Since 2016, the Poetry Retreats have become part of the rhythm of our year in school. Each November, children and teachers from Elmhurst, Nelson, Gallions and Vicarage gather together, and work with Jonny Walker and Adisa in the New Forest.
COVID-19 put a stop to that…until now! It was with great excitement that we were able to bring the retreats back this year, between 24th and 27th May 2022.
Thirty children and five staff members from across the four schools of the New Vision Trust collaborated to take part in Jonny and Adisa’s refreshed and reinvigorated post-lockdown Poetry Retreat, three and a half hours away in the New Forest.
There were some differences. For almost all of the children taking part, it was their first time away from home, and their first residential visit. We are all so impressed with the maturity and good humour that all the kids displayed. As is often the case, we had no real homesickness because we were just so busy adventuring from dawn till dusk!
We explored the vast, beautiful forests and the rolling hills beneath a wild and weird sky - at times, we basked in the heat of early summer, and at times we took shelter from the rain and the hailstorms! We even set fire to the booth, and recorded some of our own poetry performances with Adisa.
The children all had plentiful opportunities to write poetry, inspired by their surroundings, by their imaginations and by their interactions. As always, the diversity of our group and our life experiences led to a stunning range of poetic responses - children wrote about family life, about how it felt to be out in nature, and how it felt to experience a new and unusual kind of intellectual freedom.
And there was plentiful time for play too. The teachers from across the trust had put together a dazzling array of activities, and engaged in wonderful conversations. Enormous thanks to the adults who took part: Sophie Falkenburg (Elmhurst), Aysha Battiwala (Elmhurst), Rob Des Roches (Nelson), Kathy Dowdeswell (Gallions) and Hirra Zahid (Vicarage).
We cannot wait to share our anthologies with you too. Each child had plenty to choose from in their notepads, and each child selected a few pages to contribute. This year’s anthology will be titled ‘afraid…not any more’ taken from a line in one of the students’ poems.
Adisa and Jonny thoroughly enjoyed working with the New Vision Trust, and look forward to our project continuing in 2022-23 with New Vision Trust. Thanks must be given to the New Vision Trust too for generously funding the project, meaning that all children who were invited were able to take part, irrespective of financial circumstances.
The New Vision Trust’s support for poetry and creative expression goes beyond just words - it is a significant and meaningful investment, and we are very pleased that the children were given this experience. We certainly enjoyed it too!
Jonny Walker and Adisa the Verbalizer