Words can harm or help or heal, make you laugh, or cry or both
Ask award winning poet Terry Caffrey. He’s been helping our young adult carers to find a voice – and use the power of poetry to express what they feel.
Some of their words could even find their way to the walls of family rooms at a new specialist mental health unit which opens in March.
The Harbour provides 154 beds and other services on the Whyndyke Farm site off Preston New Road in Blackpool.
The name of the facility, which replaces Parkwood and also offers psychiatric intensive care, has been carefully chosen too. The Harbour – a place of refuge, shelter, safety.
Words are so important to the ethos of this place that each of the 10 suites bears the name of a writer … Keats, Byron, Austen, Bronte, Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Stevenson, Churchill, Orwell and Dickens.
Some had direct experience of mental health issues themselves.
But the words of carers – young and older – could have far greatest impact in empowering others within the Harbour.
Inspirational one liners and poems penned under Terry’s guidance during a series of half term workshops could end up within the facility or between the pages of an anthology if funding can be found.
Young carers’ family support worker Vicky Robinson explains that carers did something similar some time ago, after realising that there were very few greetings cards on the market for those who are mentally ill – or for whom ‘get well soon’ just wouldn’t work. So they came up with designs of their own.
The sessions were held at our Drop-in Centre on Church Street, an area which has become Blackpool’s creative hub.
Young carers who took up the chance to have a masterclass with Terry were soon weaving magic with their own words.
They had a tough act to follow. Terry, in common with many scousers, has a way with words – and he uses them to break down barriers.
Already one of Blackpool’s WordPool veterans, he’s worked in 28 prisons and 3000 schools. He was the North West’s first ‘author/reading champion’.
He’s worked with theatres, football clubs and orchestras, and is writer in residence at England’s national football museum – and national coal mine.
He doesn’t just read his poetry, he sings his poetry, raps out his poetry and makes each word leap off the page – and live. Not bad for self styled 11-plus ‘failure’ who got his GCSE in English Literature at 30.
He’s currently taking part in the Halle’s Bridgewater for All Spring project – youngsters attending his poetry sessions and then creating lyrics and vocal music of their own ahead of hearing the Karelia Suite to be performed on Monday February 23.
“I’m a very lucky man to do what I love and get paid for it,” Terry admits.
From Karelia to carers has been a labour of love too for Terry, who helps take care of his own mum, who’s 90.
He tells the young carers of how he finished one workshop and, after a 120 mile drive home, turned on his phone to 17 calls from his mum reporting a ‘large rat’ in the airing cupboard. It turned out to be two old, rolled up socks, which he carried out with due ceremony on a shovel.
He draws on life often as the inspiration for his work. One poem particularly resonates with young carers – in a town which has seen its share of heartbreak as a result of bullying of all kinds. It’s called Cyber and is an indictment of online bullying:
“There’s a bully in the bedroom feeds off silence through a mouse,
spreads poison through a screen, takes you prisoner in your house.
Talk and tell, open up – don’t keep it bottled in,
talk and tell, open up – don’t let the cyber bullies win.”
Terry inspires the kids with word association games, and opening lines from some of his own poems – including “It wasn’t me, Miss” (inspired by his now grown up son Liam) and his Hungry Caterpillar poem which starts “it was so quiet…”
They quickly wove words chosen at random into a seamless thread – as these extracts from poems by 15 year old Tonisha Drew and 16 year old Jodie Orritt show.
Tonisha looks after her dad, who has brain damage, and Jodie cares for her nan, who has heart problems and cystic fibrosis, and who has raised Jodie since she was 12 weeks old.
“They are utterly inspirational – I came here not knowing a lot about carers and just feel immensely privileged and honoured to have met them,” says Terry.
In case of
by Jodie Orritt
In case of money buy a dress
In case of a dress make sure it’s the best
In case of the best ignore judgements
In case of judgements stand tall
In case of tall be happy
In case of happy have money
In case of money – buy a dress!
River of Words
by Tonisha Drew
The world went quiet
Not a noise could be heard
The stars and galaxies cried
As stars began to burst into nothing
The world went quiet
Nothing could be heard.