Jo Bell, who is our poet-in-residence, will be at England's biggest canal festival – the Crick Boat Show – to launch the nationwide mass participation poetry project.
Canals and the colourful narrowboats that cruise them are icons of the British landscape. At Crick, Jo will invite people to tell her their special memories of the waterways: the electric blue flash of a kingfisher, a tranquil cruise in the lazy heat of the summer, and even about the time they fell in and got covered in mud! She will also harvest more memories on Twitter @Canalpoetry #CRICKpoem. Her own poem, made up of all these comments, will appear on the Canal Laureate blog www.waterlines.org.uk.
Jo will also be collecting canal-themed poems from the public until 14 September 2013 and the best poems collected will feature on the Waterlines website. A selection of her favourites will feature as part of Waterlines Live, two exciting public events at the Birmingham Literature Festival on 6 and 12 October 2013.
Jo is using the Poetry Society's Young Poet's Network to encourage 11 to 16-year olds to visit their local stretch of canal or river and respond poetically. 3,000 visitors a week already come to the website to participate in new writing challenges set by leading poets, which encourage young people to see something new in their surroundings.
Jo wants young people to really look at their local waterway, and to write about it in a way that is fresh and true. Young poets have until 3 June 2013 to submit their watery words, after which Jo will choose a few of her favourites to appear on the Young Poet's Network (www.youngpoetsnetwork.org.uk) and the Waterlines website. Instructions will be available on the Young Poet's Network website.
Jo Bell, Canal Laureate, said: “I love the waterways of Northamptonshire, and know the Nene very well. Wherever your favourite canal is, think of one particularly vivid moment – looking down on the river from Fotheringhay Castle, having a pint at a canalside pub, spotting an early-morning heron. You can either write your own poem and send it to us – or just tweet @CanalPoetry with your special memory, and I will do the work for you, making a purpose-built poem including them all”
Crick takes place from 25–27 May and offers an exciting programme of family entertainment, including free boat trips, free traditional children's fun fair, live music, children's activities, arts and crafts stands, a large variety of food and drink stalls, competitions and talks on boat owning, boat buying and living afloat. Over 200 exhibitors will showcase thousands of inland waterways products and services, from boats, engines and chandlery to holidays, brokerage and insurance.