06 June 2023

Flight Patterns

I'm busy working on a brand-new sequence of poems – "Flight Patterns" – that is a special commission for this year's Didsbury Arts Festival. Last week, I met up with Linda from the Friends of Fletcher Moss Park & Parsonage Gardens, and spent a very pleasant hour or so sitting on a bench in the new "spiritual space" (I'm not sure what it's officially called, but that seems apt) near The Croft, watching the birds (a jay, a magpie, a parakeet, a heron, and more, since you're asking) and chatting about all things nature – our feathered friends, seasonal plants, unusual trees, butterflies, all sorts.

I also popped to Didsbury Parsonage, having decided to focus one of the poems on stained glass, prompted by my online poetry group's latest writing exercise, which was to write about someone else's job, inspired by Paula Bohince's "Among Barmaids". My fascination with stained glass was piqued when I was writer-in-residence at Victoria Baths, and I had the opportunity to visit the studio in Lancashire where they revamp the "amazing glazing" – it was such a privilege to be able to see the craftsmen at work and witness the sounds and sights and smells. Anyway, I spent some time at the Old Parsonage (where I'll be performing the poems) admiring the acorns and brambles and other flora and fauna and also the Luna and Sun depicted in the windows. I was also at Manchester Cathedral for a creative writing workshop, when we were invited to study the architecture in relation to metaphysics and I got drawn into the misericords and, of course, the colourful glass, dappling the paved floor. This follows a detour on the way home from our Frodsham trip, nipping to Daresbury, where Lewis Carroll grew up, to see the Alice in Wonderland panes at the church there. 

Emily Williamson and birds. Pic: Claire Huntley

Here's the brochure blurb for my Didsbury Arts Festival project: "Flight Patterns is a unique performance, premiering poems inspired by legendary local resident Emily Williamson and her Wear No Feathers campaign, created especially for the Festival by Didsbury-based writer Sarah-Clare Conlon. Join the poet in the atmospheric Old Parsonage as she reads the new work and shares the process of making it, exploring the life and legacy of Emily who co-founded the Society for the Protection of Birds (now the RSPB) at The Croft in neighbouring Fletcher Moss Park, where a statue is set to be unveiled in her honour."

I have half a mind to turn the pieces into a poetry map, not dissimilar to the sequence I wrote last year for my Ilkley Literature Festival residency (and which you can read here), inviting the audience to join me on a journey, this time around Fletcher Moss Park. Whatever happens, I'll be reading the new work on Saturday 1 July, 2-3pm, at the Old Parsonage, and you can now get your hands on tickets here. I'm really excited to share it, so do join me!