Last weekend I ran a map workshop for children at Ledbury Poetry Festival, staying on afterwards to experience some of the Festival‘s delights and surprises, as well as explore a bit. After my saturday workshop I managed to catch the last performance of Fair Field late that evening in medieval St Katherine’s Hall.
The play involved the search for Truth and a lively struggle between good and evil accompanied by smoke – it set off a fire alarm – and members of the Strange and Ancient Instruments Society. At one point a dancing Devil wearing a golden suit burst through a door. He sidled up to me, gave me a kiss and asked if I’d like room service later on? Gosh.
The next day I saw people going in to the same hall and followed them in. Was it more theatre? Priests with bushy beards and tall hats dispensed clouds of incense, and blessings. Not another play but the Romanian Orthodox Church holding a special sunday service. “We’re celebrating our saints, our protectors,” a smiling woman in an embroidered skirt told me. Where else could one be kissed by the Devil one day and blessed by a bishop the next?
Ledbury is in orchard country, with the humped backs of the Malvern hills lying to the north east. The town has ancient black and white buildings leaning together companionably, which I thought were all Tudor, but “I think you’ll find they’re Jacobean!” a local man corrected me sternly.
Poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning lived nearby and John Masefield lived in the town, which has its own gunsmith, a rare breeds butcher, an equestrian agent, Mrs Muffin’s Tea Shop, a fine church and a printer called Tilley. The ornate printing presses, racks of type and scent of printing ink there brought back memories of my early days at art college.
Kind people at the poets’ hospitality room gave me cups of tea, and I was able to refuel there from time to time on sandwiches, crisps, fruit and chats with poets. Curious about an ambulance parked by the town centre, I discovered the fantastic Emergency Poet and her assistant Nurse Verse.
Photo from Emergency Poet’s website
After a short consultation – my lying down in the open ambulance caused one or two looks from passers-by – the Emergency Poet prescribed me a couple of poems. What a brilliant idea, poetry for all conditions …