Inspirations: Poetry & Creative Writing Competition

 

Online exhibition: 8 May 2021 – 19 March 2022


The Atkinson, in partnership with The Arts Society Southport invited anyone with links to the Sefton Borough to take part in a new poetry and creative writing competition. The past year has taught us to appreciate the landscape on our doorstep and explore Great Britain with staycations. The competition entries responded to artworks featuring in an upcoming exhibition at The Atkinson, Natural High (19 June 2021 – 19 March 2022), contemplating our current situation, memories of past holidays and dreams for the future

Curated from The Atkinson’s fine art collection, Natural High, explores the wonderful scenery of Great Britain. The exhibition themes are The Lake District, Scotland, Wales, Pastoral Scenes and The Coast.

The competition winners are awarded prizes donated by The Arts Society Southport.  The winning entries will also be displayed alongside the Natural High exhibition. Prizes were awarded by the judges based on entries received, therefore a different number of places were awarded in each age category to reflect this.


Inspirations


Competition Entries

You can read all of the entries below, or download them here.


Winner Age 13-18

Coffee Stains

(THEME: Scotland) Portpatrick by Donald McIntyre (1923–2009). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Lucy Harding

The house is a small one, and salted air slips in through gaps in the brick that someone else will have to patch up, one day. She spends her days cradled in its red, crumbling alcoves; ticks out her seconds in its orbit as from a ration book – each one struck off with the echoing guilt that shouldn’t she be saving them?
On some days, she’ll imagine she can see a mark, where the IV would’ve been. It’s a small ring of paled skin; tiny red mark at its centre, and it haunts the back of her hand like a silvery ghost, caught in a snare of pale sunlight; like a ghost; like a woman in a house of crumbling Scottish brick.
There’s a thought like a magnet, living in her periphery. It draws her eyes to that wound that isn’t there, hovering over her veins, and decodes the chill it sends rippling down her spine: it’s the absence of something keeping her alive.
She’s clockwork, and it’s been a while since she last saw the key.
The sea roars for her, kissing her cheeks with salt, its vengeful fury rattling cliffs and bones. She offers up a sad smile and shining eyes, on the altar of pathetic fallacy, as waves rage against the bay.
She chose her visits to the village carefully – it was a specific breed of grey sky that drew her to the sea’s edge. And their days were all the same: water, white and angry, gnawed at the foot of the rock. Cottages stood their ground with stony courage, set against the buffeting winds with swords of wooden beams and shields of lopsided doors. The cobbled streets were their armour – against Time, that washed in from the sea and threatened their shores.
It was much too blatant. Much too brave.
So she’d situated herself and her crumbling body just outside its borders. The lump of land in-between them kept away most noises of civilisation. Good.
She likes that she controls when she sees the sea, with her back to it like this. Instead, her door – equally imperfect and stout – faces stiller water. Hers is the only structure crouched at the lake’s edge. It’s more of a large pond, really, but it’s hers – hers, and the deer’s and the birds’. She’s living on loan here, in the kingdom of wiry plants and uneven paths.
She had always wanted to go to Scotland – it had been her first thought. It was a fresh enough start to let her scrawl out these last few memories in crude streaks of coal, if she wished, and have no one there to paint over with fairer colours.
She had wanted a chorus of unruly wind to flood her chest, to chase her blood through her veins, to spur on her faltering pulse.
But even strong winds can’t push boulders up hills. Can’t roll stones away from the hungry mouths of tombs.
She wonders whether it’s a beginning or an end she’s more akin to. She certainly has the makings of a beginning – pale, youthful skin, glassy-bright eyes (over her shoulders, practically a bushy tail) and yet…
Her hair has stopped it’s migration, as it was, spreading over every available surface in hordes – fleeing her like birds from a pre-meditating volcano.
It’s stopped abandoning her now. Yet she feels more forsaken, like this, with it rich – a thick auburn – and present as ever it could’ve been.
She supposes stars shine brightest burning themselves out.
Is that what she’s doing here? Giving herself space to burn out?
Around that realisation, her project finds its start.
It was alright, it was alright, she’d tell herself, past the lump in her throat – she’d leave them pieces of herself.
She’d leave behind puzzle pieces – snapshots into a life – she’d leave them a treasure-hunt. What sort of treasure was she?
She had been living inside a canvas of brick, with her life kept hung up like paintings inside her head. Like a gallery that was going to burn down.
So she evacuates.
The first entry goes in the highest cupboard, slipped in-between rows of pasta and cereal. She’d bought them ‘as and when’, initially.
But she’d started getting the sense people were learning her name; that they were passing it amongst themselves in whispers as she stood at the counter. Then, she’d stopped.
She bought in bulk now – saved trips. Saved a lot of things.
Others were letters – she would write to the squirrels that flitted across her porch, and to the ocean hissing at her back door, on stormier days – how she would miss them – the woods and the water – about wanting to come home ‘wishing you were here’.
She writes in anticipation. She imagines that’s how it’ll be.
There were paintings too, sketches – she lets the things she loves most rule the tabletops, pins photos to the walls. She smiles at the wear on her best armchair, rejoices at the coffee-stain-moons clustered on the windowsill.
When it’s all much too final, she tells herself that there’ll be others – other people, here, after she’s… gone.
In her mind it’s a family, that comes to stay. No- to live.
She refuses to question this, allows the taking of liberties. She’s earnt her blissful ignorance.
A family.
And she wouldn’t be the ghost story they tell each other in terror-filled dark.
She’d be the drawings on the wall, and the notes they keep finding slipped into odd hidey-holes. She’d be drawings of cats and scratches on tables from careless keys.
Maybe they’d let her become something beautiful, if only in memoriam.
This is what she hopes for, hunched and shivering on the floor, curled round the toilet bowl, sting of vomit on her lips. She whispers it to herself like a lullaby. She tries to rock herself to sleep.
All the same, she hopes they believe in ghosts. She’ll believe in them if they return the favour. Then, they’d will a part of her into existence – re-existence.

 


Winner Age 19-25

Strand

(THEME: The Coast) Evening at Padstow, Cornwall by Samuel Henry William Llewellyn (1858–1941). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Laurence Robert Fredricks

In silence, we listen,
To the gentle sighs of the tide;
Nomadic waves wandering,
Coast, to coast.
Searching sands, sifting for feet once treading their pearled edges.
But winter torrents turn visitors to shelter.
So,
Like slate, these waters have grown cold,
And sharp, in absence.
Their shards pierce empty lots as they crash onto shore,
Hardening sands until softened by new season: When –
Blue horizons echo the distant hums
Of drawn in waves,
Gilded by the pulsing heat, beating the streets that flank the promenade.
Dampened by the spindrift of excitement,
As they crash and clang with the sea – in an orchestral beauty
That is the sound of newfound freedom.

 


Winner Age 25+, 1st Place, Poetry 

The One Alone

(THEME: The Coast) Evening at Padstow, Cornwall by Samuel Henry William Llewellyn (1858–1941). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Brian Wake

As they might watch enthralled by something
Caught, marooned upon an isolated rock or flotsam
From an ancient storm, so we see them, four boys
And girls composed to emphasise a fifth alone.

Looking not to understand their keen attention
To what’s going on, but to admire brushwork
And behold the steady strokes of anchored boats,
The gently bobbing white upon cerulean blue.

And will the slackened chain be taut, dislodging
Scabs of amber rust, and strain the mooring rings,
The bollard’s groan, to hold resisting fishing
Boats from setting sail unskippered and too soon?

And has the one alone, to prove perspective, known
Somebody gone to sea too long but home at last,
Before the limiting dark, through pipestone pinks
Of sunlit cloud to greetings from the harbour wall?

Or are his crabbing days complete, replaced by rotas
Of ungodly shifts up gangplanks to the fishhouse
Auction rooms arranging cod and Mackerel for sale.
Now stopped to rest before his cobbled journey home.

As they might watch enchanted by it all; the sting
Of briny spray, the evening and the sea things captured
In a tiny jar, so we see them, four children caught
Forever on a wall, another slouched eternally alone.

 


Winner Age 25+, 2nd Place, Poetry

Derwent Water -from small beginnings

(THEME: Lake District) River Running into Derwentwater, Cumbria by Benjamin Williams Leader (1831–1923). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Phil McNulty

The fissure, the crack, the sunken water garden,
A noisome fold in the steep, brown, bracken,
Where freezing torrents rush and slacken, gulp and run
And roar down vertical slopes, green slimed and sudden.
Then falling, frantic, over blocks and roughened shards,
The silten ribbon winds round grey and white granite,
And charges, in cascades and flumes, past evergreen and overhanging gorse,
To course in a chaos of rivulets, beckoned by mossy clumps
And reeds and succulents and lichen warts on massive slabs.
Then, lays still, in deep, cold, pools, by burnt bushes, blackened.
With ivy hanging drunkenly.
And, summoned further,
Waterfallen to sullen ponds with yellow rock flowers.
Drizzled along bracken stalks,
Where airy bubbles ripen to pearl like frogspawn
In a shrunken puddle, by a softened carpet of spongy moss.
Seeping, so softened, downhill.
Hidden, by wind burnt grasses eaten short.
Joins open becks spilling from the common to Galemire.
Past Overside Wood, Silver Hill, the brow and the backs,
To boisterously deepen Derwent Water.

 


Winner Age 25+, Joint 3rd Place, Poetry

Forget the daffodils

(THEME: Lake District) River Running into Derwentwater, Cumbria by Benjamin Williams Leader (1831–1923). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Bob Eccleston

Lakeland scenery moves and thrills
Disregard that Wordsworth fellow
His host of golden daffodils
are not even gold they’re yellow
He wandered lonely as a cloud
but Lakeland clouds come in a crowd

Vistas formed by fire and ice
Snow-tipped peaks reach to mottled skies
Don’t dare call it pretty or nice
Your presumption will turn out lies
and you’ll have to seek its pardon
This is not a cottage garden

Rivers starting on mountain top
come crashing down their rock filled course
Till meeting at the steepest drop
Unconquered, untrammelled force
A torrent born of virgin snow
Breathe in freedom let shackles go

The lakes and tarns the landscape’s core
The surface calm, what lies below
Just let imagination soar
In hidden depths deep secrets flow
So many dreams this land instils
Once you’re beyond the daffodils

 


Winner Age 25+, Joint 3rd Place, Poetry

On Ainsdale Beach

(THEME: The Coast) Evening at Padstow, Cornwall by Samuel Henry William Llewellyn (1858–1941). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Malcolm Terry

Broken,
foundered on a sandbank
with Carolina cotton,
caught by the gale,
a sailing ship and the wild seas;
the wooden bones glare in stark survival,
timbers blackened,
rusted nails holding back the centuries.

Paddling the channels in wellingtons,
through sucking sand, we walked
to the wreck in winter sunshine,
an afternoon of cool brilliance,
scarves and cagoules, woolly hats and gloves,
cameras in our hands.

Eighteen eighty-three, the Star of Hope,
extinguished from the list at Lloyd’s,
from the realms of men,
its ocean five yards wide, ten feet deep,
quietly draining on the ebbing tide
where seagulls stand,
white against blue-grey waters,
occasionally one flies and screams.

The delicate waving arms
of a brittle starfish stranded,
we carried to a pool;
the dead mans fingers,
piddocks and cockles, tower shells and whelks,
fragile in our footsteps, crunching.

It emerged, ghostly from the swell
and shift of sand, the silent past,
dark ribs of its prow thrust to impossible horizons,
a skeleton briefly exposed.
No-one died, no tears but time,
and beyond the low and transient tide
the red sun began to set,
casting lambent fire upon the shore.

 


Winner Age 25+, 1st Place, Prose

Postcard from a Fudge Box

(THEME: Wales) Ffestiniog Work Horses by Terence Tenison Cuneo (1907–1996). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Emily Parr

Spaghetti hoop sauce differs distinctly from bean sauce and therefore does not qualify as a breakfast item. I considered stating this to the hotel proprietors in defence of my friend, the new girl I’d taken under my wing and was holding back the hair of as she vomited into the flower bed. However, on my first holiday without my family, with a reputation to uphold as House Prefect, it seemed wiser not to criticise the hands that had been feeding us.

That was one of my proudest moments, choosing to nurse rather than squirm. Coming at the end of a week of waves of wrenching homesickness, it showed how I’d grown; no more melancholy musings beneath the soulless lights of supposedly fun rides or staring wistfully into the abyss of a restless sea. I’d overcome the gloom of that first night with the epiphany that I had a choice: to wallow in the loss of every comfort, or become my mum.

Being Mum did not mean pouring the tea. We had neither tea nor the staple plate of white buttered bread with meals and weren’t trusted with dispensing juice from the jugs as huge as power plant funnels anyway. Instead, I was to make the sacrifices when it came to sharing a room. Being Mum was giving the most awkward member of the party the single bed and sharing the double with the snoring asthmatic. Being Mum was managing the rotation of towels drying on the one chair. It was hating the food options, but politely trying nevertheless.

Still, spaghetti hoops on toast churned out as breakfast for a coach load of eleven year olds was bound to breed the band of wan faces. True, they shouldn’t have been gorging on fistfuls of jelly sweets stowed in their rooms, but kids will be kids, as mums (and therefore me) would say. Perhaps it was the sea air. Perhaps it was pocket money spent on ice cream, dummy lollipops and bagged candy floss. As the designated sensible classmate, I would tend to the sick without wincing. I could survive anything, knowing I could soon take off the apron and not have to hold, but be held again.

How can parents bear that first proper farewell, not the first day of school or a mere sleepover, but facing a full week entrusting their treasures to teachers? It seems unthinkable now that contact was rationed to the emergency evening calls from the one phone in the hotel. This was reserved for the criers causing a scene, rather than those who’d been trained to steel themselves with teddybears and hidden family photos. To my surprise, the playground bullies and class clowns cried most. Their shame flamed in puckered red faces as they were ushered furtively to their rooms, thus averting a contagious hysteria crisis in the Guest Lounge. For the remaining inmates, in the days before mobile phones, the kin at home knew that they’d know if they had to. In the meantime, all they could do was cling to the image of that earnest face waving through the coach window.

The thrill of having my own toiletries bag initially eclipsed how daunting the trip was, but I soon realised I had not chosen my own day’s clothing before. I could not do my own hair. I would not be given my daily cheese spread bread from my lunch box. I had not shared a bedroom with anyone other than family, let alone a bed. The blanket layers were baffling. It was a grown up room, complete with heavy pelmets, frilly valances and yellow puffed wallpaper that I couldn’t pick at, however much I wanted to. The only option was to keep busy, keep talking, keep spinning with the wheel, because stopping meant toppling. I had to show them. Bumpy and skewed as my pony tail was, I carved it myself, and was proud of it.

The hotel was surprisingly pleasant, considering that it tolerated being overrun by a shoal of snivelling pre-pubescents. With glorious sea views from the best rooms, it sat serenely in a row of pastel-coloured B&Bs on a spotless promenade, disturbed only by the morning’s spewing for the day’s adventure and the riotous return for tea. Before each departure with cratefuls of packed lunches, the Deputy Head was deployed to reinforce the rules in grave tones. Sleeping blissfully alone in the Bridal Suite meant she was always alert, ready to tackle the trouble makers or seize on the sick bags if duty called. She was also there to scold us for being distracted at Dinorwig, threatening to cancel the talent show on the last night if we were too ignorant to take an interest in hydro-electric turbines.
The itinerary was crammed with local alleged attractions, such as the twee water mill I decided I wanted to live in, if only to sit outside it and draw it. There were the slate mines with the cart ride that justified the winding drive staring at hellish grey heaps. The Ffestiniog railway offered further forays in freight, squeezed into the wooden boxes of economy class. For all the tickets and tours and revolving doors, most pupils (myself excluded) were happiest in borderline feral mode on the climbing frames atop the Great Orme, or chasing seagulls dabbling with chips dropped on the pier.

My friend felt better after an orange lolly ice, so fortunately we could proceed with the souvenir shopping we had eagerly awaited all week and had an hour’s release to complete. Any longer would risk squandering pocket money on more than personalised pens, postcarded fudge boxes and puppy coasters. I had never picked presents on my own before, and discovered the panic of disappointing. What if a resin rabbit snowstorm wouldn’t actually make Mum happy? I shared my concerns with Miss Deputy Head, who seemed the best authority to consult on such matters. The fact I’d picked it, she said, would be enough.

 


Winner Age 25+, 2nd Place, Prose 

A Walk Through Time

(THEME: Lake District) River Running into Derwentwater, Cumbria by Benjamin Williams Leader (1831–1923). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Christine Andrews

The caravan stands on the hillside, its paint, once gleaming, is peeling and sun-blistered now. An unsightly pimple on the landscape. The other three caravans are gone, their scars have been covered by grass and wildflowers, belying that they were ever there. The farmer is reclaiming the land for grazing. Anyone wishing to still have a caravan here can now a new, state of the art one on the official caravan site a few fields over.

On seeing caravan, a surge of emotions hits Sarah, winding her and tears fill her eyes. She wipes them away wearily and carries on walking. She sees the ghosts of her childhood-self cavorting in the surrounding field, giddy from the open space and fresh air. The dry stone wall she helped her father build around the caravan’s small garden is still standing after all these years. She remembers the voles and field mice who made it their home, darting out to gather seed from under the bird feeder and back inside, unaware of the little girl watching them with fascination. Just one of a thousand memories here.

When her father became ill her parents had kept the caravan in the hopes he would be well enough for them to return. When it became clear that her parents’ hillwalking days were at an end the caravan became nothing more than a painful memory. It is to be removed for scrap next week. She wonders what will happen to the wall and the tiny creatures who’ve made it their home and tears form again without her consent. ‘I had to come back here, had to see it one last time.’ she whispers to herself. ‘But I won’t look inside, I can’t bear to see what time and abandonment have done.’

Sarah continues up the hillside. The fields give way to woodland now and she follows the winding footpath. The scents of damp earth and pine fill her nostrils and she breaths deeper, filling her lungs. The footpath narrows and widens at varying stages, she climbs stiles and crosses bridges over the stream. Everything here is how she left it, exactly as she remembers. Its familiarity comforts her, like curling up in a warm blanket.

As she nears Low Dam Lake the stream becomes more like a river, spring rains swelling the torrent. The early evening sun is still warm as it lowers in the sky, making shadow giants of the trees along the lakeshore. Sarah passes the dam, which gives the lake its name and continues through the woods, where the path hugs the lake. She passes the beach where she paddled as a child, remembering the sticklebacks nibbling her toes (if she stood still for long enough) while she giggled with glee.

Walking on, up a small hill she reaches High Dam. As a teenager, gangly and uncomfortable in her changing body, this was her happy place, somewhere she could go to think. The evening was always her time, after the tourists had gone home for the day and she could be miles away from another person. It was completely hers then, while she thought about some boy or worried about a friend she’d argued with. She smiles at the thought now, how complicated it had all seemed then, how unimportant it all feels now.

High Dam is bigger and deeper than her lower, sister lake. Her water feeds Low Dam by way of an overflow stream, which in turn feeds the stream Sarah followed earlier. She reaches a dirt ‘beach’, leading to the lake. She drops her rucksack and removes her shoes and socks, before stepping down the foot high drop from the bank, into the lake. The water is up to her shins, icy cold despite the warmth of the evening. She moves forward, each step taking her deeper into the blackness. She’s drawn by it.

As the water reaches Sarah’s stomach the baby she wasn’t sure she wanted becomes animated, feeling the cold from within. She unconsciously puts a protective hand on the swell of her bump. She thinks of him then, the father. His reaction when she told him about the baby, while not unexpected, had still stung. Standing there in the water she wonders if she can do this. If she can raise the baby alone after everything she has been through in the past year. ‘I don’t know!’ she whispers to the life inside her. ‘But I will try!’

Time loses all meaning, but the sun lowering behind the hills implies she has been here longer than intended. Shivering, she turns and walks back to the bank. Cleansed, baptised in a new hope, she climbs up, her wet leggings cold against her skin. Picking up her belongings she walks to the bench beside the path and puts her shoes on her still wet feet. As she leaves, Sarah turns back for one last look and sees that her wet footprints on the ground are the only trace of her presence.

 


Winner Age 25+, Joint 3rd Place, Prose 

The Anniversary

(THEME: Lake District) River Running into Derwentwater, Cumbria by Benjamin Williams Leader (1831–1923). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Nicola Coakley

It enveloped me in its warm and comforting embrace once again. Our cosy holiday cottage was just as I remembered, nestled strategically in the centre of the busy little town not too far from the lake itself with the surrounding hills and mountains providing a spectacular backdrop. We had been coming here for years, every October, but this year it was just the two of us. Usually accompanied by the kids or my parents or both and all their paraphernalia it had felt odd to be unloading the car of our single suitcase and only two pairs of walking boots. I had had mixed feelings about the trip but John had convinced me that it would do us both good. I wasn’t convinced and as we went to bed the first night with the rain beating persistently against the window I suspected the holiday might be a washout.
Our visits usually followed a pattern, a routine, almost a choreography of familiar movements. We would normally be halfway round the lake by this point but the rising flood waters had put paid to that. Instead, John had decided we would have a mooch round the little town. I would’ve been quite happy to remain under the duvet on such a wet and dreary day but he was insistent. He enticed me out of bed with a cup of Earl Grey and tapped his foot as I showered and dressed urging me out of the door impatiently.
The autumnal smells were so familiar as the damp golden leaves squelched beneath my sturdy boots. After a short walk it became clear where we were heading and a little whisper of excitement unfurled in my tummy. We soon arrived at the familiar little gallery. Until that moment I hadn’t realised how desperate I was to see my favourite painting. It depicted the most glorious scene, typical of the Lake District, specifically Derwentwater. Gazing at the painting always conjured up so many wonderful feelings. It was usually displayed in the window, almost taking pride of place in the centre of the large bay. But today it was nowhere to be seen. I frowned and peered inside disappointedly.
“It’s not there” I said, my bad mood resurfacing.
“Of course it is.” He reassured, reaching for my hand and pulling me gently inside, into the warmth.
After perusing every surface of the quaint gallery it was clear that the painting had gone, had probably been sold and I was crushed. Shoulders slumped I turned for the door. This trip had lurched from one disappointment to another. Sadly, I couldn’t see any positives and felt like we should pack up and go home now before anything else could go wrong. It had been a mistake coming here this year.
As I reached out for the door handle,
“Mrs Harrison?”
I turned to find the gallery owner stood directly behind me.
“I think this might be yours” he said, his kind brown eyes twinkling as he smiled down at me. He gestured to a large rectangular crate resting against his knees. I tilted my head in puzzlement, blushing slightly in confusion wondering how he knew my name. Questioningly I looked over at my husband who was leaning innocently against a shelving unit with a huge grin splitting his face in two. He winked cheekily and at that moment I knew. He was watching his plan unfold with satisfaction. I knelt and tore open the crate, already knowing just what I would find inside. My heart thudded with anticipation, all the while my thoughts rushing around my head.
How on earth had he arranged such a surprise? I had been reluctant to even get out of the big comfy bed in our holiday cottage this morning, never mind go traipsing around in the rain. No wonder he had been so persuasive. He wouldn’t have wanted his plan to fail. Today was our special day and his secrecy had ensured a wonderful surprise for me.
The painting was just as I remembered. It was perfect. A perfect representation of a place that had meant so much to us over the years and a fitting gift to celebrate our Silver wedding anniversary. A feeling of calm swept over me as I was mesmerised by its breathtaking beauty. John had surpassed himself this time. He had known how much I had been dreading this trip. I had tried to put my sadness aside but the place was full of memories and I couldn’t help but remember our time here with our children and my parents. We had rarely visited without my parents enthusiastically tagging along and now they were no longer with us it felt all the more poignant. My intention was to scatter their ashes by the river that ran into Derwentwater so they would always be here, together in their happy place. The moment the water receded slightly and it was safe to walk by the river bank that is what I would do.
I stood up and clasped my husband’s hands, smiling into his eyes. He knew how much it meant to me and how happy he had made me. It would probably be our last visit to this special place for a while. It was time to make new memories, find new places to explore, maybe with the kids and perhaps even grandchildren one day. But in the meantime I was the proud owner of the most amazing piece of art that I would treasure forever. I would be able to cast my gaze upon it whenever I wished and be transported back to this magical place in an instant.

 


Winner Age 25+, Joint 3rd Place, Prose

The Bed and Breakfast

(THEME: Lake District) River Running into Derwentwater, Cumbria by Benjamin Williams Leader (1831–1923). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Marion Koob

In my weekly columns, I the Roving Rambler of the London Chronicle, transcribe the extraordinary. You, dear reader, may feel rightly surprised at today’s entry, an account of my stay at the Gate Bed and Breakfast in –borough. The Gate is a middling establishment in a mundane locale, in all appearances hardly worthy of our attention. Yet, a dear friend recently recommended a visit, with praise so enthusiastic and unreserved that I could not ignore it. I was bemused. What mysterious charms could merit such an endorsement? I made a booking.
My early impressions did not enlighten me. The Gate is a tall, end-of-terrace mansion with a pebbledash render, in a neighbourhood haunted by monstrous, monotone grey. Such aesthetic horrors sent shivers down my spine. I was met at the desk by a sullen young man who, on his shirt, wore mustard stains like medals. He grunted a reply to my greeting; his whole manner was dour. As he took my details, I noticed a display of tourist literature to the side, a menu of the delights to be enjoyed across our Great Isle. Each entry was pinned with a fading label, upon which, with scrawling script, was written a combination of incongruous words: “Night. Railway. Lake.” or “Happy circus. Lilac.”
The whole result was baffling.
The man led me upstairs, carting my luggage without care or courtesy. The door to my room was thrust open, revealing dingy and faded appointments. Loud flower patterns danced on cushions, curtains and coverlets; a lime green carpet bore ominous stains; yellowed doilies enveloped every surface available. The narrow en-suite bathroom was a monument only to mould and sorrow.
“You may make use the attic from 8am tomorrow,” the young man muttered, making no sense at all. He slammed the door behind him.
I decided to fortify myself with a cup of tea, manoeuvring the pitiful kettle at odd angles under the bathroom faucet. Gazing at the flecks of limescale that floated on the surface of my beverage, I wondered what had possessed my friend to go so far as to recommend a stay of three days.
That evening, I took a brisk walk along the town’s sea wall under a dark blanket of clouds, and ate a limp fish and chips for dinner. I was ready to return to my room to spend some hours moaning in despair. It had been some time since a stay had cast me in such anguish.
As I returned the B&B, however, I came across a young woman, slightly flushed with bright brown eyes and a dress in cyan blue.
“Ah Mr Rambler,” she said. “I was hoping to catch you this evening. Is everything to your liking so far?”
The question was too colossal to contemplate answering; I could only nod. During what would otherwise have been an awkward pause, she introduced herself as the landlady.
“I am not sure if my brother told you,” she went on, “you may go to the attic from tomorrow at 8am. It should be self-explanatory, but please do let me know if you have any questions.”
“The attic?” I repeated.
“Yes,” she said. “You’ll find it very impressive, I’m sure.”
“I see,” I said. “Thank you.” I went up to my room in great haste.
A gentle sort of madness seemed to have permeated this establishment. Was that what my friend had so appreciated? But it was not his style. Feeling thoroughly perturbed, I decided to do away with the benefit of the doubt, recommendations be damned, and leave first thing the following morning.
And yet. The next day, something stayed me. I gazed at my bags, packed and ready to go – and decided to indulge in a last moment of curiosity.
What would I find in the attic?
I walked up the narrow, creaking staircase with some trepidation and pushed the fire door guarding the landing.
What it revealed… stopped me short. I was standing in a large room, a beautiful one at that, with polished beech beams, running about the length of a ballroom. It stretched further than seemed possible, given the dimensions of the establishment. I assumed that they owned the property next door too.
What was entirely unusual, and quite unexplainable, were the rows of about two dozen or so tea sets, placed with precision on small tables facing each other down the room, forming an avenue.
I circled one. It looked newly polished; all the cups were clean. When I touched it, the teapot was warm. On a whim, I reached for its handle, and poured myself a cup. I brought it to my lips and then–
Now, dear reader, is when I must ask you to trust me.
A violet haziness clouded my vision, and then, blinking my eyes open, I found myself standing under an azure sky. I was on the shore of a large body of water and the familiar outline of Skiddaw was discernible in the distance.
Without question, I was in the Lake District.
A group of children ran by me, rushing into the water, laughing. The smell of hot grass and wild thyme hung in the air. Forest extended on either side of me; a forest with the full and leafy green colours of mid-summer, not the November I had left behind.
I did the usual in these circumstances and pinched myself. It hurt, and I did not wake up.
A man, who seemed to be accompanying the children, walked over.
“Hello there,” he said. “You look stunned.”
“I must confess that I am. How in the world did I get here?”
He grinned, as if I had just announced there would be four Christmases this year. “This must be your first time! How excellent!”
“First time–” but I could say no more. That strange violet haziness was coming over me again. “Three cups next time!” I heard him call, before I found myself again in the attic, teacup in hand.
It was then that I noticed the label on the table: “Summer joy. Derwentwater.”

 


Where Are They

(THEME: The Coast) Evening at Padstow, Cornwall by Samuel Henry William Llewellyn (1858–1941). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Allan Wright

I walked the Prom and foreshore,
Gulls with angry keening calls swoop,
Starlings jostle your feet by the score
And dogs race the sands and whoop,
But where is the Larks’s stutter and soar
Winding exultant before a swift swoop.

Oh why have they this foreshore?
As the waves wash the sand and shale
And terns delicately probe and dip,
While Angler’s rods flash and flail
And cyclists race the Prom at a clip.
No curlews come from ditches sedge
To Parade the ebbing waters edge
With bigger and bigger container ships.

Beyond Burbo Bank wind turbines sullenly turn
As the neap tide ebbs, the Iron Men emerge.
In a dock, a stack of waste’s an oily burn.
A Ferry causes the waves slapping surge,
Camper Vans, Caravans, cars belated earn
Council fees. But am I wrong to yearn
For what has gone? For bloodless purge?

Ah what Larks there then might be
And the curlews moving freely.

 


The True Story of Josiah. Born and bred in Suffolk, he became an Apprentice Stonemason and Sculptor.

(THEME: Pastoral Scenes) Suffolk Farm by Robert A. Buhler (1916–1989). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Jacky Bennedik

Do not be tricked by narrow trunks.
They are anchored into earth.
Each soil–crumb parts as fine dust, to meld around growth sent by fat roots.
This is how we stand and hold your eye
In our green strength – our line
Your eyeline fills, with shape formed
By this- one’s leaves, that-one’s leaves whorled together.

Locked into azurite sky above,
The trees puncture in rounded pattern.
Below, sand-beige brown is a comfort colour too.
Gaps, a reassurance of natural resting,
Bare earth – we understand this denial.
As nearby, regular growing rows
Paint the field with abundance,
Jostling and superceding . Jostling. Superceding.

I pass through this land
On shocks of grass-stalk strips.
The causeway of rough grass growing untended,
Vigorous and strong , tussocks and troughs.
Walk these causeways –
A satisfaction of sustenance surrounds.
A rich hedge protects the scene:
Mesh of twigs interlocking
Bursts into a dizziness of leaves.
Strength from geometrical structure.
The horizontal and the vertical and the form in between.
As azurite to sky
So loam to land
And sand to stone
So stone to earth
And life to soil.

This geometry of landscape I knew:
Familiarity, growth, beauty
I knew its sustaining persistence,
Reliable, known, formatted, understood.
I held the comfort –
More – it gave me my purpose:
Grasp, use, echo, hammer, haul,
Imprint, knock, shape, feel-
The horizontal and the vertical and the form in between.

 


A Minor Life Tale

By Andy Rimmer

Care home from Southport home,
Comfy lone chair, warm smile,
Sad blue eyes cobwebbed in fine creases.

Time, much time for remembering,
A lifetime’s maternal instinct
Sharpened from deprived longing
The never having, never passing.

White porcelain face, cotton dress
With velvet collar, polished black shoes.
Long thick eye lashes, shiny glass blue eyes

This little girl, at last with her beloved doll.

 


Horse Power

(THEME: Wales) Ffestiniog Work Horses by Terence Tenison Cuneo (1907–1996). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Anne Collison

When Terence Cuneo was commissioned to paint a picture to mark the 150th anniversary of the Ffestiniog Railway, he seized the opportunity to highlight the roles of two of his favourite subjects; the steam locomotive and the horse. In the painting, engines mighty and more humble dominate the foreground, but our eye is irresistibly drawn to the trusty old horse (the past) and also the cars (the future) which had already helped to force most steam locos into early retirement before Cuneo started this piece of work in 1985.

When the railway opened in 1836 to carry slate from Ffestiniog to Portmadoc, the downhill gradient carried the load down to the port, and the empty wagons were hauled back up by horse power. Eventually, the demand for slate meant there was just too much volume of traffic for horses to cope with. Elsewhere in Wales, and other parts of the country, there was heavy reliance on pit ponies, which could access parts of the underground networks of the mines cheaply and very effectively. Indeed, in some mines in the North East and parts of Wales ponies were used for hauling supplies to the smaller seams until 1999, so the practical and economic usefulness of this particular type of workhorse outlived the loco.

In 1863, the Ffestiniog line acquired its first two locomotives, and the following year, a passenger service began. The success of the enterprise eventually proved a temptingbusiness proposition for the Great Western Railway. Ffestiniog was well and truly on the map!! Everyone wanted to be a part of the world of these modern “workhorses,” which had more power than a whole herd of “real” horses. They were exciting, fast, and represented Progress and Possibilities. The Ffestiniog Experience was being mirrored throughout the country, indeed, throughout the world.

During the First World War, both “workhorses” played their part. The horse was versatile, and proved indispensable. One estimate suggests as many as six million served alongside the troops, incurring heavy losses – one horse for every two men. Horses could be part of the cavalry or beasts of burden. Teams of between six and eight horses (usually those gentle giants, Clydesdales) could pull field guns. The new military vehicles often broke down. Horses were cheaper and more reliable. I hesitate to say “and more expendable,” because the bond between horse and man should not be underrated.

The Iron Horse too made an important contribution to the Allied war effort. Narrow gauge railways were used for the supply of ammunition and supplies, and for the transportation of troops. At the West Lancashire Light Railway, there is a survivor from the war, Joffre, one of 70 engines made under licence for the French Government Artillery Railways. Blood, bone and muscle worked alongside iron, coal and steam. Which made the greater contribution? It is difficult to keep emotion out of the answer, as horses are sentient creatures and feel pain. As well as sustaining horrific injuries, horses, like some of the men, became stressed by continuous exposure to loud bangs and flashes. It is now thought that some suffered the equivalent of shell shock, especially the thoroughbreds.

Since then, the fortunes of both our workhorses have changed. Ffestiniog’s final slate train ran in 1946. Its passenger transport was disrupted by the Second World War. Later, Dr. Beeching slashed the provision of rail transport throughout the country. Steam powered engines, once so innovative, gave way to diesel and electricity powered locos, but, in my view, they lack the personality necessary to be called “workhorses.” They are not like living creatures that breathe fire, belch smoke, and are capable of almost a whole vocabulary of noises. They do not have to be coaxed into action and almost cosseted as they do their work by a driver and fireman. They are merely machines. And they, in their turn, have been overshadowed by road transport, the Crazy Horses that the Osmonds sang about in the 1970’s.

Meanwhile, though steam locomotives endure as cherished projects and tourist attractions their importance underpinned by a desire to go back to a time (perhaps wrongly) perceived as quaint, and uncomplicated, when team work, and attention to detail counted, the horse trots on in its understated way, still useful, and, very relevantly in this century, NOT contributing to pollution, but actually being ecologically sound. It can still work for its living. In countries with vast areas of farmland, ranch work is still important. In underdeveloped countries, the horse is still the cheapest, most practical and much prized method of transport. On our local National Trust Reserve, I witnessed one day the sight of a heavy(ish!) horse hauling tree trunks which had been felled. The horse had been preferred to a tractor because it could access gradients and tight spaces better. In the UK, police horses can often defuse a “situation,” and take control when directed.

Modern horses “work” in other ways too. For many, they represent part of one’s recreation, consenting to allow themselves to enter into a partnership with a rider. Sometimes they become therapists, providing a non-threatening relationship with a person who finds it difficult to fit into society. For disruptive pupils, the reward of a riding session can be a powerful motivator for better behaviour. They have a huge role in sport, not just racing, but show jumping and dressage, both well respected disciplines, and society demands they are treated with respect. One has only to think of the public outcry and swift retribution following the controversial photos of the amateur jockey Rob James and also the influential and experienced trainer Gordon Elliott, each pictured astride a dead horse.

I must conclude then that, like the Tortoise and the Hare, the outwardly unremarkable horse has stayed the course better than the flashier, faster vehicles, and will no doubt continue to do so, for, as Abraham Lincoln said, “I can make a General in five minutes, but a good horse is hard to replace.” I wonder if Cuneo thought the same?

 


Stand Fast

(THEME: Lake District) River Running into Derwentwater, Cumbria by Benjamin Williams Leader (1831–1923). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Christina Coleman

Rooted firmly
Spreading out to the river
Running by
My toes are firmly planted
I reach, stretch downward
Branch out
Along
Dabbling in the spring cold
Relentless
Rippling water
Swiftly flowing
Splashing
Meandering
See the shimmering icy outlines
Reflections of my towering beauty
Many walk by
Look out

Some stay
Look up
Reflect
My standing is timeless
They stay close
Lean quietly
Sit under
Gaze
To the faraway shore

Look
My reflections are vast
They run deep
Ripple
Spread far
Glistening swaying colourful
Beauty

Look out
Surrounded
Soaring
Towering
Stop. Stay a while
Be sheltered
Tranquility is yours
Be my guest
It is not always so
But still you come
Drawn to the beauty
You reflect
I hold still
Strong
To the vastness
The unending glory
I too am beauty
You may look out

Look up
I am steadfast
I am the silver birch
Babbling sounds surround
I stretch downward
Soak up
Grow

The river runs through
You pass by
I wait
You’ll return
I’ll be here
Looking out
Look up

 


It’s Not Far

(THEME: Pastoral Scenes) Suffolk Farm by Robert A. Buhler (1916–1989). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Victoria Swain

I didn’t go far because I couldn’t
But I’d never been there before
So strange, new places on your doorstep, undiscovered until
there is nowhere else to go
A path you’ve passed before when in a rush, but never ventured down
A left turn where you’ve always gone right
A view you see daily that looks so different when you stop and stare
A tree, a birdsong, the twisted branches
A bench to sit and wonder because now there is time
I’m here again now, my favourite spot
I didn’t have one before
I have it to myself, I call it mine
I can be selfish if I want as it can be someone else’s later
But I won’t be here then
I’ll wander home soon, it won’t take long, it’s not far

 


Coastal Rendezvous

(THEME: Scotland) Portpatrick by Donald McIntyre (1923–2009). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Anton Dolders

The waves returned from distant lands where they called to existence colour and creation
Harmonized with patient scenery and unpainted canvas waiting for their arrival
To inspire the pictorial composer who gasped and rejoiced; then focused and performed the task
Representing surging streaks landing upon the opaque tones of a bold, craggy shoreline.
A powerful undulation of pale coolness attempting contact with the warmth of
manmade structures and natural pale brown cast across a deep dark cliff

Contrasts between nature’s boundaries portrayed by a swell beckoning to a hard rock terrain
The blended waves cannot reach beyond the jagged dense coast
Both achieve a clashing consensus within nature’s process and art
And when sea and land’s reunion has realised it’s crest, the flow abates
The journey repeats: distant cultures share in the elemental spectacle and might
And all humanity is humbled by a this convention of dark rock; earth and textured, fluid light

 


Rainbow of Hope

By William King

Rainbows are a sign of hope
A collective symbol of all.
It represents a colourful life
No exceptions to all.
Bowed in shape and potted gold ends.
Once a delight on overcast days –
When rainbows filled a sky.

On this occasion
Family, friends. A different meaning.

Health, and being in good health
One aim we wish for all.
People are the key to life
Empty sky. But every window – a rainbow waterfall.

 


Our Celebration

(THEME: Wales) Ffestiniog Work Horses by Terence Tenison Cuneo (1907–1996). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Belinda Rimmer

After us four good friends
All turned sixty
We had planned a celebratory break
To stay in the very beautiful Llanberis
And definitely the train ride we would take

Most people today would choose Barbados
Or even an all-inclusive cruise
But we were looking forward to Snowdonia
And the trip on the Ffestiniog Railway
That was established in 1832

We’d been wanting to go there for years
As we were excited to take in the view
They say that the mountains are all different colours
And that the waterfalls light up in the sun
That you can see new-born lambs with their mothers
As the train climbs seven hundred feet which is fun

If you are brave enough to stand on the summit
And fill your lungs as you take in the view
On a clear day you can see Llyn Llydaw
A magnificent slim lake of blue

This is where King Arthur met his mystical lady
Where she produced the sword from the stone
So we were all packed up and ready
When Coronavirus forced us to stay home

Our dear friends Valerie and Ian
Have been shielding since March 2020
I had the virus in the April
And feel extremely lucky to still be alive
We all realise that it’s people that matter
As sadly 130,000 of loved ones have died

When Coronavirus lockdowns are over
We will get our suitcases back out of the loft
This time we will be more excited than ever
As we have our dear friends there by our sides
Whatever the day or the weather
We are booking our mountain train ride

We hope when we arrive at the summit
No fog or clouds we will see
So we can feel the sun on our faces
And once again enjoy being free.

 


Haikus

by Carol Jones

The romance of steam
Passing scenes that were dreams
Now they can be seen

Colours of nature
Fields produce food to nourish
A sight for the soul

Waves pound upon rocks
Mountains sheltering houses
Safety from the storm

It’s been a long day
The sun will soon be setting
Time to head for home

Blue sky up above
Reflected in the river
Hills and trees stand proud

 


Selkie Grace

(THEME: Scotland) Portpatrick by Donald McIntyre (1923–2009). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Naomi Adam

“At the edge of the sea, an interaction with a magical creature constitutes a core experience in which the supernatural world and the natural world intersect.”
– Nancy Cassell McEntire, ‘Supernatural Beings in the Far North: Folklore, Folk Belief, and The Selkie.’

The tide was high that moonlit night,
The foam fair frilled the shore, while
Waves sucked footprint alibis
From the day before.

Her hair was waterlogged and slick
As she rent the ocean’s surface,
And from its length she tugged
A strand of kelp like trailing lace.

The scene was a study in contrast,
Under capricious moonlight:
Her flippers oily black,
Her shoulders milky white.

Yet, as oil skims milk’s surface,
Equilibrium could not hold;
She shucked the skin- unzipped it-
Straight away began to fold.

This was a movement practised,
One known front to back;
It concertinaed neatly,
A sealskin Pac-a-Mac.

Stashing it under an oxster,
Up the strand she strode,
Her mind aglow with chittering bites
And respite from the cold.

A small fire kindled in the hearth,
Driftwood sparking blue and green…
Bolstered by warmth’s promise,
She surveyed the shingled scene.
On the slopes above her
Clustered cottages, jewel-hued:
Ruby, rose quartz, citrine,
Some amethyst, topaz-blue.

At least, that was their daytime form;
Right now, above the waves,
A commandeering phlox moon
Leached their colours all to grey.

Sporadic clouds trellised the moon,
Dunskey dusky o’ er the breakers.
Humbled by its magnitude, she’d swear:
The sky stretched two thousand acres!

Yes, a small fire kindled in her hearth,
Draw the sea freeze from her bones…
Renewing her self-promise,
She headed for her home.

Shells skittered as she strode upwards,
Skirting driftwood stacks,
Whilst from her ears with practised ease
She tapped seawater and clumps of wax.
She licked her lips and tasted salt,
Pressed them to still her jaw,
Whilst in her head (much like a conch)
Echoed the sea’s dull roar.

Most lassies her age went for ‘nights on the toon’
(Fishnetted legs, mascaraed eyes),
While she dove deep of an evening,
Grew underwater worldly-wise.

They boaked on smoke from cigarettes;
She blew bubbles from her mouth.
They went sharking for new partners;
She made pals with plaice and trout.

They addled themselves with Talisker,
She paddled flippers over waves:
A sleek head breaking the sea’s skin,
Bobbing brine-buoyed beside the caves.

Her house, so the agent noted,
Was the highest on the Hill:
’Twas a full mile to the beach each night,
Eyes grey with iron will.

‘Laura’s lass? A law untae hersel’!’
The townsfolk would proclaim;
They spoke of her like that,
As if she had no name.

She shirked a good fish supper
(The people thought this mad);
Truth was, the battered victim
Could once have known her dad.

‘She’s a fush!’ clyped local bairns,
Citing her webbed feet and fingers.
The adults laughed, and bade them, ‘Hush!’
But she noticed how their eyes lingered.

Something fishy afoot, they thought,
Something no’ quite right.
So she kept her beachy escapades
Confined to moonlit nights.

The key rattled in her house’s lock,
Like dice shake in a palm;
Yet some premonition halted her,
Convinced she would soon come to harm.

Sure enough: the flash erupted in her face,
She shrank back from the light.
Black nebulae pulsed in her eyes,
Obscuring her sight.

Yet she saw the future clearly,
As shells strewn upon the shore:
A hybrid lass no longer,
Marine meanderings no more.

To conclude this sorry tale:
They took her tail away,
Sold the sealskin to a museum,
Where it hangs unto this day.

The rivets look like fish scales,
Pinning it in place,
While out there, pining, on two legs,
Walks its owner: Selkie Grace.

 


Inspiration

(THEME: The Coast) Evening at Padstow, Cornwall by Samuel Henry William Llewellyn (1858–1941). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Geoff Fenwick

Still I love
The white, clean sand.
On the shores of
North Northumberland,
Bamburgh and Dunstabrough
Castles tall.
The first still in use,
The latter in fall,
Kippers from Craster,
Or you might need
Salmon fresh caught
From Coquet or Tweed.
Holy Island,
A short walk away,
Home of St Cuthbert
Till Vikings drove him away.
And islands of Farne
Flown by Puffin and Tern
All of these
I perpetually yearn,
For them and also
The white clean sand
Of the shores
Of North Northumberland.


(THEME: Lake District) River Running into Derwentwater, Cumbria by Benjamin Williams Leader (1831–1923). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

Dear Miss Ball

By Louise Hays

 

 

 

 

 

 

The George Inn
Keswick
Lake District
17th June 1873

Dear Miss Ball,

I hope this letter finds you well after your trip to Harrogate to take the waters. My dear, I too am on a trip and yes, I am here! The Lake District. Keswick a delightful little town.
I took your advice and have travelled to Keswick to be near Derwentwater to capture the light and stillness in my next oil painting for the exhibition in Manchester.
The light is fading now as I sit at the writing desk in my room in the eaves of The George Inn. I enjoyed a hearty mutton stew and bread and a small ale and feel content after a fruitful and productive day painting.
I will take to my bed soon as it has been a long day. My dear, I want to share my day with you in the form of this letter I will post tomorrow in the town.
This morning after a hearty breakfast, I tipped the porter, a cheery chap named Albert to walk with me and carry my easel and paints to the perfect spot where the river runs through into Derwentwater. The sky was clear. Perfect uninterrupted blue, may I be so bold to say, like your eyes.
I positioned my easel looking towards the river and breathed in the warm stillness. The only sound was the chirping of birds singing to each other. I felt a calm enter my body as the glaring sunlight cast a buttery hue over my canvas and my eyes gazed over the still water, the tall trees and surrounding hillside. I put the binoculars you purchased for me to my eyes and yes! Sheep were grazing in the distance. As you well know my dear, I adhere to the theories of Mr Ruskin urging artists to ‘go to nature’ and I intend tomorrow as I finish the painting to add these sheep!
Mid-day I took off my jacket and partook in bread and cheese inhaling the smell of grass and the wild- flowers dotted around my feet. My dear, I plucked a single flower for your flower press. It is a delicate white. I am not au fait with flora and fauna like yourself, I merely paint what I can see but I am sure you will identify it from your books.
I dozed on the grassy verge by the water, stretching under the shadow of the trees and listened to the wind gently whispering through the canopy of the tall mossy pines. I stretched and yawned and flicked an inquisitive bee from my whiskers and gloried at the branches stretching up, proud and tall towards the sun.
Did I dip my toes into the water? What do you think my dear?

Until we meet again. God bless you.

Your obedient servant,
Benjamin Williams Leader

 


Haiku Poem

(THEME: Scotland) Portpatrick by Donald McIntyre (1923–2009). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Betty Molyneux

Waves swathe wintry creags
Spindrift greets quaint Celtic coast,
Keen harbour birds caw

 

 

 

 

 


Covid Isolation

By Catherine O’Sullivan

The earth turned on its axis
The sun rose for the day
But the planes, the trains the taxis
They chose to stay away

The roads became much calmer
The streets were quieter still
Because amidst this force of beauty
The world was getting ill

The flowers still grew their petals
The trees they danced away
The sky was blue, the grass was green
And we all rose to see the day

But the days for us looked different
Something wasn’t quite the same
No long commutes or morning rush
And a virus was to blame

All the parents taught their children
Kitchen tables turned to desks
But playtimes were without their friends
The rule was clear – there is no guests

Because the most important thing here
Isn’t me, myself and I
And all the people knew this
And that is the reason why….

 


Beautiful Island Of Mann

(THEME: The Coast) Evening at Padstow, Cornwall by Samuel Henry William Llewellyn (1858–1941). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Jim Finn

The greeny blue waters the might of the sea
The loom in the distance is calling to me
The haze of the sunshine the wake of the foam
The beckoning landscape our journey is o’er.
The cries of the seagulls encircling the pier
The hills and the seafront are visibly clear
Soon we’ll be walking on God’s hallowed ground
Once Paradise lost, now Paradise found.
The warmth of the welcome where everyone smiles
Each day is a treasure and time never flies
Life is a pleasure with each turning page
No one is a stranger but a friend not yet made.
The freedom the quiet the lush countryside
The rocks of the coastline repelling the tide
The churches the castles the call of the wild
The charm and the history of Saint Patrick’s Isle.
Verdant green pastures roll down to the sea
Eyes any further not wanting to see
No better a tribute to God’s perfect plan
The breathtaking beautiful Island of Mann.

 


Because of the Gulf Stream

(THEME: The Coast) Evening at Padstow, Cornwall by Samuel Henry William Llewellyn (1858–1941). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Christopher Coxhead

Pink footed goose.
Born in Green land,
Flew ‘cross Iceland,
Arrived as planned,
On Southport’s strand,
Thanks to the Gulf Stream.

Spartina grass loose.
American born.
A coast lines corn,
On currents borne,
For our beach mourn,
Travelled with the Gulf Stream.

Winter’s produce.
Our north west coast,
Is able to boast,
The birds we host,
Beach food utmost.
Enriched by the Gulf Stream.

Twitchers abstruse.
Geese on the shore,
Starlings who soar,
Ducks by the score,
Herons and more.
Because of the Gulf Stream.

The Moon’s suffuse,
Spring tides are high,
Seashore not dry,
Our birds must fly,
To somewhere high,
Gravity, not the Gulf Stream

East winds they use,
Pink foots must try,
North West to fly,
High in the sky.
Summer breeding nigh.
Away from the Gulf Stream.


The Other Side of The Window

By Natalie Griffiths

(THEME: Scotland) Portpatrick by Donald McIntyre (1923–2009). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

The other side of the window,
There’s so much to touch, smell, hear and see,
Get lost in the wonder and the working clock of Britain,
With the ticking hearts of its key.
Travel by train or car,
You may not have to go far,
Explore various terrain via path or track,
As you give Britain’s wonders life back.

North the enchanting and misty Vistas,
Of the Highlands and fairy pools,
Home to royalty who bore the crown jewels,
And William Wallace rebel to the rules.
Home to many picturesque Lakes and Lochs,
North the poetic home of the Scots.

(THEME: The Coast) Evening at Padstow, Cornwall by Samuel Henry William Llewellyn (1858–1941). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

East the vastness of Yorkshire lands,
The rolling dales far and wide,
2.9 million acres,
Where Romans once did reside.
Though not only the Romans had power,
But those who fought for York and Lancaster.

From the place of Wensleydale cheese,
To the place of scones and tea,
Down south Cornwall lies,
Home to Doc Martin and St. Ives.
The home of King Arthur or so they say,
Why not surf on a sunny day?

(THEME: Lake District) River Running into Derwentwater, Cumbria by Benjamin Williams Leader (1831–1923). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

West is Wales the roaring dragon,
20,800 square km of valleys and bracken,
Daffodils and ten million sheep,
The popular Mount Snowdon at 3,560 ft.
600 castles and the largest is Caerphilly,
No Prince Charles investiture wasn’t there
It was at Caernarfon Silly!

The other side of the window,
There’s so much to touch, smell, hear and see,
Get lost in the wonder and the working clock of Britain,
With the ticking hearts of its key.
Travel by train or car,
You may not have to go far,
Explore various terrain via path or track,
As you give Britain’s wonders life back.

 


Coastline Memories

(THEME: The Coast) Evening at Padstow, Cornwall by Samuel Henry William Llewellyn (1858–1941). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Naseema Makda

Tall grasses swathed in the wind and we looked out upon the murky, dark sea reaching out into the unknown distance. My grandfather cherished his cosy home which overlooked Southport sea and kept the warm memories of childhood holidays in Cornwall alive.

After his passing this year, it fell upon me to clear away his belongings. This was the continuation of the journey into coastal memories I had been on many times with my grandfather’s descriptions. Like many people recently, after his death I had boxes of memorabilia to go through.  I came across the usual; faded photographs, dusty books, postcards, coins and of course, delightful letters. One letter read:

Dearest Aunt Annabel,
You were right! There is so much joy to be had by the sea. The days are long and warm under the sun. The Cornish sea has been a tranquil, shimmering blue for days; perfect for paddling in. There are delightful boats here too. Jimmy and I seized an oar each with excitement in a small boat with flaking red and blue paint. We didn’t have much direction but squealed with joy. We’ve been taking in some of the dramatic coastline views of the cliffs; one path was so narrow and steep I was scared to look down. I think my Geography teacher will like to hear about the soft shale and interesting rock formations which I have been studying. Are you missing us? It is such a shame that you were not well enough to travel but we are thinking of you.
Love to you all,
Henry

Along with this letter were some wonderful postcards. I can just imagine my grandfather as a young boy with his sun-kissed hair selecting them for keepsake memories. There were postcards showing Camel River, fishing ports, Marble Cliffs and coves.

For a moment I stand amongst his cosy home and imagine him exploring the coves with excitement. I picture him in his summer shorts with his breeze tussled hair. I have been privileged to journey with my grandfather to the natural beauty of the coastline in many conversations with him. Presently, I look out of his Southport window and breathe in the sea air. On his small television, BBC2 is airing Rick Stein’s Cornwall right on cue.

 


Ffestiniog Work Horses

(THEME: Wales) Ffestiniog Work Horses by Terence Tenison Cuneo (1907–1996). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

by Joe Forshaw.

Let me introduce myself. I’m David Lloyd George. No not that one, not the great politician who was from 1916 to 1922 the Prime minister of the UK. I’m the ‘David Lloyd George’ built in 1992, the latest addition to the Ffestiniog railway rolling stock. Even though I say it myself I look magnificent in my flame red livery. Much better than the rather drab dressage appearing in the picture you are looking at. In technical terms my design conforms to a 0 4 4 – OT double Fairlie configuration, coal burning, having been reconverted back from oil. I prefer to be coal burning as my plume can be seen from miles away. I hear people say ‘Lloyd George’ is coming’.

Anyway enough of me come and we will travel down the 1ft 11.5in narrow gauge railway, the oldest narrow gauge in the world. Located in Gwynedd Wales and running in part through the Snowdonia national Park the 13.5 mile long line runs from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Portmadoc. The journey takes around 3 hrs which includes a one hour layover at Tan-y-Bwlich. As we leave Blaenau Ffestiniog, you will see through the right-hand side windows the remains of the old slate quarries which at their peak supplied more than 50% of the slate market in the UK. Then the two peaks of Maelwyn Maw 2525 ft. and Maelwyn Bach 2330 ft. the two highest peaks in the area come into view. Then it’s on to the Dduallt Spiral, a complete loop in the line built to accommodate challenging geographical features. Now, I have to admit this spiral upsets my boiler tubes, water slopping around everywhere. Well, how would you feel having a stomach full of water slopping around?

Sooner or later you may well ask why is there a one hour layover in Tan-y-Bwlch? Well, this layover gives you a chance to admire and even walk around Llyn Mair an artificially created lake where you may take a picnic or even a walk around the lake (weather permitting). You could even catch a glimpse of Plas Tan-y-Belch the environmental studies centre administered by the national Park Authority.

Next we get to Penrhyn , or to be faithful to the Welsh language Penrhyndeudraeth
meaning ‘head land between two beaches’. Fortunately the name was shortened to Penrhyn in 1870 no doubt for the convenience of the English and other tourists. The penultimate station is Minffordd whose main claim to fame is that is only a mile away from the ‘Italianate’ hotel village of Port Marion famous for it’s architecture and the 2009 tv series ‘The Prisoner’ starring Patrick McGowan and Fenella Fielding. Finally we arrive at Port Madoc which was the shipping point for the slate sent down from the local quarries.

You may ask how I know all this. Well after all I am a work horse and work horses have ears. I listen to the railway staff and the tourists and I chat with my mates the ‘Earl of Merioneth’ and ‘Lyd’, two of Ffestiniog’s longest serving engines in whose company I have spent many hours.

So now that I have come to the end of our journey together may I quote the tourist brochure and invite you to ‘come and ride on the Ffestiniog to Portmadoc narrow gauge railway climbing over 700ft from sea level into the mountains through tranquil pastures and magnificent forests, round horseshoe bends and even a complete spiral’.

Hope to see you soon.
David Lloyd George.

 


Day trip to the Lakes

(THEME: Lake District) River Running into Derwentwater, Cumbria by Benjamin Williams Leader (1831–1923). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Valerie Watts

They sat on the bus before me,
She, dressed in lavender blue,
Her hair and her smell all pervading,
Sweet powder and scent (not that new),
We set off for Keswick so early,
I dozed as we tootled along,
But all through the long scenic journey,
I suffered so much with the pong.

I had my packed lunch there beside me,
But dreaded the mix I must say,
For lavender blue and cheese sarnies
My delicate system would sway.

It is not for me to be cruel,
I too, belong to their years,
My own subtle perfume and powder,
May bring others eyes to some tears.

 


My Natural High

By Ian Martin

I sit, coffee in hand, waiting as it buffers
Anticipating what the exhibition will bring
Suddenly a collection of beautiful images appear,
Paintings depicting scenes both old and new.

The first to catch my eye is of a train and horses
It’s industrial theme, reminds of my visits to the docks.
I can smell the worn leather seats on the green buses, as
my Mum and I, head off to pick up Dad, back from sea.

We race giddily up the wooden gang plank of his ship
To meet up with my father for the first time in months.
Then off to the Captains swanky wooden lined cabin
For bottles of ice cold Coca Cola, straight from the States!

The paintings of Britain’s windswept rugged coasts
Have me back in Cornwall, one freezing October
The last I can remember going away with my parents.
I played blissfully, as they huddled on the freezing beaches

The joy of escaping school in the middle of term, soon
Tempered by having to be wrapped up in our winter coats.
We only went, because my poor Nan, Mums Mum, had died
And my father was back away at sea before my half term

Later holidays in Cornwall, always seemed much warmer
Holidaying with my own family and the kids.
Racing down through the night to beat all the traffic
Once we arrived, it was a race to be first in the sea.

I smile fondly remembering the children’s laughter
As they played and caught crabs in the rock pools
Rode donkeys when we went over to Blackpool
Not forgetting Fish and Chips down on the prom

A majestic picture of a fast flowing river, triggers
Adventures that we use to have up in the Dales
Lifting rocks catching fish and even the odd crayfish
Building dams that would be swept away in the day

The images keep bringing up more happy memories
And sad ones, when times were just not quite right.
Walking through the fields up the slopes of Snowdon
At the top, staring at the beautiful vistas we saw, all day

The virus has stopped the flow of our new memories, but
These paintings have triggered a thirst for adventures new.
As I feel, my next destination needs to be nearer to home.
So it be will back around our glorious Britain that I will return.

 


Following in the footsteps of St Cuthbert

(THEME: Scotland) Portpatrick by Donald McIntyre (1923–2009). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By John Townsend

Following in the footsteps of St Cuthbert
But surrounded by cows.
Was this something he had to put up with?
It was hard to move
In the slurry they’d left behind.
Walking from Hethpool to see the wild goats,
We didn’t see any wild goats.
St Cuthbert may have done, however,
For all we know.

And then there were the singing happy seals
On Lindisfarne, he may well
Have seen and heard them too.
Dragging themselves onto the rocks,
Biting and singing, rolling and sunbathing.
Eider ducks bobbing about on the water.
Seal heads bobbing about in the water.

We stayed in a converted fishing shiel near Berwick.
Once, the waters of the river Tweed
Almost came up to the windows in the high tide and rain
Swans almost pecking on the glass
Almost majestically patrolling the living room
Almost taking it all back again.

And there were otters! (only once)
Just two heads in the river.
And there were dolphins! (only once)
Fifty or so it looked like, far away
Boiling the water.

Not sure St Cuthbert came this way but
L S Lowry did in a different time and place
He stayed around and left his fingerprints
In paintings that remain. We left without a trace.

 


As I sit …

(THEME: The Coast) Evening at Padstow, Cornwall by Samuel Henry William Llewellyn (1858–1941). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Lyndsey Hope

The boats are bobbing up and down,
The beach is quiet, not many around.

There’s a man far out, having a swim,
A fisherman unloading his catch with a grin.

There’s a couple walking hand in hand,
Laughing and joking along the sand.

A family arrive with buckets and spades,
The children splashing in and out of the waves.

There’s a lady collecting shells on the shore,
A man with his dog, who he clearly adores!

The seagulls are fighting over leftover scraps,
A man with his camera taking seaside snaps.

Out in the distance, I see dolphins and seals,
A sight to behold, completely surreal.

The shops by the harbour have been open today,
The lifeguards been busy, he’s now on his way.

And, as I sit and watch the sea,
I have a feeling pass over me.

I’m lucky and humbled to live where I do,
Right by the sea, that I love through and through.

 


Sea Birds

(THEME: Scotland) Portpatrick by Donald McIntyre (1923–2009). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Lynda Barlow

Creatures of both sea and sky
White as the sea foam
Grey as the lowering clouds.
Perched on narrow clefts of rock
calling their raucous cry.

One swoops, then soars
and my heart lifts with it
Rises on thermals
and glides above the glittering sea
gilded by the setting sun.

 


Memories of The Lakes

(THEME: Lake District) River Running into Derwentwater, Cumbria by Benjamin Williams Leader (1831–1923). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Richard Orritt

I have been visiting the Lake District since I was a child, as we had family holidays there regularly, probably from the age of 5 – not sure about that bit! We used to go all the way from Liverpool on the bus; it took hours as it was initially pre-motorway – and I got travel sick and had to be dosed with “Kwells” (a children’s travel sickness medicine) before setting off – clearly they didn’t always work as I remember being sick on the journey – but only once!
I have many strong memories, some melded together so I don’t know exactly when they happened, of walking on the fells with the family – aunts, uncles and cousins, and my mum and sister, usually led by Uncle Joe, with his dog Sooty running ahead trying, often successfully, to find some cow dung to roll in! If you are familiar with cow dung after its deposit, you will know it spreads out into an irregular circular shape – Uncle Joe called them Tam O’Shanters after the peculiar Scottish hats of the same name! Walking up a mountain, drinking fresh water from a beck, only to find further up a dead sheep quietly rotting in the same water! Then stopping to eat our “butties”, with a flask of tea and a piece of Kendall Mint Cake for pud!
One of the walks up Great Gable was quite tough, but I was skipping ahead as usual. Gable has a lot of screes – small loose rocks – and I recall sliding back down the scree, past the shocked family, and having to be rescued by a cousin!
The weather in the Lakes is unpredictable; mists and heavy downpours often caught us out! Having been caught on Crinkle Crags in a fine mist, which then turned to heavy rain, we got down to the road to head back to our “digs”. In those far off days (late 1950’s and early 1960’s) there were buses running all over the area, and as we were squelching along a lane, the bus appeared (not sure if it was good luck or Uncle Joe’s meticulous planning but I suspect the former!). These wonderful old single-deckers were built to hold maybe 40 sitting and 15 standing passengers, but no matter how full they were, they always stopped to let you on! There must have been at least a dozen of us but everyone moved up and we squeezed on. I remember most of the passengers were gently steaming as everyone was wet, but what a great memory of a magical time!
As the youngest child of the family, I used to be given embroidered badges which my mum would sew on to my anorak, usually after we had done a particular peak, walk or visited a lake or tarn. They were literally badges of achievement – Great Gable, Helvellyn, Tarn Hows, Skiddaw and many other colourful badges adorned my old anorak! We stayed in Guest Houses, usually in Keswick and sometimes Ambleside and spent the evenings playing cards! The Lakes is in my blood and I still try to go at least once a year, more than 60 years after my first visit!

 


Morning Mist

(THEME: Scotland) Portpatrick by Donald McIntyre (1923–2009). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Rachel Loveday

Sitting by the eerie loch,
On the edge of morning,
Admiring the shrouded land.
My own breath visible,
Like a Dragon’s smoke.
Reminds me, I’m alive!
Mystical and mysterious
The morning mist enchants me,
Excitement fills my belly,
And I am suddenly a child.
The stories from my ancestors
Surge through my blood.
My Scottish kinfolk call me.
Their music fills my head,
Playing from the past,
Like the legendary piper
With songs and stories
Of shape-shifting kelpies
Hooves beating from the water
I play along with their warning
Pretend that I’m cautious
Of the handsome man passing
A kelpie in disguise?
A new day is beginning,
Yet I see the past.
Rival clans and fearless warlords,
Charging across land.
Weapons in hand.
A pride surviving every war.
The morning matures
And I’m an adult once more
In the magic of the morning mist.

 


The three of us

(THEME: Pastoral Scenes) Suffolk Farm by Robert A. Buhler (1916–1989). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Jacqueline Woods

Friends walking the same country path
We often walked when we were young,
Life and school holidays
Hovered before us.

You with your sketch pad,
Pencil propped behind your ear,
Me with my notebook
Of anxious verse.

We would find a spot to settle down
Near a field of ripened barley
Beneath a wind- washed sky,
Hungry for land.

Sometimes you would sketch me,
Pink flares and cotton smock,
A slide in my hair,
A faraway look in my eyes.

It’s over forty years since I went away
Always hoping to return as more than a visitor
From a northern town that never quite
Became my home.

You stayed in Suffolk, stayed married
And lived a cloistered life
In the pink country cottage
Of my dreams.

My walls are full of your paintings,
My drawer stacked with letters
Spanning the years of our
Separated lives.

We pause awhile to admire the view,
Unable to walk as fast these days,
Our younger selves would think us very old
and long past dreaming.

 


Holiday Memories: Evening on Padstow Quay

(THEME: The Coast) Evening at Padstow, Cornwall by Samuel Henry William Llewellyn (1858–1941). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Pam Armstrong

Enjoying the evening on Padstow Quay, waiting for the fish to bite.
Smelling fresh sea air, feeling the warmth of summer sun,
chattering and laughing about adventures to come.
Whispering about Arthur haunting Tintagel castle ruins of wall and rock
and how the answer lies in Merlin’s cave, but not if the tide’s against the clock.
We think the legends hold some truth, but others shrug and mock.
Hearing the cries of the gulls, watching the gentle sea swell.
Getting excited each time the line pulls tight.
Enjoying the evening on Padstow Quay, waiting for the fish to bite.

 


Derwent Water -from small beginnings

(THEME: Lake District) River Running into Derwentwater, Cumbria by Benjamin Williams Leader (1831–1923). Atkinson Art Gallery Collection.

By Phil McNulty

The fissure, the crack, the sunken water garden,
A noisome fold in the steep, brown, bracken,
Where freezing torrents rush and slacken, gulp and run
And roar down vertical slopes, green slimed and sudden.
Then falling, frantic, over blocks and roughened shards,
The silten ribbon winds round grey and white granite,
And charges, in cascades and flumes, past evergreen and overhanging gorse,
To course in a chaos of rivulets, beckoned by mossy clumps
And reeds and succulents and lichen warts on massive slabs.
Then, lays still, in deep, cold, pools, by burnt bushes, blackened.
With ivy hanging drunkenly.
And, summoned further,
Waterfallen to sullen ponds with yellow rock flowers.
Drizzled along bracken stalks,
Where airy bubbles ripen to pearl like frogspawn
In a shrunken puddle, by a softened carpet of spongy moss.
Seeping, so softened, downhill.
Hidden, by wind burnt grasses eaten short.
Joins open becks spilling from the common to Galemire.
Past Overside Wood, Silver Hill, the brow and the backs,
To boisterously deepen Derwent Water.

 


Freddy

By Sheila Rix

Sally was feeling completely miserable as she wandered into the Marine Gardens at Waterloo sea front, she felt as if her life was falling apart.
Previously she had seen her boyfriend with another girl, her best friend, Joyce, had suddenly stopped talking to her and her mother was complaining she was completely useless, nothing she did was ever good enough.
Sally sat on a bench not noticing the beauty all around, when she heard a voice say ‘will you be my friend’ she turned and looked at the young man sitting next to her, she was annoyed at being interrupted in her own self-pity. ‘Don’t you have friends of your own?’ she asked, ‘No’ he replied and repeated ‘Will you be my friend’. ‘What’s you name?’ said Sally. ‘Frederick John Howard’ he said ‘but everyone calls me Freddy’.
‘My name is Sally but I’m not good company at the moment’, Freddy just kept on smiling and talking pointing out the toy kites being flown on the beach by children, he was very happy and excited watching them, Sally realised how young and innocent he was with such a trusting nature. It was obvious he has Down’s Syndrome but his happiness was very infectious, Sally had to smile at him, she was really enjoying his company she had never met anyone quite like Freddy.
Thus their friendship started, they took to meeting every Sunday afternoon at the bench where they first met, if it was raining they would go to a local café for tea and scones. Sally found Freddy had a calming influence on her she always felt better after being with Freddy, she really looked forward to their Sunday afternoons.
One Sunday afternoon, early in September Freddy turned up accompanied by an elderly gentleman, ‘this is my Dad’ said Freddy happily ‘I hope you don’t mind’ said Mr. Howard ‘I just had to meet you, Freddy does rather go on about you’ smiling and holding out his hand to Sally he sat on the bench with them, ‘Pleased to meet you Mr Howard’ said Sally, ‘Oh please call me Frank’ he said ‘I’m pleased Freddy has found a nice friend he is very vulnerable and my wife and I do worry about him.’
As it started to rain Frank said ‘please won’t you come home with us for a cup of tea, we only live five minutes away off St. George’s Road.’ Sally felt she could not refuse, understanding how they must worry about Freddy.
Freddy was excited and happy, holding Sally’s hand as he always did.
And so Sally made more friends, finding Freddie’s parents to be very kind and friendly, welcoming Sally into their home. Sally took to visiting them often, they would play Ludo, draughts or make jigsaws, Freddy was delighted with their growing friendship and Sally found great comfort in a happy family, so very different from her own.
Sally continued to visit them all through the winter and enjoying a happy Christmas with them.
Early in April Sally went to visit the Howards noticing how the Spring flowers were just beginning to show, knowing Freddy would be happy to see them.
As she approached the house she was surprised Freddy was not at the front door excitedly waiting for her. The curtains were drawn. Something was wrong. Sally had an awful feeling. What could be the matter. She knocked at the door nervously. Frank opened the door he looked heartbroken. ‘What is it? Is Freddy O.K?’
Frank took her hand and led her into the living room where Freddy’s mother was bitterly crying.
‘Freddy died in his sleep last night,’ said Frank sadly.
Sally was devastated. ‘Oh no, please don’t let it be true. Oh I’m sorry, I don’t understand, I always thought Freddy was healthy. I’, so very, very sorry. I don’t know what to say.’
‘We understand your shock but Freddy had a congenital heart condition, we always knew he wouldn’t have a long life, but you helped him have some happy times. You brought him great joy.’
Sally sat with the family and they spoke about Freddy, his happiness which he brought to everybody who knew him, his love of life and nature. Always seeing the best in all people. Sally knew she would never meet anybody like him again.
She would remember him for the rest of her life.

 


Judge – Tom Kelly, Poet & Playwright

Tom Kelly wrote Dan Dare the Musical which was performed in South Shields in 2003 and he has since kindly donated the script and show memorabilia to The Atkinson’s collection.

Tom has had a varied career from his first job in a Jarrow shipyard Time-Office; to a song writing contract and writing the BBCTV musical documentary Kelly, with Alan Price. He has had a six full-length stage plays produced by The Customs House (South Shields) and his poetry has been published by Red Squirrel Press and appeared in a number of UK magazines, as well as the anthology Land of Three Rivers: The Poetry of North-East England.

tomkelly.org.uk


Judge – Sue Dexter, Southport Arts Society

Sue Dexter is the Young Arts secretary and Community Outreach for Southport Arts Society. Her background is in English teaching with a particular interest in poetry and creative writing.

The Arts Society Southport brings people together through a shared curiosity for the arts. Their events provide welcoming places to hear expert lecturers share their specialist knowledge about the arts. Their members contribute to and preserve our artistic heritage through volunteering and grants. Their work creates a better, healthier and more connected society.

theartssocietysouthport.org.uk