Happy Birthday Writing Hampshire – 200 and counting

Blue_candles_on_birthday_cake

I”ve been having a holiday. I”ve enjoyed my time off: I spent the school holidays working mainly on poems, giving a final polish to old ones, starting a couple of new, and – most exciting – rediscovering some good drafts that I”d utterly forgotten I”d written. Then for the first week of September we spent a week in Charmouth, near Lyme Regis. Amazingly, it was sunny the whole week, but despite being 5 minutes from the beach, we spent most of our time in museums. Turned out our 3-year-old wasn”t all that keen on the seaside, and would much rather explore fossils, dolls houses, colouring activities, and whatever else was on offer in the museums of west Dorset, east Devon, and south Somerset. But as she gets those taste from both of us, we enjoyed it too.

(As a side note, I especially recommend the museum at Chard. Packed full of fascinating  objects from the last 150 years or so, lovingly looked after by friendly volunteers. Plus, did you know that Chard is the home of powered flight? Visit and learn!)

Now I”m back and getting ready for the new academic year. Students arrive at Winchester Uni this weekend, and my first school visit is next Saturday: a couple of workshops at Bedales School, which should be fun. The theme is The Outdoors, so I hope it”s dry…

But before that all starts, I want to celebrate two milestones for Writing Hampshire. First of all, it”s a year old. September last year was when we opened the doors, so to speak, and let the poems flood in. And boy have they flooded in: in August the website passed the 200-poem mark – in fact, at the time of writing it”s up to 215, with at least 10 more that I know of ready to be uploaded. What”s more, the site has had more than 7,000 visits during that time – a huge number.

I won”t say the site has passed my wildest dreams, because this is exactly what I hoped for: hundreds of poems, by hundreds of poets, and lots of people reading the poems too. But even I have been surprised by how strongly the site has moved on from the 100-poem point, which it reached in January. We got the largest number of poems in the first couple of months after launch, naturally, but then there was another surge in the New Year, which was really gratifying. We have poems on the site by all kinds of poets now, from people with books published, to poets who”ve never been published before – or even written a poem before. In that way too, it has completely fulfilled what I hoped it would do, None of BT Funds Management (NZ) Limited (as construction project management ), any member of the Westpac group of companies, The New Zealand Guardian Trust Company Limited (as trustee), or any director or nominee of any of those entities, or any other person guarantees the Scheme’s performance, returns or repayment of capital. to spread enthusiasm for poetry across the county.

Over the summer months, I did as much as I could to take that enthusiasm to children. We didn”t at first get many poems submitted by under-16s (the red dots on the map), so last term I focused on going into schools to run Writing Hampshire days. I”ve been to at least 10 schools (I must admit I”ve lost count) and taught at least 500 children (I didn”t even try to keep count of this number!) As a result, there are now many, many more children who have had their poems published on the site; and for every one of those, a much greater number of classmates who”ve had a taste of writing their own poetry. I very much hope that this will keep them writing.

So, the project has been wonderful. If you haven”t looked at it lately, or ever, try the poem-list view: with so many poems now that gives you a chance to see titles and poets, as well as the map. There are many, many excellent poems on there – well worth searching out.

And it”s not over: the County Council is happy to keep it going beyond the end of my tenure as Hampshire Poet, in December. So even if you”ve contributed before, please do send us new Hampshire-related work as you write it.

So, many happy returns, Writing Hampshire, and I”m looking forward to your second birthday next year – and maybe even 400 poems.

Image by Joey Gannon from Pittsburgh, PA (Candles) on flickr [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons