Wednesday, 19 July 2017

We All Belong, by Rosalind Adam

By Rosalind Adam

The programme for this year’s ArtBeat Leicester Festival was packed with activities. They ranged from Israeli dancing to philosophy in the pub to a Gurdwara visit with curry lunch. I ticked off the most appealing events but I knew that it would be impossible to attend them all. I was going to have to be selective. 

The festival theme was 'We All Belong' and this was the topic for this year’s ArtBeat poetry competition. I submitted two poems and fully intended to turn up to the prize-giving event but, as I said, it was a busy week. Did I mention the Lindy Hop or the Indian Folk Dancing or the Maypole Dance Workshop? It was a true test of stamina. 

Last Tuesday, with all thoughts of Artbeat behind me, I attended my regular poetry group meeting. I settled down to a morning of workshopping, only to find myself the centre of attention. The Festival organiser had chosen that morning to present me with a certificate, or to be more precise two certificates. To my embarrassment I’d scooped not only 1st but also 4th place in the 'We All Belong' poetry competition. 

There is a lesson to be learnt here. If you enter a competition, make sure to give top priority to attending the prize-giving event, no matter how busy your week is. Here (below) is the poem that won first prize:

The Top Class 

Winner of the Artbeat Leicester ‘We All Belong’ Poetry Competition, 2017

It was our morning mantra: 
Linda. Here, Miss. Andrew. Here, Miss. 
Lee. He’s not here, Miss, and we knew
the Board Man would be on his way.
He’d not go round the back like us.
He’d knock on Lee’s front door 
while Lee hid because that’s what you did 
when The Board Man called.

After the register we all lined up
for assembly in the hall. 
Cross-legged by the back wall 
we flicked paper pellets and sang
about Jerusalem being builded here 
in our green and pleasant land 
which was really grey and full of soot 
from the factory down the road.

In class we sat at desks with lids,
did handwriting with pens that had spiky nibs
and pounds, shillings, pence sums on squared-paper.
We longed for Miss to say, playtime,
and give out bottles of milk from the metal crate. 
In the playground we skipped with the long rope, 
and we chose the song, jelly on the plate, 
because we were the top class. 

We stayed out for PE, for the fresh air,
and spun hoops round our waists, 
round our necks when Miss wasn’t there, 
but games on Friday was the best, 
going to the field, clambering onto the bus, 
racing for the back seat and us all singing
Ten Green Bottles and falling about laughing
because we always got the numbers wrong.

Soon we’d sit the 11 plus test 
and they’d split us up for ever.
We’d be sent to the sec mod down the road
or the big grammar school in town
where we’d be streamed and given homework,
where we’d have to read stuff by Shakespeare, 
do logarithms with a book full of numbers
but for now we were the top class.

Rosalind Adam is a writer and student on the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. Her blog:

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