visitors to select poems from a selection of ‘Prescription Poetry’, and request a reading in a place of their choice around the house and garden. These will be read by young local poets and volunteers. And on 13th and 20th September at 12:30 and 2:30pm, you can listen to the Reverend John T. Becher, founder of The Workhouse, as he performs poems inspired by the place. The Workhouse is often brought to life by costumed characters from the 19th century period.
Bringing the festival to a conclusion, the 22nd September brings two events. At noon, Deirdre O’Byrne will run a session exploring Irish poetry on themes of health and wellbeing. Deirdre, from Loughborough University, has academic expertise in Irish Literature and Storytelling. At 2pm, poet Jacqueline Gabbitas will be giving a reading of her poetry and reflecting on her family connections to The Workhouse, as well as workshopping the idea of ‘5 ways to read a poem’, using all of the senses.
Scent and perfume are being featured as a way of enriching our connection to poetry in a physical way. Fragrance will be used to scent the words of the poet John Clare, exploring the colour of his expressive language. And visitors can experience scented oils made with herbs from The Workhouse garden, a living medicine cabinet from the nineteenth century. Look out for poetry around the beautiful and productive garden as well.
So, get over to Southwell for this extravaganza of poetry – and explore this fascinating building, which gives a unique sense of what it was to be poor and destitute in the 19th and 20th centuries.
All poetry events are free, but normal admission prices (or NT membership) apply.