I was delighted to be asked by Trowbridge Museum to create and facilitate some visual poetry workshops for young people (aged 7+) working with the museum’s extensive herbarium collected by poet, botanist and clergyman George Crabbe, who lived and is buried in Trowbridge. These free workshops form part of a programme of events Trowbridge Museum will be running this year called ‘Retold: Trowbridge’s Past as Told by its Future’ and are part of the museum’s participation in ‘The Wild Escape,’ a major new project (led by Art Fund_ and funded by ACE) uniting hundreds of museums and schools in a celebration of UK wildlife and creativity. Free places on my workshops, which will take place on 21 January, 18 February and 18 March, can be booked here.
Crabbe is nowadays, perhaps, most often associated with Benjamin Britten who based his opera Peter Grimes on a character from Crabbe’s poem The Borough. However, in his day (1754 – 1832) he was read and admired by many leading writers, artists and thinkers of the time, including Jane Austen, Edmund Burke, Joshua Reynolds, Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, Samuel Johnson and others. He mostly wrote long narrative poems in rhyming couplets and was noted for the way he scorned an idealised image of the countryside and wrote instead about what life was really like, especially for poor people in rural areas. At the same time, Crabbe acknowledged that rural living had its moments:
I grant indeed that fields and flocks have charms For him that gazes or for him that farms (from 'The Village')
The young participants in my workshops will have an opportunity to read some of Crabbe’s work and I’ll also share with them more recent writers who love rhyming couplets, such as Julia Donaldson who was commissioned by the Poetry Society to write this gorgeous poem about the famous Christmas pine tree in Trafalgar Square. Then we’ll spend time with George Crabbe’s beautiful herbarium which is kept at Trowbridge Museum and begin to make our own visual poems, thinking about the patterns in rhyming couplets and finding out more about wildflowers so loved by George Crabbe. I’ll be showing participants some of my own visual poems using wildflowers and plants which I blogged about here.
Last year, I spent some time with Crabbe’s herbarium at the museum, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again and sharing it in my workshops.
As you might know, I’ve used this blog in the past to document workshops I’ve run, and I’ll continue to do this in 2023, and share news of these workshops at Trowbridge Museum and other projects I’m involved with this year. For now, though, back to my planning and preparation. If you know of young people aged 7+ who would like to find out more about George Crabbe and make their own visual poem based on his herbarium, please spread the word.