Bob Devereux is a St. Ives poet, artist, librettist, poetry event organiser (St Ives Festival and Cafe Frug), Arvon writing course tutor and contemporary art gallery owner.
The agency OUTLOOK provides an easily available source of professional creative people with tried and tested experience in working with children for projects and residencies It provides schools (and others) with advice and practical support in the organisation of Book Weeks, Art Weeks, Activity Weeks, etc and advise on the use of the wider environment as a "classroom." Project Director Roger Butts worked as a Primary School Teacher, Primary Head Teacher and for the Advisory Service in Cornwall for almost thirty years. During his eight years in the Advisory Service, he spent a considerable time organising curriculum-based projects for schools, often in partnership with organisations such as the National Trust, English Heritage, Newlyn Gallery and Tate Gallery St Ives. These projects support the National Curriculum work which teachers have to undertake with their children and are intended to give real reasons and real incentives for learning. They can take place almost anywhere; on an historical site, for example, with a history bias, on a beach or in a wood perhaps, with an inclination towards natural science; in a shop, a museum or a factory. Depending on the prerequisites of the project, almost any location can be used.
BY ROGER BUTTS of OUTLOOK AGENCY
"It is spring, moonless night in the small town, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea." Dylan Thomas "Under Milk Wood"
THE FISHING BOAT BOBBING SEA
I have long thought that Newlyn Fishing Harbour would be a wonderfully evocative place to run a full-scale poetry project with Primary School children and, indeed, I have often worked there with them myself.
A grant from The Poetry Society funded Bob Devereux as Poet-in-Residence at Newlyn Harbour in the Autumn Term of 1998. Bob worked with mainly Year Six children (and their parents) from four local Primary Schools, Mousehole Community Primary School, Newlyn CP School, St Mary's C of E CP School and Heamoor CP School. The children worked both on-site at Newlyn Harbour (through the kind support of Stevenson & Son) and in school.
The main object was to teach children various aspects of poetry in numerous forms, inspired by a real subject - the fishing industry in Newlyn, the boats, the fishermen, the market and anything to do with its past, present or future. Mr Don Turtle, a retired fisherman, talked to the children, both in and out of school, about his experiences.
Newlyn Art Gallery held an exhibition in October by Marcel Dinahet, a Breton artist who has made video film about the sea in the Atlantic Arc. The Gallery offered educational workshops in conjunction with this exhibition which were available for participation by the schools.
At the outset of the project, each group of children spent a day working with Oliver West (printmaker) to produce images connected with the harbour, the boats, fish and the sea. Oliver was funded from the arts budget of Penwith Council.
Katrina Porteous is a poet from Northumberland who writes on the demise of the fishing industry there, and on the characters who still survive. She visited Cornwall for a week, to take part in our project and work with the children and adults of the four schools. (Katrina's visit was funded by South West Arts.)
Chris Blount, of Radio Cornwall, recorded elements of the project for his afternoon programme on BBC local radio.
Other members of the Newlyn community and, in particular, fishermen, were invited - constantly and repeatedly - to take part in workshops and readings. We were able to entice lots of the children's parents to join in but, to my great regret, failed with the fishermen!
Some of the children also worked with me, though the majority of the work was done by the professional poets. Here's a group poem I did with some children.
In the net
On the quay
Market - sold!
- Roger Butts
Below are samples of children's poetry from each of the four participant Primary Schools:
Misty shadows over the sea,
The heavy air is moist.
Boats huddle close in the harbour,
Hard up against the wall.
Boats sway gently,
Swaying on their ropes.
Red ropes, brown ropes,
Slipping and seaweed green.
Misty shadows over the sea,
The heavy air is moist.
Like an army of robotic warriors,
Huddled in the harbour.
Ancient rusting boats;
Dinosaurs in the mist.
A film of oil forms
On the water.
Boats nudge and jostle
for room to sway.
The sun shivers
on their bright sides.
Gulls swoop down
to take dead fish.
ready to go to sea.
hang off beams of boats.
as they jump up and down.
Dead fish and crab bodies
all over the slippery deck.
clink and clank
Crates full of fish
wait to be sold.
The boats huddle together like cold children
And oily patterns cover the surface.
The surface of the water looks crinkled.
Seagulls hover, suspended by an invisible thread
Flags flail like trapped butterflies,
Small fireworks fly from a blowtorch
And the stench of oil hangs around the harbour.