Paths Unseen-Poet in Residence for Epping Forest!

Right ok… hmmm… well… you see… I am poet in residence at Epping Forest!!

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I know, its been a long while since the warmth of the late summer and the Lido was filling my poetry soul and I was bleeting on about it all and now there is this wonderful thing.

Over the next year, I will be poet in residence in Epping Forest with the help of Epping Forest District Council and also the Arts Council (I Heart ACE).

Epping is an incredibly special place and you might all be thinking what Keely Mills creating poetry about a place other than Peterborough!!!!! but yes, its time that I stretched my proverbial poetry wings and what a place to do that in. Epping Forest is full of heroes, villains, stretches of ancient woodland, the places that make up The Only Way is Essex and history spilling from its every leaf.

The project is called Paths Unseen which is from a poem by John Clare who famously was incarcerated in Epping Forest lunatic asylum, the same place he then walked from over a week back to Helpston and I will be of course writing about John. Yet it was just the idea of paths not seen that make up a place, a person a possible future that I was intrigued by as I want to hi-light the stories, the people and the present talent of this creation of fascinating spaces.

The residency will include the following, new commissioned poems by me that will then be inspiring new illustrations by the noble Jef Winter, then these will become an exhibition at the Museum, a published book. Then I and Jef will be leading workshops, creating a film, sharing the work at the Museum and also as part of Three Acres and a Cow which will be with my incredible friend Robin Grey and this will be performed in the actual forest!!! Phew…

Here is the official press release for the project.

Epping Forest District Council’s culture team have successfully been granted £15,000 from Arts Council England to support a new project Paths Unseen.

Inspired by the district ‘paths unseen’ will focus on the local areas history.

The Arts Council funding will allow the team to commission performance poet Keely Mills (That’s me) and artist illustrator Jef Winter to collaborate with The Ongar Academy and Epping Forest College students to create a diverse contemporary exhibition on the district.

Over the next few months Keely Mills will write new poems inspired by local stories and history, while Jef Winter will produce illustrations for Mill’s poems bringing the stories to life. Between them they will lead workshops in writing and performing poetic work and illustration, helping educate and produce exhibition work.

Developing new skills

In a new partnership with The Ongar Academy, 100 year 8 pupils will be given the chance to work alongside the artists over the year building to a public sharing of the work created.

100 Epping Forest College students studying fine art, photography and performing arts will undertake workshops on:

Writing

Performing poetic work

Illustration

Photographing and filming live performances

Public involvement

Epping Forest District Museum will also offer a new public programme open to all ages, giving people a chance to work with professional artists, developing their own personal stories inspired by the Epping Forest district and its history. Their stories and experience will also be translated into a film created by Epping Forest College.

The project will conclude with an exhibition at the newly refurbished Epping Forest District museum in summer 2017.

Bringing the community together

Councillor Helen Kane, Leisure and Community Services Portfolio Holder said This is an exciting project, allowing pupils and the public to work with such respected artists and have their work portrayed in a new and thought provoking way.

This will be one of the first contemporary arts projects to be showcased in the new temporary exhibitions space at the museum.

I look forward to the coming year to see what work is produced for the exhibition.’

Be first to find out about cultural events in the Epping Forest district by following us:

Twitter @EFDCulture

Facebook www.facebook.com/efdmuseum for more information

At the moment I am organising a writing day at the hunting Lodge of Elizabeth I, researching profusely and trying to capture as many stories as possible. I will publish updates and poems on this little soapbox of mine if you want to be kept updated.  But in the meantime imagine me wearing my best Anglo Saxon armour with a biro for a sword.

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Words in the Water

The season is nearly over at the Lido and so is my poetry residency there too. It has been a merging of two of my obsessions and I think that comes across in every length and every word I penned. I also enjoyed bringing new people into the Lido through the come and swim with me events and it has been a little exciting to know that my poetry has made people think about going back to the Lido after 20yrs or even going there for the first time.

I didn’t realise when I set out on the residency that this is what I would enable to happen but I am glad that I have. The wonder of people’s faces who have swam with me as they lie in the sky with no clouds or they experience the coffee I often write about has made it very worthwhile. It’s been so humbling to work with the poets that I have and there will be another blog next week which will feature Ross Sutherland’s poem so it ain’t over yet.

Last of all, I am very proud of the following sound scape that some incredible people helped to make happen. Please have a listen and let me know what you think and please do share.

Peterborough Lido Sound scape 2016

Also to potentially hear it live come to the Lido this Sunday for Wet Sounds from 4pm-8pm. The event brite link for that is here: Wet sounds eventbrite

 

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Right I am off for a swim!

The Regulars.

I am writing this just before I go for a swim at the Lido on what is turning out to be a scorcher! Its almost like eating an aperitif before the main doing this blog, just a little taste before I go and submerse myself in the Lido’s bountifulness.

A couple of weeks back, myself,  the other four poets and three of the regulars that are as mad about the Lido as me recorded some of the poems that have been created as part of the residency. We did this at the Chime recording studio which is run by Beat This who I have collaborated with before on my bus residency last year. It was great fun and the regulars who don’t consider themselves poets at all, read their poem with a sensitivity and knowing that was fresh and gave the work newness. That’s why I love working with ‘non-poets’ which I know is a weird word and weird sentiment. Its like opening up a treasure chest of possibilities that a poetry voice can often not achieve. A massive thanks to Clare and Sue for taking part as well.

I will be releasing the full soundscape next week and it will be featured as part of the Wet Sounds event on the 28th of August,  get tickets here: Wet Sounds tickets   There will be live performances and a workshop with me too, plus lots of shenanigans. Please do not miss it.

I will also be putting the soundcape on this blog and I hope it will be played over the tannoy at the Lido in the last week, so watch out for that.

Here is my final poem of the season and its about the regulars that swim every day of every season and love the Lido as though it was part of their families. Below is a picture of Richard Ferris on the right who recorded the poem for me and Dave… aka the Bretton Bream who is mentioned in the poem. Viva la regulars!!

 

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The Regulars

 

Fair-weather swimmer is a son of a gun insult from them.

The temperatures can be sweet hot and North Sea cold.

They admire salmon for they too have the compulsion.

To swim in waters that might be struck with lightning.

 

As if they spoke in Dolphin, they know each other’s place.

Every regular has to jostle for the right lane to be in-

The dressing room only they use, the favoured locker.

They use sonar to navigate, to detect any possible offence.

 

It’s routine for them to notice the growing lavender.

To pass lengths unspoken on benches, their minds off swimming.

To bestow classic nicknames to one another like Bretton Bream-

To drink coffee, heating their bodies that have travelled a mile or more.

 

Like parents of the pool, they are there at the start of the season.  

The lifeguards that  protect the fickle others on hot spells are

Rewarded by the regulars with chocolate tins on the last date in September-

And chats between somersaults to kill the boredom of an overcast day.

 

The water can be seen clapping at these humans who care for one another.

Waves can be heard singing happy birthday along with this pod of nurture-

Who give cards to say you are part of this hover of mortals.

The H20 is grateful that it is the reason for their acts of friendship.  

 

When the year ends these migrating meteorites of souls disappear-

Back to Autumn’s salty short days and Winter spawning frosts.

Its sad when a regular passes away in the gap, never to swim again.

Some say if only they could have hung on till May.

 

Those who return, create home by taking a village through their hearts into the Lido.

Its their laughter that keeps the water warm and the pool from being ever empty.

It’s not the season ticket which shows their devotion but their smiling encouragement

And asking new swimmers how has their day been? Welcoming them in.

 

By Keely Mills.

 

August 8th 2016

 

 

 

 

Poetry is everywhere.

Rightio brilliant people, its Lido blog time and its really starting to come together. I have recorded the last person for the soundscape this week and you may see me at the Lido on Friday recording ‘ambient sounds’, yeah I know, (insert ironic maybe a little beard stroking emoji here). What I will actually be doing is teetering on the edge of the pool with huge headphones and mic, trying not fall in, trying to record the essence of the lapping pool or sumfink like that!

I will be doing a blog next week about the recording process and maybe giving a little sneek peak to tantalise you all but I wanted to get back to the title of this piece of work and who better to help me then one of my fellow Lido poets, than Ron Graves.

Ron is at present the Poet in Residence at Drapers Arms (yes the pub with good wi-fi and real ale) in Peterborough and he is doing a sterling job of embodying that poetry is living in places and people that would never consider themselves to have a rhyme in their hearts or centre. Ron not only writes with a sensitivity and philosophy that is grateful, insightful and often opposite. He also represents that poetry is accessible, relevant and is around us everywhere. He has been organising a regular poetry event each month at Drapers and the next one is on the same night as Wet Sounds, which I hope a lot of you are coming too?  here is the link to Wet Sounds: Wet Sounds   and a poster for the Drapers gig below. Take a look and try and pop along to either as Ron will be at both and I may well be too.

 

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When I commissioned Ron to write a poem about the Lido, he loved the idea that people were waiting with baited swimming costumes to get back in there in May and I think he has captured that beautifully in the following poem and thanks Comrade Graves for helping me to keep faith with the belief that poetry breathes in between everything.

Find out more about Ron by having a peruse of his website:http://www.reidgraves.com/  or catch him sometime over a pint at Drapers.

 

HINGE

 

in autumn when the light has thinned

and leaves long worked by time’s sure tap

to copper epidermis for the season

curl circles down with helicopter seeds

to settle in soft silent solitude

amidst the sullen tracery

of shadow buildings and a passing step

 

the swimmers take their leave 

withdrawing to a doleful place of waiting

where no shadows fall to mark the time

but slowly turning pages measure months

in hoary mists and milky skies

bank holidays and early nights

until a smiling phoebus warms the cloud

 

then at the opening gates

where oil uncreaks the restless hinge

eager to stretch in welcoming the bathers 

an edgy queue of supplicants will form

ready with towels goggles leaping hearts

and laughter on this longed for day

when lido’s water washes weary sins away

 

By Ron Graves

August 2016

 

 

The poet who calls me ‘Dark Satanic Mills’.

I have been on holiday and I did nothing but go to beaches, lie on beaches, scramble across beaches, be aghast at the beauty of beaches and then eat sandwiches on beaches. I went to the Gower peninsula in Wales and it was incredible and even when it was in the midst of Welsh rain that feels like a sprinkler, it was still stunning. I also tried to fill myself with the spirit of Dylan Thomas, reading him aloud at the top of Rhossili bay and drinking whisky in pubs after a 10 mile hike.

Anyway back to the beach that is the Lido, there was an unveiling of a new weather vane at the beginning of the season and it depicts the Unicorn like legend that was Walter Cornelius and he really was a myth of a man, that decided to live his life differently and in a way that was about helping others and he used his epic frame and determination to raise thousands of pounds for charity. Walter was a lifeguard at the Lido for many years and I remembered him as a child and I would often catch myself staring at him in awe, whilst licking a funny feet lolly.  If you are from Peterborough then please do some research on him as we honestly were blessed to have him live here.  And the following poem is about him and his feats and its by my wonderful friend, Toby Wood or Woody.

 

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When it came to commissioning  other poets to work with me, I simply had to have a certain Toby Wood join me, not only is he an exceptional person and poet but he has an aptitude to capture real humour and those little things that really make life tick. Toby was the first ever poet laureate of Peterborough and he has always been so supportive to the others who have followed him and I nicknamed him ‘Woody’ after deciding on a night at the pub that all laureates should have a nickname and here are some of the other nick names so there is ‘Toddy’ for Chris Todd, ‘Coxy’ for Pete Cox and ‘Whole lot of Joy’ for Joy Harris. Toby with his usual wit, managed to out poet me and for ever more, I am ‘dark satanic mills’. Thanks Toby, not only for the cleverest nickname I have ever had but for this clever poem about an incredible man.

 

Walter Cornelius

I’ll tell you a story about a man

Who lived without frippery or fuss;

A man with the heart of a lion

And the frame of a double-decker bus.


He was originally a son of Latvia

Then later one of us.

I speak of course of a character

Called Walter Cornelius.


He was famous for being eccentric

Unkind citizens called him a fool;

He spent a great deal of time living in a Ford Transit

Behind the Lido swimming pool.


A place where he gained employment

Teaching children to swim and dive

And he even appeared on Blue Peter

In the year after 1975.


He bent coins, metal posts and steel railings

And reputedly appeared in a song

And on telly (who remembers Opportunity Knocks?)

All for being strong!


He held various world records

Pushing peas or even a bus;

Skipped for 90 minutes with a 48 pound chain

All for the amusement of us.


Devouring three and a half pounds of onions in two minutes;

Huge numbers of sausages he would eat

Not for gluttony but for charity,

These masticating gastronomic feats.


His attempt to fly across the Nene

Fascinated the nation.

Had the Birdman of Peterborough stunt succeeded

He’d have been frazzled in the electricity sub-station.


But in September 1983

This king of oddity and quirk

Sadly departed this mortal coil

So he did not turn up for work.


A heart attack had taken him;

Perhaps one too many sausages I fear

And his death caused many a Peterborian

To shed a private tear.



We now live in a time of austerity

Of blandness and minimum fuss

But our lives were made cheerful and colourful

By Walter Cornelius.



But he is not forgotten

There’s now a plaque and a weather vane

To commemorate our Walter

Latvia’s loss, Peterborough’s gain.

Toby Wood

 

 

 

Come and swim with me.

On the hottest day of the year I invited all my friends from my facebook page to come for a swim with me and I was really pleased at the responses.

I started at 10am and it was busier than normal as from 9am-11am is normally the domain of the regulars. It seemed I was not the only person who had the idea of spending  the day in the cool. After around 30mins of being in the blue, I was getting messages that my friends were waiting outside and one of my dearest loves, waited an hour to get in! As Record Breakers used to say that’s dedication! for you.

Some of the people who joined me, had either not swam in the Lido for at least 20yrs or had never swam there and I was so pleased that they all had a lovely reaction to being there.  The Lido is such a mix that at one point there was two poets, an actor, theatre director, dancer and two artists all doing laps and the other poet Viv Foster who joined me for a swim was inspired to write the below poem and I just had to share it with you all.

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Water Ways

Waterways move, the water travels

From a place, past you, to another place.

Rivers, streams, dykes and drains, leats, run-offs and overflows

All going somewhere.

This water, though, this rectangle of no tide

No current, no destination, moves through time.

Like the little ripples that flop to and fro

That crumple against the tiled edge and reverse themselves

This water, reflecting sunlight from eight minutes ago

Moves forward and back, past and future,

Time that was and time unborn.

That old green roof is still the same,

The heavy over-painted turnstile still impedes

Each eager, towel-draped body.

So now you can look into the chlorine-scented

Ripple-dappled depths beneath the shadow

Of the three tiered diving boards to see

Me swimming purposefully – eight, ten

Sixteen lengths, trailed by a ten-year-old brother

While the seven o’clock sun shines on two bicycles

Leaning against the wall.

The ripples flip and curve and re-combine and now

You see me slowly performing school-taught breast stroke

Resting at each end. Two, four, maybe a few more

Before going home in a car whose parking

Costs nearly the pool entrance price.

We called it The Pool, not the Lido, it was

The only swimming place that was not a river.

The sun is blinding now, flashing off warm water,

Confusing sight. See me, safe on a rug

By the paddling pool while a twenty-first century child

Toes the blue steps, shrieks a toddler’s joy at the wet,

Demands an audience for his first

Walk in water

And high above, the golden weather vane of Walter Cornelius

Continues to fly above the shining children.

By Viv Foster

July 20th 2016

 

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Oh and I was also joined by a Unicorn, which will be part of an event called Wet Sounds which is happening at the Lido on the 28th of August. The info about the event is here. Check it out and maybe see what that unicorn is all about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Refraction

Okkee dokkee, I am lucky that as part of my residency to have also commissioned four excellent poets to write about the Lido as well and I enjoy tremendously including other poets in my projects as they  have another point of view and some incredible voices to add and enrich my own practice and ideas. Plus there is power in a number of poets and I love being inspired and the more poetry the better. So I thought I would share a poem from one of the talented wordsmiths I am working with.

The first poet to join me on this wave of Lido goodness is, Charley Genever who is our present Peterborough Poet Laureate and she has done some remarkable things in the last year and she also produces a spoken word night her in Peebo, called Freak Speak & if you can then please go along. Please follow her at @charleyfarleyha or check out her blog at: charleygenever.wordpress.com

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Charley came with me for a swim and this is the poem she wrote afterwards which is incredibly beautiful and touching and I am pleased that 10 lengths with me could help to produce the following.

 

 

Refraction

The water caught in my ear creaks

like a full bag of flour does in your hands.

I haven’t seen you in weeks.

Not out of choice, I just seem to be stiffer these days,

more leather than I remember,

and with all these open ends to tend to

work, deadlines, the dog, poetry, sleep –

my body is made of failed plasters

I float along in bits; spotted and guttural.

I start thinking about you.

Memories we made in water

fall from my sunbeaten back;

a galaxy of flickering fractals merge with the waves

until I am swimming between synapses.

I have two laps left.

Remember our matching red and dotty cozzies?

Two laps. I miss that costume.

How Mum made us both cry from brushing our hair too hard

and it felt like our brains might actually fall out?

Two.

Or what about Squirtle versus Vaporeon in a sea of stupid Magikarp?

Remember the earring I lost, the one with the oval flower?

Nearly there.

And when I swam so fast you said you saw lightning?

One lap left. I’m making good time.

Or that time I dived head-first into you

because I was trying to beat the older boy into the pool,

and you swam to the shallow end to get away from me?

What about the ice cream, oh my god, the ice cream?

The bite marks in the floats,

Your turquoise toes,

The wasp I wouldn’t swim anywhere near,

Handstands.

When you asked me ‘how come the lines aren’t straight?

They look like Curly Wurly bars.

Keep going.

I told you to stop asking and start looking

and dunked your face under, because I didn’t know either,

but I had to find out as soon as we got home,

because I wanted you to learn everything from me,

remember that?

Remember that?

When light hits a condensed surface

like a pool, it kinks, causing refraction

and the angles of intention change.

Sometimes, the rays cross,

and the path becomes clearer, brighter, a caustic.

I’ll call you when I get home.

By Charley Genever

June 9th 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Refraction

The water caught in my ear creaks

like a full bag of flour does in your hands.

I haven’t seen you in weeks.

Not out of choice, I just seem to be stiffer these days,

more leather than I remember,

and with all these open ends to tend to

work, deadlines, the dog, poetry, sleep –

my body is made of failed plasters

I float along in bits; spotted and guttural.

I start thinking about you.

Memories we made in water

fall from my sunbeaten back;

a galaxy of flickering fractals merge with the waves

until I am swimming between synapses.

I have two laps left.

Remember our matching red and dotty cozzies?

Two laps. I miss that costume.

How Mum made us both cry from brushing our hair too hard

and it felt like our brains might actually fall out?

Two.

Or what about Squirtle versus Vaporeon in a sea of stupid Magikarp?

Remember the earring I lost, the one with the oval flower?

Nearly there.

And when I swam so fast you said you saw lightning?

One lap left. I’m making good time.

Or that time I dived head-first into you

because I was trying to beat the older boy into the pool,

and you swam to the shallow end to get away from me?

What about the ice cream, oh my god, the ice cream?

The bite marks in the floats,

Your turquoise toes,

The wasp I wouldn’t swim anywhere near,

Handstands.

When you asked me ‘how come the lines aren’t straight?

They look like Curly Wurly bars.

Keep going.

I told you to stop asking and start looking

and dunked your face under, because I didn’t know either,

but I had to find out as soon as we got home,

because I wanted you to learn everything from me,

remember that?

Remember that?

When light hits a condensed surface

like a pool, it kinks, causing refraction

and the angles of intention change.

Sometimes, the rays cross,

and the path becomes clearer, brighter, a caustic.

I’ll call you when I get home.