Thursday, February 1, 2024

How Wakefield’s Black Horse learned to gallop

Members of the Wakefield Word with Black Horse Poets writers' groups have kindly written this guest blog about their history. 

Read on to discover 'how Wakefield's Black Horse learned to gallop'!

6 members of the Wakefield Word Group, and Councillor Jack Hemmingway in the middle, smiling at the camera. Councillor Hemmingway is holding a trophy of a horse.
Members of the Black Horse Poets and Wakefield Word Group with their new patron, Councillor Jack Hemingway, in January 2024.
Left to right: Susan McCartney, William Thirsk-Gaskill, Jasmine King, Cllr Jack Hemingway, Angie de Courcy Bower, Lindsey Marie, Stefan Grieve

Michael Yates had been a newspaper journalist for a number of years, starting with the Wakefield Express series. After which he worked for the Sheffield-based evening paper The Star, commuting by bus every day from his Sandal home.

In 1996, he started teaching a Creative Writing class at Wakefield College and also became a part-time subeditor on the Huddersfield Examiner. One lunchtime he walked into Huddersfield’s Albert pub to see they had a poetry anthology on sale. He discovered it was produced by The Albert Poets, who met there regularly.

Roger Manns, a retired teacher of Modern Languages who taught at Wakefield’s St Thomas à Becket and Outwood Grange, had joined the Creative Writing class; and he shared Michael's interest in establishing a Wakefield poetry group. Roger’s cousin was then manager of Wakefield’s Black Horse pub in Westgate, so Roger and Michael went along to see him and secured a free meeting space in exchange for the promise of extravagant sums of money being spent at the bar. And in 1998 they wrote to all their Wakefield poetry pals begging them to join the newly created Black Horse Poets.

Over the years, there have been changes of venue and changes of officers, but the Black Horse Poets have always managed to hold regular monthly meetings of readings laced with thoughtful and friendly critique. They have also published three full-blown anthologies: 'Full Gallop' (2000), 'Front Runner' (2008) and 'Full Rein' (2013); issued pamphlets of poems every year between 2011 and 2019; produced a magazine called 'The Horse’s Mouth', and even made CDs and videos.

Members have held meetings or given public readings at such Wakefield locations as Drury Lane Library, Henry Boons pub, the Mocca Moocho coffee bar, the Orangery, the Black Rock pub, Wakefield Cathedral’s Treacy Hall, the Destiny Church, the Monkey Bar, Newmillerdam Country Park and Westgate Studios; also at Unity Hall as part of Wakefield ArtWalk.

In 2008, Wakefield MP Mary Creagh became the Poets’ patron and remained so until her election defeat in 2019. And she regularly judged their annual poetry competition.

In 2009, the 20-strong group was honoured with a civic reception. By 2016, the Poets had merged with prose group Wakefield Word, who hold separate meetings for writers of stories and plays.

Over the years, individual members have succeeded in publishing volumes of poetry, short story collections and even novels; and have had plays performed on stage and radio.

The Covid lockdown meant members had to meet by Zoom for two years and numbers fell. But now, in the year of their Silver Anniversary, Black Horse Poets and Wakefield Word meet at the Red Shed in Wakefield’s Vicarage Street with William Thirsk-Gaskill as president and Stefan Grieve as Chairperson, and their numbers have grown again.

Stefan Grieve has been chairperson of Wakefield Word since 2018, where he has led and organised meetings for the groups and been an active member in showcasing popular events and award ceremonies over the years.

Lindsey Marie is the newest member of the committee who covers all things publicity, so if you would like the group to be involved in any future events, performances or workshops, she would be delighted to hear from you, simply direct message the group’s Facebook page.

Even so, the group are always looking for new people. For further details contact group secretary Colin Hollis, or find them on Facebook.

Members of the Black Horse Poets and Wakefield Word Group have written a series of responses to objects in our 100 Years of Collecting Online Exhibition:

'Miss Gostick's Tea Set' by Susan McCartneyin response to the Alice Gostick pottery set 

'East End Town, West Side Face' and 'A Miner's Life for Me' by Jasmine King in response to our mining objects

A poem by Angie de Courcy Bower in response to the tulip vase

'The Snap Tins' by Angie de Courcy Bower in response to our mining objects

'Tale of the Celtic Stone Man' by Stefan Grieve (Chairperson), in response to the Celtic stone head

'The Asylum Whistle', also by Susan McCartney, in response to the West Riding Asylum nurse's whistle

'Liquorice Fields' by L. Marie, in response to the liquorice stamp.

Ken Hanson: A Mining Deputy's Story, also by L.Marie

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