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Teesdale Poets: Past, Present and Future

November 17, 2012

The audience gathers for the Teesdale Poetry eventOn Thursday 15th November an audience of twenty five people gathered at NeST gallery in Barnard Castle for an evening of Teesdale Poets: Past, Present and Future.

Neil Diment started the evening with a performance of poetry written by Richard Watson, the Teesdale Bard. Dressed in a traditional lead-miner’s costume complete with blue hank of wool around his neck (like those worn by Watson in his time), Neil interspersed his reading with information about Watson’s life and work. Neil is currently working with the North Pennines Partnership to produce a Richard Watson Poetry Trail. The trail is a circular route from Bowlees Visitor Centre in Teesdale which is due to reopen in 2013. Extracts of verse from Watson’s famous poem A Journey to Work will feature at key points along the route.

Next to take to the stage was Meg Peacocke who recently moved to Barnard Castle. Meg read a selection of new work written about moving from her hill farm in Cumbria and coming to live in the market town. Meg’s work included her perspective on the many yards hidden behind the main street. Several of Meg’s poetry collections are available for sale at NeST gallery, which hosted the Barnard Castle Winning Words Olympic Poetry Project in 2012.

A key feature of the project was the Open Poetry competition won by Anne Dauber from Upper Teesdale. Anne was invited to read at Thursday’s event as a ‘poet of the future.’ She read a series of new poems including a unique piece entitled The Delineator. Anne’s poem The Great Grey Barn was interpreted into a poetry/textile installation which is touring the area. It is on show at Woodleigh Tourist Information Centre in the town until the 19th November.

Four members of the audience participated in the open mic session. Stan Wallinets, Brighid Black, Felicity Manning, and Julia Usman entertained us with a variety of work ranging from the humourous to the mysterious and more serious. Many were written either about the landscape or folklore of Teesdale while others linked to neighbouring dales. Co-ordinator for the evening Judith Lesley Marshall read My Beloved Barney Town on behalf of local poet Fred Wallis who could not attend in person. Fred’s poem mentioned the ancient Butter Cross (Market Cross) which was once a focal point for the farmers’ wives on market day.

The Market Cross at Barnard Castle known locally as the Buttermarket The market cross is known locally as the Buttermarket as the women used to bring baskets of butter, cheese and eggs here to sell on Saturdays. The butter was weighed by officials known as ‘butter-weighers.’ If it was found short, the butter was condemned and confiscated by the officials. In such cases, no payment was made. Money paid for butter was referred to as ‘t’butter brass,’ a term coined with regard to the brass weights and measures used at the time.

Judith closed the evening with a retelling in verse of an old Teesdale tale called ‘Tommy and t’butter brass.’

‘Will t’tek t’butter te market, Tommy?’

his wife asked him one day.

Tommy did as he was told

waited for the butter-weigh.

Put the cash in his purse,

left without delay,

for Tommy like a drop o-rum

on a Saturday.

He took himself to the pub

told the lads he couldn’t pay.

‘Wot about t’butter brass?’

old Jock led him astray.

Tommy got home late that night

made a right display,

threw the basket at Mary’s feet,

‘You made me t’laughin stock today,’

he said to avoid a night

sleeping in the hay.

Told her the butter was short,

‘Tha canna be reet, ‘ she did not say,

but waited ’til the truth would out

early the very next day.

Tommy went short of cash for weeks

’til he learned to mend his way.

Teesdale Poets: Past, Present and Future  was held to gauge interest in the idea of a Teesdale Poetry Society who will meet to research, read, record, write, perform and promote the dale’s rich literary heritage. Both the evening and the idea were well received. We are now gathering a list of names of people interested in being part of such a group.

Should you be interested in being involved in this initiative or in attending future poetry events at NeST, please get in touch. E-mail: julema@tiscali.co.uk or mobile: 07808 063944

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