We are proud to announce that we have appointed a Poet in Virtual Residence!
Jo Bell, author of The Shipwright's Love Song, has teamed up with Peak District Online to celebrate the Peak District in verse. Jo will visit landmarks, festivals and ordinary Peak places to bring us a new and thought-provoking slant on things familiar, unfamiliar and undiscovered.
Jo is not only a working poet but also a professional archaeologist, so her view on the historic landscapes of the Peak is professional as well as passionate. 'All of the Peak's special places have been shaped by human activity,' she says. I want to explore special places like Arbor Low stone circle, busy places like Bakewell Farmers' Market, and look at the landscape features like the rivers and the peaks themselves. I'll also be writing about traditions specific to the Peak, such as Castleton Garland Day or the Shrovetide Football at Ashbourne.' But you won't find po-faced odes here. 'There's usually humour in my pieces - but all poetry is a special use of language, and it's the best way to tap into the deep feelings of place and identity that the Peak District inspires,' Jo tells us.
Jo will be pointing us towards the work of other poets and writers too. 'The Peak is bursting with creative industries,' she says, 'and there are writers in every valley and village. We now have a Poet Laureate of the Peak, Alec Rapkin, and I hope to introduce you to his work, and to that of others who love this part of the world.'
Jo's first piece came out of a visit to Castleton at New Year, when she 'got rid of a particularly bad hangover by slogging up to Peveril Castle, after a night staying with a big group of friends at the Rotary Centre. It was a truly magical day - everyone seemed happy, and we walked through the streets drinking mulled wine and window shopping. I hope you'll enjoy it.'
Jo welcomes suggestions for future subjects, especially locally distinctive events, foods or customs. Watch this space for more - we hope to post each poem at the beginning of the month!
The Athens of The Peak - A Place of Poets & Painters Further west along the main street notable dwellings of similar vintage include Merrill House and the manor house dated 1615 which was the birthplace of local poet, Richard Furness (1791-1857).
Along with Canon Thomas Seward and his daughter Ann, who was known as the 'Swan of Lichfield', and who together occupied the 17th century Old Rectory beside the church, Furness and curate Peter Cunningham, also a minor poet, formed an artists circle, a small community of writers who in early Victorian times earned Eyam the rather grandiose title of 'The Athens of the Peak'.
In the twentieth century well known local writer and historian Clarence Daniel wrote many books on Derbyshire including 'The Story of Eyam Plague', which included a guide to the village. He was also the founder and curator of the original museum which he and his wife ran from their home, Le Roc.
The splendid Miners Arms on Water Lane, just off the Square at the east end of the village, is the epitome of the country village pub and Eyam's only remaining hostelry - four others having closed and converted to private dwellings in recent years.
Modern Eyam is well equipped for residents and visitors alike with a large car park opposite the museum, complete with toilet and washroom facilities, and a variety of retail establishments including a post office, antique and curio shops, gift shops, cafes and local art and craft galleries. It is the archetypal Peakland village and typifies all that is best about Derbyshire hill villages, with footpaths and walks in almost every direction, either through the village, redolent with age and the unique character of its well preserved and heroic past - or into the equally unique and absorbing surrounding countryside which shelters beneath the benevolent wooded slopes of Eyam Edge.