Beech Hill school poets meet Downton star at Square Chapel

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Year 5 and 6 students from Beech Hill School gathered with teachers and parents at the Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax this week to launch and read a collection of poems they themselves had written.

It was all part of PoetryQuest, a national initiative developed by education charity Children & the Arts, which seeks to inspire kids and raise awareness about poetry by pairing schools with professional poets.

Beech Hill is just one of many schools in the local region to take part in the project, and has been working with local poets Winston Plowes and Keith Hutson in a series of workshops exploring different types of poetry over the past three years.

This culminated in the children writing poems of their own, which they read aloud in a final public performance in April at the Square Chapel and have now been collected in an anthology book.

Poet Hutson was proud of the students, telling them at the beginning of the presentation: “We hope you take what you’ve learned from PoetryQuest and use it for living.”

The event was even attended by a famous actress - Penelope Wilton, who is an Ambassador to Children & the Arts and is known for her roles in Downton Abbey and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

In her introduction to the children, Ms Wilton said: “I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here and I really am impressed with this wonderful arts centre you have here.

“I think we could all do with a place like this, because places like this are where dreams come to life.”

During the presentation itself, Ms Wilton read a few of the children’s poems herself , as did the poets Plowes and Hutson, and medals were handed out to the most creative and well-versed students.

This was followed at the end by a Q&A session, where the children were given the opportunity to ask Ms Wilton about her acting career.

When asked what she thought the children had gained from the experience, she said: “There are two very important things - the enjoyment of words and learning about our language, and having the confidence to stand up and deliver the poems that they have written themselves.”

This sentiment was echoed by Square Chapel’s patron, actor George Costigan, who was also in attendance.

He said: “It’s all about confidence. I think it’s the magic ingredient in everything you do, whether you’re a poet, an actor or a Prime Minister. It’s just a magic force.”