Locked Down But Not Out is theme of new Sussex poetry competition

Locked Down But Not Out is the theme of a new poetry competition, organised by Chichester poet Ken Jones and sponsored by Wagtail Coffee & Yoga.

Wednesday, 20th January 2021, 6:00 am
Wagtail Coffee & Yoga owner Laurel Collishe

“We have all felt many different emotions during the coronavirus pandemic and so we are inviting entries that reflect the ups and downs during this time,” Ken said. “Anyone may enter. One entry per person. Up to 25 lines of any poem format. As entries are received, they will be printed, given a number and posted in Wagtail’s windows.”

Submit online to [email protected] and include your name, age and town of residence. Submissions will be accepted until February 20, followed by public voting and judging from February 21 to 27, with the winners announced on February 28.

The awards are three People’s Choice Awards, Best of Category and three Honourable Mentions. The categories are under 14, 14-18 and 18-plus.

The judges are Hugh Dunkerley, reader in creative writing and contemporary poetry at the University of Chichester; poet Ken Jones; and Wagtail Coffee & Yoga owner Laurel Collishe. Full details online at wagtailcoffeeandyoga.com.

Wagtail Coffee & Yoga gift cards will be given to the winning poem in each category.

Winners will also be invited to present their poem at a virtual reading.

Ken said: “This past year has been full of restrictions to keep us safe and to save lives. Fortunately we have always been free to enjoy outdoor exercise and for many that has meant a daily meander. But after nearly a year of exploring local paths, and with the onset of colder, darker days, the blessed walk has become more of a slog. With country lanes now soggy, and closed shops featuring blank displays, motivation to get up and out is waning. We long to meet friends in bustling towns, give them a hug, share a drink.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has been tough on everyone with retail and hospitality sectors particularly hard hit. But one Chichester high street newcomer has been busy reimagining what it means to be a community gathering place whilst social contact is forbidden.

“Wagtail Coffee & Yoga in Eastgate’s Church Square is launching an initiative to enhance our daily outings and offer us a chance to creatively take stock of our current mental state.

“Wagtail opened its doors this past June during the first lockdown. They quickly developed a number of loyal regulars who carried them right through the year.

“As foot traffic has slowed, they’ve had more time to chat with customers and reflect on how they might brighten their solitary days. Struck by how many people stopped to read the yoga instructor bios posted in the studio windows, it occurred to Wagtail owner Laurel Collishe that the cafe’s extensive glazing might offer an opportunity to do much more than showcase products.”

During the initial lockdown, Wagtail laid out a group of books, turning a page each day for passers-by.

Laurel said: “Customers surprised us with their gushing thanks for such a simple effort and we were happy to give residents something interesting to view.”

Now we are back in lockdown, Laurel realises: “We’re in need more than ever for meaningful interaction but still kept from face-to-face conversation. What if we could collect our thoughts, write them down and leave them for others to engage with when they’re out walking?”

“Poetry offers the invitation to explore inward but express those findings outward within the safety of structured verse.”