Projects & Resources

We engage with hundreds of children of different backgrounds in art and music projects throughout the year, not just during the Festival fortnight. We send professional musicians, writers and artists into schools and community centres to work with and inspire young people, and we provide a platform for students' work by organising special concerts and exhibitions. Find out about our projects and download resources here.

M.R. Peacocke Poetry Project

M.R. Peacocke Poetry Project

In the Spring of 2021 we invited KS3 students from local secondary schools to be involved in an exciting new poetry project that Swaledale Festival developed alongside Meg Peacocke, a much-admired published poet who lives in Barnard Castle. The Festival has a strong legacy of working with local young people both in and out of schools, and we hoped that the project would inspire and strengthen our ties with students in Dales schools.

Our aim was to encourage students to write collaborative poems in any shape or form. We suggested the theme of ‘Through the Window’, as when we initiated the project students were spending a lot of time at home due to the Covid pandemic - looking through a window might provide inspiration.

We felt sure that the students would enjoy writing their poems and we believed that working in groups would be less scary than doing it on their own. We hoped that the project would introduce students to a less familiar art form, that they would learn about grammar, vocabulary, new techniques and have the opportunity of working with a highly-respected published poet in a collaborative process.

We were delighted by the numerous poems sent to us, and we duly sent them on to be critiqued by Meg, who went on to give feedback electronically and also via individual handwritten letters to each student.  Meg’s over-arching feedback regarding the students’ work demonstrates her love for poetry and the worlds it can evoke.

Meg says: Education mostly provides us with a certain array of information and certain methods of thinking about it. That's a narrowing of the world.

Poetry, on the other hand, invites exploration of experience and imagination, and so can open worlds. Writing it, in particular, can work as a way of mapping the self, which is world of its own.

At the same time, poetry is as much a craft as carpentry or cookery and can produce something to be pleased and satisfied with. It can be a game, too, to play either side of the school gate.

I'm happy to have met, through their poems, the children who took the trouble to send something in. It was a challenge to think how best to comment, and a pleasure to read the work.

When asked about the impact that the poetry project had on their students, English teacher Nadia Lewis said:

At The Wensleydale School our students are used to analysing literary texts from the perspective of readers and critics, but it's a very different task to produce their own response to a universal experience. It gave us a fantastic opportunity to explore the power of the carefully chosen word or phrase and how to experiment with structure and sound in poetic form, drawing on something that we'd all been part of so there was also true collaboration in the first drafts.  The detailed feedback from Meg showed them that even though they may see themselves as students, in fact they can also be taken seriously as poets and wordsmiths.  A huge thank you to Meg for her individually written responses and for showing our young people that what they write matters beyond the classroom...

Take a look at the links below – we’re sure you’ll agree that the students from Risedale and The Wensleydale School did a fabulous job!

Huge thanks go to Meg Peacocke for her invaluable input. And of course, this whole project wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the engagement and enthusiasm from both The Wensleydale School and Risedale students and staff.

Risedale School Poems

Wensleydale School Poems


Meg PeacockeM.R. Peacocke (Meg) was born in 1930 and grew up in Devon. She read English at Oxford and spent time singing and playing the oboe. After years of teaching, travel, marriage, bringing up four children, training in counselling and working in the children’s cancer unit of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, she moved to a small hill farm in Cumbria where she lived for twenty-five years. Her hill-farming days now behind her, she currently lives in Barnard Castle.

Although Meg had written poems since childhood, it was in her fifties that she began publishing her work. Peterloo Poets brought out four collections, and Shoestring Press published two books of poetry and an illustrated memoir about her farming days. Several of Meg’s poems have won major prizes, and in 2005 she was the proud recipient of a Cholmondeley Award.

Together with artist Pip Hall she was involved in the Poetry Path, a series of twelve poems based on a year in the life of a hill farmer. These were carved onto stone blocks and placed along a walking route either side of the River Eden, near Kirkby Stephen.

Meg’s brother was the composer and pianist Sir Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012), with whom she collaborated on a number of vocal and choral works from the 1980s onwards, including his final composition which was commissioned by Swaledale Festival in 2012.


  • Honeycomb, HappenStance Press, 2018
  • Broken Ground, Shoestring Press, 2018
  • Finding the Planes, Shoestring Press, 2015
  • Caliban Dancing, Shoestring Press, 2013
  • In Praise of Aunts, Peterloo Poets, 2011
  • Speaking of the Dead, Peterloo Poets, 2003
  • Selves, Peterloo Poets, 1995
  • Marginal Land, Peterloo Poets, 1988
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