To celebrate World Poetry Day 2018, Abney Court Care Home knew they wanted to do something new, something different, and something that would engage people across different generations in the beauty of poetry. They contacted The Kingsway School to see if there was any interest in working in partnership to celebrate this worldwide literary event, and we leapt at the chance!
We wanted to find a way to engage both students of Kingsway and residents of Abney Court in not only reading and enjoying poetry but creating some of their own. We also wanted to open up a dialogue between generations: give residents the opportunity to share some of their incredible stories and memories, and the students the opportunity to hear them. We decided to set the students a challenge: could they take the stories and memories of some of Abney’s residents and turn them into poetry?
The students rose to the challenge admirably. We planned three trips to Abney Court over a period of four weeks. We were unfortunately foiled by the unexpected spring-time snow on the day of our first planned trip but we weren’t deterred. A small group from Kingsway made it to Abney Court on 9th March and our students set about gathering stories. The atmosphere at Abney was so welcoming and friendly that our students settled right in. They met a handful of the wonderful residents and spent the morning engrossed in their stories and memories, marvelling at the experiences of their collective lifetimes. The students asked questions and prompted residents to recall the details of their memories, gathering a rich collection of moments in personal history, until they were overflowing with ideas for capturing those glimpses into the past in words.
Once they had finished gathering stories, the students set about a new challenge: to get a line of poetry from each of the residents they met, to turn into a poem about spring at Abney Court. They went about this with enthusiasm, asking residents to capture their favourite things about life at Abney, especially as the spring begins to unfold. Working beautifully together, students and residents took ideas about spring at Abney and turned them into poetic lines. After some fond farewells and a promise to return to Abney soon, the students made their way back to Kingsway to turn their carefully gathered stories and the resident’s poetic contributions into full poems.
Upon returning to school, the students took these lines and pieced them together to create one poem reflecting life at Abney Court in the spring. The finished poem is rather lovely and can be found below! Their final task was to carefully consider the treasured memories gifted to them by the residents of Abney Court, and to capture and retell those memories through poetry. They spent the next two week thoughtfully crafting poems to gift back to the residents. They worked hard and with great consideration to the individuals they had met, making every effort to preserve the residents treasured memories in a way which respected the joy, and sometimes pain, with which they had been lived. Today, World Poetry Day, we returned to Abney Court where our students performed their poems and presented copies to the residents they had met. There were tears and laughter all round as the students’ work brought precious moments back to life for all to enjoy. The residents were thrilled with the finished poems and moved by the respect and care with which our students had written about them. The residents declared the students to be “a credit” to the school and themselves and hoped we would come back again soon. The students too found the experience invaluable, acknowledging the privilege it was to have the chance to hear first-hand some of the most precious moments in the lives of these members of our community.
Congratulations to those students involved: Akira Edgson, Aliyah Arif, Joseph Fenlon, Holly Rinaldi, Ella-Grace Smith, and Alec Nixon. The challenge of creating poetry from these remembered moments was an exercise in imagination and empathy which also stretched their linguistic skills. We also wish to extend a huge thank you to Abney Court for their wonderful hospitality and for extending this opportunity to our school. The process of interacting with people from another generation was hugely valued by everyone and we hope this will be the beginning of a beautiful and ongoing partnership.