St George's welcomes world-famous poet Simon Armitage

On Friday 9 February, the English Department welcomed world-famous poet Simon Armitage to St George’s. This was a much-anticipated event, with his work being displayed around the school and Key Stage 4 and 5 students spending the previous week exploring some of his poems.

Simon spent the first hour of his visit in the library, discussing four of his poems with a group of 25 Sixth Form students, as well as a number of teachers eager to come into contact with a poetry legend. Even Mrs Owens found the time to pop into the library to let Simon know that she was a huge fan!

During this workshop, Simon provided the students with the background to our chosen poems, allowing them a rare insight into how these works of literature came into being. Following the poetry reading, Simon opened up a discussion with the group, where the range and quality of the questions demonstrated how closely the students had been paying attention.

Below is a small selection of comments from the students who were present:

“Hearing how one of the first poems Simon published – ‘Snow Joke’ – was inspired by the view from his bedroom window in Huddersfield gave the poem a whole new level of meaning.”

“When I first read ‘Kid’, I thought it was just a simple story about Batman and Robin, so it was fascinating to hear the poet explain its hidden depths about it being a rite of passage poem and about a father/son relationship.”

“Our discussion about Simon Armitage’s poem on the Columbine disaster felt especially topical in light of recent events in Florida and made me want to read the rest of the 1000-line poem.”

“The workshop with Simon Armitage was really insightful. It was interesting to hear about the meanings of the different poems from the poet’s own perspective. His readings of the poems really brought them to life.”

Following the discussion workshop, the students and teachers relocated to the Chapel, where they were joined by the entire Fourth and Fifth Years, as well as the remainder of the English A Level students and over 100 students from Heathside and Salesian’s. As such, the Chapel was at full capacity and the audience was treated to a forty-minute poetry reading before a special Q & A session, where Simon’s wit, dry sense of humour and unique method of storytelling provided an unforgettable experience. The students were captivated by the poem ‘Full Moon’, about the village of Luddenden Foot, and the tale relating to Iceland was all the more relevant as a large proportion of the audience either have been – or will be going – to Iceland as part of St George’s annual Geography field trip.

The students’ engagement throughout both sessions was fantastic and it will be an experience that will live long in the collective memory of the school. A huge thanks to Simon Armitage and Caroline, his agent, for helping to make it such a special day.

26 February 2018

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