On 16th October 2019, four residents and their carers from Hungerford Care Home together with seven Year 5 pupils from Hungerford Primary School were delighted to join The Duchess of Cornwall for the first Poetry Together event, an initiative led by author and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth to unite young and older people to recite poems they have learned by heart.
There were four other schools with their respective care home residents also taking part in the event at Eaton Square School in London. The Hungerford ensemble was the first to perform with their recital of ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ by Edward Lear, along with their carefully choreographed hand actions (wth prompts for the care home residents provided from the front row by HPS Assistant Headteacher Mrs Allen!).
Hungerford Care Home resident, Graham Cartey, 63, said: “I think this day has been great for the children. I didn’t want to let them down this morning, so I rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed. It was good.”
Another resident Audrey Hawkins, 91, was up at 3 am in the morning because she was so excited. She told carehome.co.uk: “It’s like a dream, I can’t believe it’s happened. I’m glad I woke up today.”
After the final performance, the children and residents were treated to a delicious tea and meeting the Duchess.
Hungerford Primary School pupil Austin Pugh, age 9, asked her if she learnt ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ when she was at school. The answer was yes she did, and her granddaughters and grandsons have also learnt it.
Pupil Florence Johnson said ‘It was fun! I was really lucky to stand next to the Duchess. I loved the massive cake & we had full glasses of lemonade!’
Hungerford Primary Headteacher, David Mayer, said: “I think that it has been wonderful today to combine two completely different generations to produce a set of memories that neither generation will ever forget.”
Jill Rennie, news editor of carehome.co.uk, which brought together Hungerford Primary School and Hungerford Care Home for the Poetry Together event, said: “Having been involved with the Poetry Together campaign since June when it was launched by Gyles Brandreth, I have been lucky enough to see first-hand the benefits of Hungerford Care Home and Hungerford Primary School getting together, memorising poetry and sharing their love of language.
“The Poetry Together tea party was an incredibly proud and moving day watching young and old standing together, reciting poetry in front of The Duchess of Cornwall, Gyles Brandreth and an audience of other care home residents and school children.
“I have seen a community coming together and a firm link between Hungerford Care Home and the school grow. I am looking forward to seeing further projects in the future.”
The initiative is backed by Dukes Education, whose Founder and Chair of Governors, Aatif Hassan, said: “If this project can uplift the lives of young people through the nourishing effect of poetry – and equally put a smile on the face of the older generation – what a wonderful event it’s going to be done.”
Gyles gave every participating school a signed copy of his new poetry anthology Dancing by the Light of the Moon. Inspired University of Cambridge research which confirmed the benefits to memory, speech and confidence from learning and speaking poetry, Gyles Brandreth, said: “The benefits of poetry for old and young are vast, and Poetry Together creates a new way for these groups to come together and share a common experience.
“This event, celebrating the inaugural Poetry Together project is the perfect stage for pupils and the elderly to flex their poetic muscles, and we really hope it will encourage enough people to join in so we can run the project every year.”
More than 200 schools and care homes have now signed up to take part in Poetry Together.