A Hut a Byens

Friday May 20th 18.00 – 19.30

Bamburgh Pavilion, The Wynding, Bamburgh, NE69 7DB

The Bamburgh Bones project has unearthed more than 100 skeletons from Northumbria’s Golden Age, buried in the dunes beneath Bamburgh Castle, and reinterred them in an ossuary in the 12th century St Aidan’s Church crypt. In 2021, nine poets visited that ossuary, to question what the buried past can tell us of the present and write new poems in response.

To celebrate the culmination of this project and the launch of a new pamphlet of poems, the poets –Catherine Ayres, Jo Clement, Kayo Chingonyi, Richard O’Brien, Jacob Polley and I – will read new poems inspired by Bamburgh. Copies of ‘A Hut a Byens’ are free and will be available at the event.

The Tide Clock in the wall of St Aidan’s Church crypt, Bamburgh (photo K. Porteous)

I contributed two new poems to the pamphlet, ‘the Tide Clock’ and the poem from which the anthology takes its title, ‘A Hut a Byens’. ‘The Tide Clock’ is a nursery rhyme inspired by the (possibly Anglo Saxon) ‘tide’ or ‘mass clock’, marking the divine offices, and incorporated into the crypt wall. ‘A Hut a Byens’ is written in North Northumbrian coastal dialect, which was spoken by fishermen a generation ago, and which was strongly influenced by Anglo Saxon. Although that dialect is now almost extinct, traces remain, ‘buried’ or ‘fossilised’ in local words and place names. For those interested in the dialect and its Anglo Saxon roots, please see The Northumbrian Language Society, HERE and HERE.

Please join us for the launch of ‘A Hut a Byens’. There will be a chance to sample the St Aidan and St Oswald pies, commissioned by Bamburgh Bones, as well as a celebration bottle of beer.

Register HERE

This event is part of a free conference hosted by Bamburgh Bones on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st May, as the culmination of the ‘Accessing Aidan’ partnership project, funded by the National Lottery.

In Search of One Last Song

July last year was a difficult time. My frail 93 year old father had just been discharged from hospital and I was flitting anxiously between my home on the coast and my parents’, 60 miles away. When a young writer called Patrick Galbraith contacted me to say that he was travelling around the country, talking to people with an interest in endangered bird species for his first book, and did I have anything to say about corncrakes, I didn’t immediately embrace the idea.

I’m no bird expert, just a poet whose work draws strongly on place. I’d recently finished a sequence of poems for an audio series with Geoff Sample, called ‘The Bird Roads’, exploring the birds around the coastal town of Amble, the animating spirit of the place. It had been a long time since I had heard a corncrake in the fields. I was more able to tell Patrick about the elderly fishermen I’d known a generation ago, who reminisced about corncrakes from their youth: the birds popping their heads up through the barley like periscopes, their call ‘like a football rattle’, as Tom Douglas, avid Newcastle United supporter, described it.

Patrick duly paid me a visit. I’m so glad he did. I might not have been able to tell him much about corncrakes, or even to give him a decent meal – I landed back from my parents’ less than an hour before he arrived. But as we walked to the harbour and through the dunes, we talked deeply about birds, and how they provide metaphors for our imagination and longing to escape. We spoke of the human connection to place, and about how little contemporary life values wildness and those connections that are so important to who we are. Although we only spent a few hours together, I felt as though I had met a new friend.

Patrick sought out artists, writers and musicians as well as naturalists and conservationists in his journey. He was exploring a cultural landscape as much as a physical one, in which human creativity is an expression of the natural world, and the threat to any particular bird species an impoverishment, not only of the landscape, but of the human spirit. This is a theme very close to my heart. I strongly recommend his book.

Patrick Galbraith, ‘In Search of One last Song’, is published by Harper Collins at £18.99. Available HERE.

The Garden of Earthly Delights

Sunday 15th May, 19.00

Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, Campus West, York

This year’s York New Music Weekend centres on the work of celebrated York composer Trevor Wishart, including the UK premiere of ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’, an hour-long ‘comic opera’ in 8-channel surround sound. Loré Lixenberg’s vocals weave a labyrinthine thread through this exploration of the human predicament.

I’m very proud to have written and performed the Northumbrian language lyrics for the ‘forest path’ sections (see April 2020 post).

Tickets £10 (concessions £8 & £3).

Book HERE.

Hieronymus Bosch – The Garden of Earthly Delights