In early 2015, Friends of Bradford Beck ran a poetry competition to stimulate interest in the project whilst at the same time generating the linking text for the plaques. The specification proved to be an interesting challenge for the 28 poets who submitted poems. A book containing all of the entries has been published by Fire Tree Press and is available to purchase.
The glory and a prize of £200 went to Jane Callaghan. We asked her to say a few words:
“I was going to say that I’m not a poet, but now I find I am, and a published one at that! My background is in pharmacy and there’s not a lot of poetry in them thar pills (with the honourable exception of Marriott Edgar’s ‘Recumbent Posture’ as performed by Stanley Holloway). I do love words though, and for me the competition to find a poem for the beck plaques was a kind of word puzzle. The rules were quite precise: it was to be a fifteen line poem with each line having only 45 characters (including spaces and punctuation); It should ideally say something about each of the sites where the plaques would be laid and also about the Bradford Beck itself.
I’ve lived in the Bradford area all my life, but I’d no idea that the Beck ran right through the city centre. The more I read about it, the more incensed I became about the shameful way the poor old Beck had been treated, and I stopped thinking that the Friends of the Bradford Becks were deluded fools with their grand plans and that they might actually be onto something.
So my poem developed. I wanted it to rhyme because the second part of the couplet would be a reward for anyone seeking out the next plaque. I wanted each plaque to make sense on its own in case one was eventually lost to a road-widening scheme, or even better, that it might no longer be needed because that particular stretch of the beck had been opened to daylight. Who knows what might happen in a hundred years’ time? And that’s what so wonderful to me, that my words so beautifully hand carved by Pat Walls onto these fifteen plaques will probably still be there, set into Bradford’s pavements, many years from now. That is quite some prize! Future generations may look at them and wonder about how they got there, but why each of them is there is obvious – it’s all about the Beck and the settlement which grew upon its banks to be the city we have today.”
Reading credits for the recording:
1-2 Emily Bland, 3-4 Shazia Ashram, 5-6 Bob Mark, 7-8 Irene Lofthouse, 9-10 Deborah Redfearn, 11-12 Sara Dixon, 13-14 Eddie Lawler, 15-16 Ahmer Bashir, 17-18 Tony Emmott, 19-20 Charlotte Murie, 21-22 Lelsley Bruce, 23-24 Ann Morgan, 25-26 Shamim Akhtar, 27-28 Ed Butterworth, 29-30 Jane Callaghan.