A New exhibition compares communities in present day Leeds to William Wordsworth’s Lake District.
‘Creative Communities: Wordsworth in Leeds’ is the culmination of a University of Leeds project with some of the city’s older residents and primary schoolchildren.
Through weekly reading and discussion groups with people from Caring Together - a neighbourhood network scheme for people over the age of 60 in Woodhouse - and children from Shire Oak Primary School in Headingley, PhD student Anna Fleming encouraged participants to read Wordsworth’s poetry, and discuss what community means to them and how they picture it.
The exhibition features photographs and original artwork from the participants alongside paintings and photographs from the Wordsworth Trust.
Anna said: “Wordsworth was fascinated by community life in the Lake District and often wrote about local people. In 1810 he taught in Grasmere village school, and in 1808 he helped a subscription fund to support eight orphaned Grasmere children.
“The reading groups in Leeds have been exploring his poems about local people, thinking about the types of people he writes about, how he does it, and how that compares to modern communities in Leeds.”
Anna is part of a collaborative partnership between the School of English at the University of Leeds and the Wordsworth Trust, an independent charity.
Caring Together member Ben Anson, 66, of Woodhouse, said: “What impressed me about Anna’s project was that people who said they didn’t like poetry at school really enjoyed reading and discussing Wordsworth’s poems. It sparked something in them.”
Creative Communities: Wordsworth in Leeds opens at Leeds Central Library on Monday and runs until February 3.
Alun Davies, a teacher at Shire Oak Primary School, said: “Anna’s knowledge of Wordsworth has stoked pupils’ interest in the stories and history behind Wordsworth’s writing. After each session, the children are keen to tell me what they have learned and often regale me with details of their new favourite poem.”
Comments from children at the school include: “If you’ve had a hard day and listen to a poem by Wordsworth it helps you calm down,” and “Some of the words are really strange and they inspire me to do stuff like writing poems and stories.”
Jeff Cowton, curator and head of learning at the Wordsworth Trust, said that the project “wonderfully brings together urban and rural, individual and community, the past and the present.”