Poetry and Art Exhibition Extended at The Crossing
29th October 2023
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The  program of free events, launched  on 21st September and scheduled to  run until 28th October, has been extended until 14th November by popular demand.   


The project, Creative Walsall, includes  spoken word events, workshops, exhibitions, soundscapes, live music and art demonstrations at The Crossing at St Paul`s Church with Walsall Society of Artists.


Amongst the creatives involved is  Walsall poet and the former Head of Creative Writing at the University of Wolverhampton, Dr Paul McDonald, who was Senior Lecturer in English and a prize winner at this year`s Wolverhampton Literature Festival Competition.   


His first novel, "Surviving Sting", based on his early life in Walsall`s leather trade,  was heralded as "a voice from the Black Country as authentic as baltis and Banks` bitter" (Time Out).     In addition to his work as a novelist Dr Paul McDonald is also an accomplished poet whose work has won numerous international awards including most recently the Liverpool Poetry Prize judged by Roger McGough.    


"It`s been a tremendous success" said Ian Henery, one of the organisers of the event.  "We had the big launch with the Deputy Mayor of Walsall hosted by poets Laura Liptrot and Sara Meredith followed by a day of poetry workshops and soundscapes hosted by Mark Ingram.   Along the way,  we also staged another free event for National Poetry Day hosted admirably once again  by Mark Ingram.  We are extremely grateful to people for their kind comments and their support including One Walsall for their volunteers.  The whole project has been about teamwork, sharing each other`s work and supporting each other in these challenging times that we all share in 2023.  I want to say a big thank you to The Crossing for hosting us and to all of the creatives for their enthusiasm."


  The roll call of poets includes Brendan Hawthorne, Keith Gwilliams, Ian Davies, Mark Ingram, Russell Smith, Laura Liptrot, Sara Meredith, Laura Jane Round, Steven C Davis, Mickey Angel, Al Monde, Albarz, Anthony J Ball, Leanne Cooper, Glyn Phillips, Jane James, Lisa Johnston, Phil Buckley, Tina J Cox, Peter Wilkes,  Bones, Gerald Kells, Ajay Pall, Andy Summers  and Kate Gilbert.    


Music was performed by So It Goes with Brendan Hawthorne and Kerry Davison and Dogtown Jack with Carmen Bascunana and Alan Garwood.    


"Everybody gave their time and talents for free" said Ian Henery "and none of us got paid or had a grant.  We simply wanted to come together to see if this kind of project could work and to support The Crossing.  After the Covid years of isolation and keeping away from people it was good to be able to see people again and be inspired by their creativity".    


Included within this body of work is a poem written on the first anniversary of the death of Queen Elizabeth II that was inspired by the artwork of Simon Tew.  The exhibition features ekphrastic poetry, a term originating from a Greek expression for "description" and is planned to be featured in the 2024 Wolverhampton Literature Festival in the Art Gallery.   


"Ekphrastic poetry is an exciting literature form which engages with paintings, drawings, sculptures and other forms of visual art" said Ian Henery.   


 "The earliest ekphrastic poems were accounts of real or imagined scenes but the desire was to unleash their potential for wider use and not simply the visual or verbal formats." explained Ian Henery.    


The team of Walsall  poets behind this project wanted to move beyond descriptions to reflect deeper meanings and devise many ways to interact with art - analyse the work, explore symbolic meanings, invent stories or create dialogue or dramatic scenes.  The artwork will lead the public to new insights and surprising discussions.    


The artist Simon Tew, a retired financial advisor, painted a piece of stunning artwork of an elephant for the exhibition and shared with poet Ian Henery the creative process.  Simon had been thinking about the monarch, knowledge and wisdom as he was creating it and a farewell look over her shoulder as the matriarch of the troop when Elizabeth II had died.    


"The story of how Simon had prepared the painting lodged in my  subconscious said Ian Henery " and I found himself jumping out of bed at 3.30am with the poem ready-formed in my  brain.  I then recorded it on my  mobile phone before going back to sleep.  Only later on did I realise the significance of the date - 8th September - the first anniversary of the death of the Queen at Balmoral Castle."        


Ian Henery attended a course, funded by West Midlands Combined Authority, earlier this year at the Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolverhampton to explore how buildings could be used for cultural activities.  This then led to a partnership with The Crossing at St Paul`s Church, a Christian Social Enterprise, to use their facilities for arts and culture.  The challenge was to increase the number of community groups using The Crossing and turn it into not only a hive of activity but also a centre of cultural and artistic expertise in the same way as the New Art Gallery and the forthcoming craftmakers`guild at the former Guild Hall in Walsall.  


The Crossing, housed in a Grade II listed Victorian church, is an exemplary example of creating a  new life and role for a Christian building.  "The Crossing" refers to the meeting point of church and community as well as to the crossing over from death to new life in Jesus, which is at the heart of the Christian faith.  


Photo - Poet Tina J Cox with artist Simon Tew

Photo Credit - Phil Buckley      

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