John Clare Festival 2010

We seem as startled from unnatural dreams
To hear the summer voice of woods and streams
And feel the sunny air, right green and young
Breathe music round as though a siren sung
(from 'Old Poesy - II')

9 July (Friday)
1.30 pm at Helpston Parish Church – the Midsummer Cushion Ceremony. Pupils from the John Clare Primary School place these cushions of flowers around Clare’s grave. The pupils’ prize winning poems are read and prizes awarded.

6 pm – Guided walk around Helpston. Meet at the Butter Cross.

7 pm onwards – The Langdyke Trust. Official opening of the heritage site at Torpel Manor Field, part of Helpston’s history since the Norman Conquest. The Trust will be hosting a range of walks and talks based on the history of the site from 7 pm onwards.

7.30 pm to 11 pm – Folk Music. John Clare’s Birthday Music and Song Session – an informal evening in the front room of the Exeter Arms, 3 Church Lane, Helpston – free admission – limited space, so arrive in good time – musicians and singers especially welcome – details 01778 571563 or

10 July (Saturday)
From 9.30 am – coffee and toast in the Botolphs Barn – near the Exeter Arms!

10 am – Festival opens in the School Hall - stalls include the J C Society sales, booksellers, local tourist offices, and exhibitions. Buy your tickets for the afternoon coach tour or the evening performance of John Clare and the music of what happens.

10 am – in the marquee – behind the School – St Botolphs Music Group will play before the meeting starts.

10.30 am – in the marquee – welcome and introduction to the Festival, followed by the AGM of the JC Society.

11.15 am – the President’s Address by Ronald Blythe.

From 11 am – An artists quarter in Botolphs Barn.

12 noon – 1 pm and 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm – poetry workshops in the Scout and Guide Centre – for children aged 6 to 12 years, led by Keely Mills and Luke Payn.

Lunches in the Village Hall
John Clare cottage open 10 am to 5 pm

Botolphs Barn – artists and crafts

Bluebell and Exeter Arms – morris dancers and the Peterborough Folk Dance Society perform

Carry Akroyd will be signing her book at Annakin’s Art Shop (near the village shop and post office on West Street) – for more on Carry, visit

1.45 pm – The Poet’s Wife – Judith Allnatt, poet and writer will talk about her recently published book, a reimagining of the life of John Clare through the eyes of his wife, Patty. Judith will be ready to sign books and discuss the novel with any who wish to stay after her talk.

3 pm – coach outing to Great Casterton (tickets available from 10am) and the church where John & Martha (Patty) Clare were married, including a programme of prose, poetry and song by Clare.

3 pm – guided walks around Helpston – meet at the Butter Cross.

3.15 pm – 4 pm – in the Church, read your favourite poem

Enjoy a traditional English tea in the village hall

5.30 pm – in the Church – another chance to read your favourite Clare poem!

7 pm – in the marquee at the John Clare Primary School (by ticket only) – 'John Clare and the music of what happens', poet Malcolm Guite and Jazz Poetry Collective Riprap explore the contemporary resonances of John Clare’s poetry (tickets £10 and £8 concessions).

From 7.30 pm onwards – in the Blue Bell, Frumenty perform a selection of music, including songs about Clare. Frumenty are a three piece band encompassing guitars, mandolin, mandola, banjo and percussion as well as vocals and singing a range of traditional and contemporary folk music.

11 July (Sunday)
11 a.m. – special church service at St Botolphs, led by the Rev Ron Ingamells, Vice Chair of the Society.

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