Saturday, 17 June 2017


A mad hatter's tea party (complete with flamingos), flowers of ice and flame standing in old milk churns (the kind I used to see outside farm gates when I was a child), and a poet-tree with paper leaves showing extracts from poems (Blake, Wordsworth, Heaney and others).

These were a few of the displays at our village flower festival last weekend.  Add into the mix the WI's high baking standards, a beautiful open garden, the Border brass band, strong winds, heavy showers.  

The school, nursery, playgroup, six local churches and organisations from the Northern Fells villages all put in displays.  The spinning, craft, art, walking and book groups were all represented.  

I was commissioned to write a poem - my brief was the title of the festival: "Celebrating our church and community in colour" (no pressure then!).  I included as many flower names in the poem as I could (checking my books of wild and garden flowers to see what would be in season).  I was delighted to find that they had been incorporated into the displays (I went round ticking them off the list).  Foxgloves were particularly successful.  Somehow a bumble bee got carried in and continued to collect nectar in the church where the flowers were displayed.

It's not been an easy time over the last couple of years in our community but the festival seems to have been a turning point, bringing people of all ages together.  I wanted to convey this in the poem, which was printed in the festival programme and which I read at the closing ceremony.

A festival of flowers
Gather in your arms
their carnival colours –
poppy and cornflower
foxglove and forget-me-not
iris, aquilegia, alyssum

breathe the scents
of carnation, honeysuckle, jasmine,
rub lavender and mint
between finger and thumb,
taste nasturtium’s peppery leaves

celebrate their shades
of flame and ice,
dawn and sunset,
glimmers of gold and silver,
blues of the sky
and purples of the sea

rejoice at this our festival –
let roses share our love,
lilies bring us comfort,
daisies bless our children
and rosemary grace
our remembering.

© Mary Robinson 2017

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