Paths Unseen-Poet in Residence for Epping Forest!

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



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:


Performing poetic work


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.’

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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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