Inspiring generations through poetry: Whatever The Weather

A community poetry project in Ash has proved that creative writing and performing is not only great fun, it develops positive new skills, confidence and a greater understanding between generations.

Residents at Guildford Borough Council's Japonica Court, and those attending the Shawfield Centre, Ash, and Year 2 classes at Walsh Memorial Church of England Infant School have been working together on a unique poetry initiative called 'Whatever the Weather' with the help of Performance Poet, Justin Coe.

Echoing benefits of the popular Channel 4 programme the Old People's Home for 4 year olds, the project funded by Guildford Borough Council and Arts Partnership Surrey was spread over 10 sessions.

Poetry project Shawfield
Each group - young and old - wrote a series of poems on different topics from weather to fictitious characters, they also wrote letters to one another. Justin attended the sessions helping inspire each group and acted as postman delivering the poems. In the final session the groups met for the first time at the Shawfield Centre and performed their poems together with Justin and a musician.

Both groups thoroughly enjoyed the day and poignantly gave each other nicknames: the 'lovely elderlies' and the 'tiny humans'. They even educated each other on different aspects of their lives such as 'what is the Xbox and Fornite?', 'why do you eat ketchup with everything?' and 'why do you like bingo?'.

The event was attended by local councillors Cllr Nigel Manning and Cllr Marsha Moseley, who is also Guildford's Deputy Mayor. She said: "This is such a fantastic example of how creative projects really make a difference to residents' lives. The staff here have said how much their residents have enjoyed this project and have found they've felt more positive, laughed more and even found the sessions jogged their memories to reminisce on the good old days when they were growing up."

Headteacher of Walsh Memorial Church of England Infant School, Suzie Cawson said: "The project has been a wonderful experience all round. Writing poetry and for a purpose is something the children have thoroughly enjoyed. We've never been involved in anything like this before and it's been lovely to meet the residents today. We hope we can continue working on projects like this in the future".

One Year 2 child said he "loved all of it," but his favourite was the "when we get old" poem. Justin Coe closed the celebration and described the project as "one of the most joyous" he has ever been involved in.

Published on Tuesday 23 July.