Cheltenham, a town of Festivals

My town is a town of Festivals. It buzzes with creativity from writing to art, drama, poetry, hymn writing etc. The Cotswolds seem to be a place that draws some of the most creative brains of our time. We have the Holst Museum, where the music of Gustav Holst can be enjoyed while learning a little about his life and we have a plaque displayed to the great Antartic explorer, Edward Wilson, born and brought up on a farm near Cheltenham. The countryside around here does seem to have inspired many of our great writers and poets over the centuries.

It was, therefore, a pleasure to visit this year’s Cheltenham Poetry Festival and learn about some of the well-known poets connected with the Cotswolds and surrounding areas and also to become acquainted with some of the less well-known ones in a most interesting talk by Sylvia Charlewood.

She introduced us to Caroline Alice Roberts – not well-known for her writings, although as the wife of the Worcestershire composer, Edward Elgar, we have probably sung many of her lyrics which have been wrongly ascribed to Elgar, who only wrote the music.

Then there is the poet, Ivor Gurney, a less well-known first world war poet than many, but beginning to get some recognition now as a poet of our beautiful local countryside. He now has a window dedicated to him in Gloucester Cathedral.

The Poet Laureate of the 1960’s Cecil Day Lewis was also a teacher at Cheltenham College, where fellow poet, Alan Lindsay Gordon attended.

We have a connection too with the poet of a ‘Shropshire Lad’, A.E Houseman and poet, John Masefield.

Many of these came from other places but were attracted to the countryside here for their inspiration.

I would like to finish by acquainting you a poem by James Elroy Flecker (it has been abridged) which links the past with the future of writing. He was educated at Cheltenham’s Dean Close School, where his Father was the Headmaster.

To a poet a thousand years hence

I who am dead a thousand years, 
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.

Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand. 

About journojohnson

I qualified as a journalist in 2002 and after a period working as a freelance for Gloucester Media writing advertorials, interviews, articles and press releases I have gone on to write for lots of magazines and newspapers, both local and national. I write regularly for the Writers and Readers magazine but have also written for CPO's Inspire, the New Writer, Classic Ford, and Take a Break's My Favourite Recipes among many others. I published my first full-length historical novel. Waireka in 2018 and my romantic novella, Alpha Male in 2016. Both can be found on Amazon. Please follow the links on my book page.
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4 Responses to Cheltenham, a town of Festivals

  1. Kirsty Booth says:

    Lovely post Sheila

  2. Thank you so much, Kirsty x

  3. Angus says:

    A vibrant place! Nice.

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