• Poetry for Wellbeing

Online poetry courses led by Hampshire Poet Kathryn Bevis have proved a massive hit with aspiring poets during the lockdown.

The Poetry for Wellbeing courses were launched by charity Hampshire Cultural Trust (HCT) and designed by Bevis as a way for those new to poetry to express themselves and write about what is important to them in a positive and encouraging forum. As well as presenting an opportunity for participants to develop a new skill, the courses were run to create a sense of community, connection and belonging at a time of social isolation for many.

The live, online courses are being delivered free of charge and are part of HCT’s Brighter Futures programme, which is funded by Hampshire County Council’s Adult Community Learning programme, Hampshire Achieves. The courses run twice a week for five weeks, with Bevis teaching participants how to translate their thoughts and feelings into poetry on the page and then mentoring them to make sure their poems are as good as they can be.

Seventeen of the poems produced by group participants have been recorded by Bevis and will be available to experience to on HCT’s Culture on Call, www.cultureoncall.com, from 27 May. Culture on Call, HCT’s new digital publication launched to connect communities and culture during the lockdown, will also feature Kathryn Bevis reading her poem Devil Day, which was the winning entry in the 2019 Poets and Players competition and has since been published on Words for the Wild.

Poetry for Wellbeing emerged from a year-long, Arts Council funded project hosted by Bevis in conjunction with Solent Mind and is now part of a wider, online Brighter Futures programme launched by Hampshire Cultural Trust during the lockdown. 12 courses have been programmed for April – July, including three Poetry for Wellbeing and two Life Writing for Wellbeing, also designed and led by Bevis. All of the courses are now fully booked.

Deborah Neubauer, Head of Community at HCT, commented: ‘We have been overwhelmed by the response to the programme. Even after adding more courses than we were originally planning to run, we still haven’t been able to offer places to everyone who has enquired due to the high demand. At a time when many people are feeling isolated because of the lockdown, the courses have really hit a need, providing participants with a chance to be creative, add structure to their day and learn a new skill, but most importantly, to meet people online and feel part of a community.’

Kathryn Bevis added: ‘I have been delighted with the enthusiastic response to our Poetry for Wellbeing courses. The talent and dedication of all the poets has been wonderful to witness, and the resulting poems are the fruit of their imaginative engagement. It’s a great honour to perform these and exciting for all of us to see them published in Culture on Call. As an advocate for poetry and poets, I am convinced that this art form is more important now than ever: poems are invitations to bear witness to our experiences, to our understanding of others and ourselves. They can help us to live more watchful, appreciative, and enriching lives.'