Moqapi Selassie
'Word and Action', Wimborne Poetry Festival, Dorset


Word And Action is a language-arts group with strong links with community. Following the success of the Poetry Fair held in June 1995 and in response to a direct request from Wimborne Town Council, Word And Action decided to organise a longer event in 1998 to coincide with National Poetry Day. With the Poetry Festival we sought to give people a positive encounter with poetry, to remind them that it could be fun and very accessible. In addition we sought to encourage a high level of interaction between writers and participants in the project, involving children and adults in active participation in contemporary poetry and creative writing. By ensuring one of the workshops was specifically targeted at elderly people in the local community, we sought to provide opportunities for people who are often excluded from arts activities to participate. The Poetry Trail was designed to enable the involvement of the many people who would not normally or might be unable to participate in a festival, eg shopkeepers and passing visitors.


The Poetry Trail:

Prior to the festival, local businesses and shops were approached to be part of our Poetry Trail. In total 20 businesses participated. They paid £5, wrote themselves a rhyming couplet and agreed to display a well-known poem of relevance to their business inside their shop. The choices were varied, for example, the sports shop chose The Angler, the local sandwich shop chose Sam's Sandwich and the fruit and veg shop chose Marvell's The Garden whilst others settled for appropriate song lyrics. Local designer Maddie Rock produced a hand-drawn map of the town incorporating the names and rhyming couplets of the shops involved.

The maps were then distributed around the town for people to pick up, the idea being that they would visit each shop and look for the poem on display. Many people joined the fun and, map in hand, went looking! The local businesses really entered into the spirit of things and many of them kept their poems on display long after the event had finished.

The Workshops 
Big Bouncing Ballads on the theme of A Magic Book provided the workshop activity for the first day and a half. On Wednesday, a Word And Action team visited two schools in the Wimborne rural cluster - Hampreston First and Three-Legged Cross First Schools. On Thursday morning children from Witchampton First School were brought to Wimborne Library. In all three cases the children were invited to make up a story, using Word And Action's storymaking techniques. Then, working in pairs or threes, they were given a section of the story and asked to compose rhyming couplets to retell that part. Once the sections were put together, a chorus was written and the whole thing was performed. Finally, the ballads were typed and put on display in the schools and the library. (A ballad follows this report).

Remember This . . . on Thursday afternoon involved residents of Streets Meadow who came to Wimborne Library to read and listen to some of their all-time favourite poems and make up their own versions of one or two. By writing a line and passing the page on to the next person the group made up their own versions of "When I grow old" by Wendy Cope with hilarious results. "I will arise and go now..." was the inspiration for some very moving individual work.

National Poetry Day 
On Thursday evening, in celebration of National Poetry Day, the library was once more the venue for It's a Funny Old Word, a dramatic presentation of comic poetry by Wanda Players. Local poets were invited to submit their work from which a programme of a dozen poems on the theme of the Comic Muse was devised. The presentation was followed by an open reading of poems by audience members, most of whom chose to read from their own work.

The Poetry Fair 
The festival ended on Saturday 10th with The Poetry Fair. Once again, Wimborne library precinct and Crown Mead Gardens were festooned with banners and bunting and passers-by were invited to browse amongst the poetry stalls and join in an outsize game of Poetry Scrabble. Many people came along specially, fortunately undettered by grey skies and the threat of rain. We estimate at least 500 people participated, browsing among the stalls, joining in the fun and listening to the selection of poetry readings by poets from all over the area.

Several poets joined us from New Forest Poetry Society, East Street Poets and the Word And Action-run Wimborne and Wallisdown groups. Our special guest was Birmingham-based dub poet, Moqapi Selassie, who once again delighted audiences with his own lively, quirky, rhythmic poetry which caused many a passer-by to stop and listen with a smile on their face.

The Poetry Quiz, involving teams from the town council, New Forest poets and others, and Sonnet Bingo proved so popular that plans for Poetry Tennis had to be dropped completely! The Wanda bookstall, providing a sales point for poets giving readings, also proved immensly popular.


The event attracted much support. Several volunteers arrived on the day to help run stalls and, more importantly, to help clear up after the event! Financial contributions were received from East Dorset District Council, Dorset County Council, The Friends of Wimborne Library, The Poetry Society, South West Arts, Wimborne Town Council and some local businesses. Some businesses offered their support by providing something we needed, including Jewsons who lent us the garden arches that delineated the venue, Haskins who lent us the hardboard for our Giant Scrabble, a local carpentry firm who lent us a van and Wimborne Print Centre who gave us a substantial discount off our printing costs.

Conclusion: The Future 

We want to see the festival grow into a biennial event, with even more community involvement, therefore the next festival will be in the Year 2000. We would like to establish it as an organisation with its own steering committee and administration, thus opening up the possibility of attracting its own funding.

Under the Poetry Society's scheme, Wimborne Library is now a Poetry Place. It is now being used as a venue for other poetry events. In addition to this the Poetry Festival was also accepted as part of the Wimborne Arts Festival.

Witchampton First School

it was really good

but it wasn't Robin Hood


the book was thick and heavy and small

and fun for absolutely all

it was under the cupboard and was dusty

it had a blue cover and was very musty

the book had purple curly writing

Sam couldn't wait, it looked so exciting


it was really good

but it wasn't Robin Hood


there was a man called Sam who was 32

one day he was looking for his shoe

at 11am on a Tuesday in Winter

he found a book under the cupboard with a splinter

Sam was very happy to find it

Sam did not know who had designed it


it was really good

but it wasn't Robin Hood


Sam started to read from the front

he wasn't strong enough, what a stunt

he had quickly shrunk to the size of a mouse

very little in a great big house

he dropped the book on the floor

the book didn't want to stay open any more

then he grew very tall

he hadn't noticed it at all


it was really good

but it wasn't Robin Hood


once Sam was taller

then he got smaller

the book was so good

not about Robin Hood

But a story of a dragon so green

he didn't notice he had shrunk

but he wasn't drunk

he just liked the story he'd seen


it was really good

but it wasn't Robin Hood


then he picked up the book

and changed his look

he was an ice-breathing dragon and he was green

but he was still very clean

he carried on reading for six hours more

he shut the book and finished it for sure


it was really good

but it wasn't Robin Hood


the book was the best Sam had ever read

"l want to read it again" he said

the book disappeared and came back again

the story inside it wasn't the same

this time it was about a giant bold

it was the best story ever to be told


it was really good

but it wasn't Robin Hood


when Sam saw the giant's tale

his face went very pale

he enjoyed the giant's story

because it was filled with glory

Sam decided to take a look

at the rest of the magic book


it was really good

but it wasn't Robin Hood


at his office Sam's friends were cross

Where is Sam?" asked his boss

one of them went to investigate

the reason why Sam was late

Sam hid the book and told a lie

the boss believed him and said goodbye


it was really good

but it wasn't Robin Hood


Sam went downstairs to have his tea

he took his book with him to see

he put the book upon the table

to read as soon as he was able

it grew larger and fat

pushed his dinner to the mat


it was really good

but it wasn't Robin Hood


Sam took the book back upstairs

and went back down to do repairs

Sam went up to find his book

but when he was there he had to look

because it was gone Sam was sad

but he'd had the best read he had ever had







Young Poets Network