A poet in Chipping Campden
Hasani is a member of Write to Life, Freedom from Torture's creative writing group for clients and former clients. He blogs here about Chipping Campden Literature Festival.
Chipping Campden, a small town in the Cotswolds north-west of London, was the scene of a night of poetry graced by yours truly. On the 4th of May I left Paddington Train Station in the company of Write to Life Co-ordinator Sheila and fellow writer Noah. It was the first time I had left noisy London since I set foot on this cold, green island called the UK.
The purpose of my visit was not to pay homage to the scenic views of that small town in Cotswold but to participate in the annual Chipping Campden Literature Festival. In life there are many firsts, and it was my first public performance since joining the Write to Life group. So I was a bit jittery and nervous when I took to the stage in the evening.
A journey to new places
The journey was not quite incident-free: we could not find the seats reserved for us on the train, even though we had made reservations, mine being seat 55 coach D. On this train, there was no coach D let alone Seat 55. To add salt to wound, they then made us change in Oxford, onto a train that had no seats at all because it was full. Anyway, this shoddy service did not dampen my spirits, because I was gripped by the excitement of seeing new places.
My eyes feasted on the endless green fields, streams, manicured hedges and beautiful country houses, even on the unsightly grey towers spitting steam from the inside to generate electricity. Slough, Reading, Oxford and Moreton in Marsh...
our host Eric was waiting for us at Moreton in Marsh station. A twenty minute drive took us to Chipping Campden, a town made famous by its wool trade and craft, so I was told. A big church – St James' Church - built more than 200 years ago, bears testimony to the prosperity of the wool merchants of that time. At seven we were at the town hall, the venue of the performance.
An evening to remember
More than thirty people were present and the first reader, Mario Petrucci, gave us a short background to each of his poems. After Mario's performance then came the Write to Life ambassadors in the persons of Sheila , Noah and yours truly.
Sheila spoke about Write to Life, and then came Noah who read his poem 'I am a man'.
'Well among men, I am a man' he began. Indeed, Noah is a big man whose public speaking skills helped me to relax a bit hoping not to spoil the evening which had received such support from the local people. After making a few jokes, I took to the podium.
Well, what can my poem 'The price of freedom' mean to these folks, wallowing in the middle of comfort mad serenity mean? I thought to myself. I read my poem and I realised even before I finished reciting that the butterflies had already flown away from my stomach.
Suffice to say it was an evening to remember. After the performance we went to dinner at Vicky's (the festival organiser) before retiring to Eric's place. Ever slept in a house built more than five hundred years ago? I did. I slept like a baby, but, for all this comfort and the hospitality of our hosts, I missed the sounds of buses, the police and ambulance sirens. No wonder they say you can take me from the bush but you can't take the bush out of me. It was too peaceful...
The next day, we took a tour of the town in less than an hour. Eric, our tour guide, showed us the best view of the town, and led us to St James', which was preparing to host the Chipping Campden Music Festival. I also saw some sheep in the field next to the church. How it reminded me of a real village - back home!