Festival music returns to Rydal Mount

Rydal Mount is proud to be hosting another concert as part of the Lake District Summer Music Festival. The gardens of William Wordsworth’s house at Rydal near Ambleside will stage the final show on a day of touring around the South Lakes by an unusual folk duo.

The Apple Sellers are Martin Purdy, the frontman of the award-winning folk outfit Harp and a Monkey, along with gifted multi-instrumentalist and orchard enthusiast Ian Mayer.

It will be a distinctive musical offering featuring the pair who bonded over a shared passion for traditional and modern folk song and the power of great storytelling. They will be performing a series of ‘pop-up’ shows as part of the festival on Thursday, August 3, culminating at Rydal Mount in the late afternoon.

Citing such eclectic influences as Johnny Cash, Nick Cave and many of the old northern folk legends, Mayer and Purdy have created an evocative musical aesthetic underpinned by piano and double bass.

And the duo’s name? With their rehearsals usually taking place in a cider press, there could only really be one moniker for their creative partnership.

With Harp and a Monkey, Purdy has been singing and playing glockenspiel, accordion, harmonica and keyboards for many years, songs about cuckolded molecatchers, a lone English oak tree that  grows at Gallipoli, care in the community, medieval pilgrims and  Victorian bare-knuckle boxers among much more in a true folk tradition.

Formed in 2008, Harp and a Monkey have established a loyal  following on the national circuit, and a reputation for the excellent rapport they establish with their live audiences. They have  twice been asked to perform at the English Folk Expo, the annual international showcase of the best of English folk and roots music.

Mayer, who is Music Department Manager at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, is also a Volunteer Orchard Managerwith Holly Mount Orchardthe only national charity dedicated solely to the creation, restoration and celebration of community orchards.

Curator at Rydal Mount, Leo Fineghan, said: “We love the touring musicians who come here as part of the festival. Our friends and staff are still talking about last summer when the violinist Esther Abrami and colleagues played The Lark Ascending. It was spell-binding. We are really looking forward to hosting the Apple Sellers.”


Kerry to be poet in residence

Poet Kerry Darbishire is to be writer in residence at Rydal Mount, the home of William Wordsworth, this summer.

For three weeks in August she will be at the house and gardens regularly, happy to talk about poetry with visitors as well as looking for inspiration for her own work.

Kerry Darbishire lives locally with her husband in the Lake District where most of her poetry is rooted. Her two full collections were published by Indigo Dreams: A Lift of Wings( 2014) and Distance Sweet on my Tongue (2018). Her biography Kay’s Ark was published by Handstand Press in 2016. Her poems have appeared widely in anthologies and magazines. 

She has won and been placed in many competitions including short-listed in the Bridport Prize 2017. Her work was performed by The Cumbria Opera Group’s Lakeland Cycle in September 2021. She co-edited This Place I know, the Handstand Press 2018 anthology of Cumbrian poets. In 2022 was she was joint winner of the Hedgehog Press Full Fat Collection prize with her latest collection Jardiniѐre.

In her new poetry pamphlet, A Window of Passing Light, Kerry Darbishire presents two groups of poems:  in ‘Studio air’ she focuses mainly on imagery from the paintings she loves in galleries and in ‘Plein air’ she writes from her love of the landscape in the hills of her home in Cumbria.

There are ekphrastic poems (those written about art) in both sections of the book, bearing witness to her strongly visual sensibility and her ability to create vivid word-pictures in her poems. The beautiful painting on the front cover of the book is by her husband, Steve Darbishire RBA, an accomplished professional painter.

Kerry is currently working on two pamphlets and a fourth full collection, and is very excited to have the opportunity to write new works in response to her residency at Rydal Mount.

Kerry said: “It is an honour to be invited to work at Rydal Mount, with the spirit of our wonderful master of Romantic poetry, William Wordsworth.”

How an artist used the wood from our tree

A part of our history at Rydal Mount has returned here thanks to the craftsmanship of a wonderful artist.

You might remember that a giant Cedar tree,  thought to have been planted by William  Wordsworth, came down in the storms just over a year ago.  It is now being put to use in a way that Wordsworth – an  early environmentalist – would certainly approve. Huge slices of the tree were given to wood turner Jonathan Leech who happened to visit  Rydal Mount shortly after the storm, and he’s turned them into works of art, which are now on sale here.

Chris, with curator Leo, admiring one of the bowls

Some of the larger pieces were cut into boards and stacked for drying and have been used to make candle holders, pens and pencils. Which conjures the image of a  21st century poet using a pencil from Wordsworth’s garden to create new  work. Other, larger pieces, have been made into bowls, and these unique  pieces of craftsmanship are now on sale in our tea-room

Jonathan, who is based near Wigton, has spent most of his life in the Cumbrian countryside and combines his other  interests – cycling and walking – with searching for beautiful and  unusual pieces of timber. “All my wood is locally-sourced and is obtained sustainably, from  fallen or storm-damaged trees,” he says.

The  wood is then air-and kiln-dried before being shaped by hand into a  bowl, dish or platter. The  final stages include fine sanding and  finishing with mineral oil, to give a perfectly smooth finish. These  processes ensure his products are happy in any environment, including  centrally-heated rooms.

Do come along and see – and feel – these beautiful items which will grace any home. Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the poet’s great great great great grandson, has been using one of the fountain pens since the end of last year. “I carry it with me everywhere. It’s a beautiful pen, and writes beautifully too.  We are sure that  Wordsworth, an early environmentalist, would approve of this up-cycling!”

Poetry competition celebrates 10th anniversary

YOUNG poets from across Cumbria are being invited to follow in the footsteps of one of the greatest of them all, William Wordsworth.

Wordsworth’s family have launched the annual Rydal Mount prize for young poets, in the tenth anniversary year of the popular competition. Pupils at all primary and secondary schools across the county are being asked to take part.

“Over the years the contest has has drawn some wonderful contributions from talented youngsters across the county,” said Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the great great great great grandson of the poet, who is one of the organisers.

The theme this year is Peace which can be interpreted as the writer wishes. “So it’s not just war and peace, but perhaps peace of mind, peace and quiet, family peace, peace after a storm, and so on,” said Christopher.

The winning poem will be framed and displayed alongside the work of William Wordsworth in his former home near Ambleside, for thousands of visitors to see.

The winner of last year’s contest, on the theme of Renewal,  was Anya Scott from Grasmere primary school.

Christopher with winning poet Anya

There will be a winner from the primary schools and one from the high schools, who will each receive books, and an overall winner who will receive book tokens to the value of £50.

Entries should be typed in 12 or 14 point font, double spaced, and no longer than one side of A4 paper. Each entry should carry at the top of the page the name and age of the writer, and the school they attend. Entries which do not have these details cannot be put forward for judging.

They should be saved as individual Word documents, with no illustrations or artwork, and emailed as attachments to: poetry@rydalmount.co.uk

The closing date is Friday March 24. All who enter will be invited with parents and/or teachers to the award ceremony at Rydal Mount on June 15.

Grasmere school takes poetry award

The winner of this year’s Rydal Mount Wordsworth Prize for Young Poets is Anya Scott from Grasmere primary school.

Three other pupils at the school were runners-up: Ted Iveson, Freya Jones and Noah Finlayson.

The competition is run annually and this year the theme was Renewal. Poems are judged by the descendants of William Wordsworth and the prizes were presented by the poet’s great great great great grandson, Christopher Wordsworth.

Inward Eye screenwriters in residence at Wordsworth’s home

Rydal Mount is proud to be hosting top screenwriters once again who will gather here for a long weekend to share the secrets of their success.

They will be leading a writers’ workshop for a group of new screenwriters from across the UK, as part of our wonderful collaboration with the Inward Eye Film Festival at Zeffirellis cinema in Ambleside.

The Inward Eye Film Festival is organised by Zeffirellis’ managing director Dorothy Smith, with Charlotte Wontner of Hopscotch Films, who is a descendent of William Wordsworth. The name comes from a line in Wordsworth’s most famous poem, “I wandered lonely as a cloud” * where the poet alludes to individual imagination and artistic spirit. It was first held in 2019, following a discussion with the actor Brian Cox when he visited Rydal Mount. He is now patron of the Inward Eye Film Festival.

Screenwriters with their mentors and the festival support team at the last workshop at Rydal Mount

The workshop will be attended by seven screenwriters who have been invited to hone their skills alongside industry mentors and writers. They will be given constructive feedback on their scripts, and pitching advice, and be invited to networking events and talks at the film festival as well as all the evening screenings.

A headline talk at the festival will be after the ‘Mrs Harris Goes to Paris’ screening with director Tony Fabian and multi-award-winning writer Olivia Hetreed. Olivia was a mentor in 2019 when the festival screened ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ as an anniversary film.

Vicki Jung, a freelance script editor with over 20 years’ experience assessing and developing feature film scripts for the UK film industry and international markets will be running the workshop again this year. Mentors at the workshop include Charlotte Wontner herself, who has worked extensively across film and television. Charlotte  produced the feature film ‘The Carer’ (2016) starring Brian Cox, Emilia Fox and Anna Chancellor which premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Screenwriter Henry Fitzherbert is also joining the mentor team again. Henry recently wrote the feature ‘Born a King’ and co-wrote ‘Slaughterhouse Rulez’ starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Michael Sheen, Margot Robbie, Asa Butterfield, Finn Cole and Hermione Corfield. Henry has just co-written ‘The Cowboy War’ a new television drama series for Netflix. 

At the last festival: Vaughn Mullady, Claire Evans, Charlotte Wontner and John Archer

Also at the workshop as a mentor is John Irvin, the British film director and producer with more than 30  motion pictures to his name and extensive experience working with most major film studios, both in the UK and America. He is co-founder of DearHeart Productions where he co-produced and directed ‘Mandela’s Gun’, which screened at the Inward Eye Film Festival in 2019. Also mentoring is Steve Bowden, a producer with over 25 years experience in the industry. His film work has been licensed by major international film  distributors; broadcast on the BBC, ITV, Channel Four and SKY; streamed on Netflix and Amazon and at international film festivals.

The team is completed by Jonathan Hourigan, a graduate of the National Film and Television School and a former assistant to Robert Bresson, who is now Programme Director for the MA in Screenwriting at the University of Manchester. He is currently co-writing the first feature film of the Serbian documentary filmmaker  Maja Novakovic. 

Charlotte Wontner said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for the budding screenwriters, to have individual attention from these big names in the industry who will help them focus on the most important areas of their projects and give them the tools they need to reach the next stage with their scripts”.

One-to-one mentoring

One of the previous attendees, Annabel Bates,  said: “The workshop was a unique, fruitful, and enabling experience in a venue to die for.” And Keir Alexander said: “Our task was to work intensely through each other’s scripts, reading, analysing, feeding back and offering ideas, all of which was achieved with the minimum of rancour and the maximum of warmth. Much of this was down to Vicki Jung, the presiding script consultant, who was more than impressive with her insights and her ability to frame her ideas swiftly, fully and effectively, for the benefit of each writer.”

The Inward Eye Film Festival  was founded in the hope of sustaining arts in the North West and promoting independent film-making. This year each of the three days is themed  on aspects of what Wordsworth celebrated in the human spirit. 

Day One’s theme is entitled Origins and Dreams, and includes ‘The Gravedigger’s Wife’, Somalia’s first ever Oscar submission this year, ‘Full Time’ (‘A Plein Temps’) winner of best director and best actress awards in the Venice Horizons Section, and the recently released ‘Mrs Harris Goes to Paris’ starring one of our best and most versatile actresses Lesley Manville. A screening of  Mark Cousins’ ‘The Story of Film: A New Generation’, continues his examination of the power of film into 2021, and Mark will be virtually present for a Q&A afterwards.

Day Two, Secrets and Escapes, centres  on the presentation of reality and deception in film, including the harrowing documentary looking at the failure to prosecute those guilty of Holocaust crimes, ‘Getting Away with Murders’ with writer, director, producer David Wilkinson in attendance to speak about this incredible documentary. And ‘My Old School’ is a striking documentary using animation, interviews and dramatisation of the true, strange story of a 30-something man who attended school pretending to be a teenager. And there’s a screening of ‘Women Make Film’, a revisionist history focusing on women’s integral role as a creative force in film. 

The final day, Risk and Reflection, brings the highly acclaimed animation ‘Where is Anne Frank’ , along with, among others, ‘Joyland’, winner of Un Certain Regard Jury prize at Cannes (Pakistan’s first ever), and ‘Fire of Love’ (according to Rolling Stone, “The greatest Lava-fuelled love story ever told!”). The festival day three headline film is ‘Explorer’, the epic documentary about the life and adventures of Sir Ranulph Fiennes. The filmmakers will all be there too for a Q&A after the screening.

The concluding film of the Festival is David Cronenberg’s controversial 2022 Palme D’Or nominee ‘Crimes of the Future’. There are 29 films in all, many with filmmakers’ Q&As, a wonderful choice of anniversary films with some BFI 4K remastered films, plus an Inward Eye Short Film selection, and music each evening.

It’s a hugely ambitious project for the team at Zeffirellis (with Fellinis) which has been screening films in Ambleside for more than 40 years. There are five cinema screens across three sites, along with two restaurants, a daytime cafe, and a jazz bar which features free concerts every weekend.

Full details of the screenwriting mentors, and details of how to apply for next year, can be found at https://ieww.co.uk/mentors/

Christmas Fair returns to Rydal Mount

The Wordsworths are very excited to be welcoming you all back to Rydal Mount in December for the Christmas Fair.

It will be held over two days, December 10 and 11, in the house and gardens, and we are sure it will be even better and lovelier than last year.

We have a house full of local crafts artists with lovely gifts for Christmas, and more stalls in our garden marquee. The wonderful musicians from Harps North West will be playing for us on the gallery, and in the garden we will have festive songs from the South Lakes Choir. Tea and coffee, mulled wine and mince pies will be available in the tea room, and hot food from the fabulous Joey’s cafe. And we’ll light the fire pit too, as we did last year.

Our stall-holders include Lorna Singleton who weaves oak, Laura McGuigan with macrame wall hangings, Letty Ashworth of the Lakeland Stitch, Moongazer Cards, Felted Herdwick from Emma Benson, Kate Stalker’s Oubas knitwear, Tilly Mint Silver jewellery, Floral Linings, Juliet Handcrafts, and Penni Simpson with her Fusion Glass Art.

We are also delighted to welcome wood craftsman Jonathan Leech who will be selling some very special items. He was given huge slices of the giant Cedar tree – thought to have been planted by William Wordsworth – which fell in the storms last year.

He’s been turning them into works of art, and these will be on sale at the fair. They include beautiful bowls, candle holders, key fobs, pens and pencils. Which conjures the image of a 21st century poet using a pencil from Wordsworth’s garden to create new work. We are sure that Wordsworth, an early environmentalist, would approve of this up-cycling!

Please book your tickets now as the advance booking price is just £4. Parking will be available in the grounds of Rydal Hall, and at Pelter Bridge. The fair will be open from 10.30 – 4pm each day. Book here: https://www.rydalmount.co.uk/

A musical evening at the poet’s home


If seeing the Professor of Philosophy at Oxford University play and sing the poems of William Wordsworth wasn’t an intriguing enough prospect, seeing him at Wordsworth’s former home for 37 years made it irresistible.

Professor Paul Lodge (apart from enjoying a serious think in his day job) is an accomplished and experienced musician.

On September 17 he launched his latest project: an album of some of Wordsworth’s poems set to tunes of his own composition and sung by him. Where better than at Rydal Mount?

The project had its origin as part of the Wordsworth 250 project to mark the poet’s 250th. anniversary .

The Wordsworth family invited friends, celebrities and the public to upload themselves reading a favourite Wordsworth poem to a website. Given his musical background, Paul sent in a song rather than a reading. This was enthusiastically received by Christopher Wordsworth Andrew and Paul went away to write more. The resulting album Preludes was produced by Nashville producer Ryan Michaels, with acoustic tracks and others with instrumental backing. The result is refreshing, intriguing and thought-provoking.

The concert was held in the intimate surroundings of Wordsworth’s Drawing Room, the very room where some of the poems would have been written or revised and read by the great man himself. Paul played an acoustic set beginning with some of his other material and talking about his musical inspiration, especially from Bob Dylan.

Paul Lodge playing at Rydal Mount

He then played a set of nine of the poems which was enthusiastically received by an appreciative audience. From the very first song, a setting of the sonnet London 1820 It was immediately apparent that Paul, apart from being a philosopher and musician, was a serious Wordsworthian, understanding the nuance and messages of the poems brilliantly.

By contrast, the next poem The Sun has long been set was given a more upbeat, almost driving rhythm which worked very well indeed.

Paul shared some of his personal memories of times in the Lakes as an introduction to To _ _ on her first ascent to the summit of Helvellyn. This was actually the poem which Paul sent in as part of the Wordsworth 250 celebration which started off the whole Preludes project.

I particularly enjoyed his version of We are Seven, one of Wordsworth’s early ballads in which  a speaker (possibly the poet) seeks eternal truths from simple minds. Paul powerfully brought out the poignant and moving message.

The longest number was the setting of Lucy Gray, a tragic poem based on a story told to William by his sister Dorothy.

It’s conventional at a concert of popular music for the artist to end with one of his greatest hits. What else could Paul have closed with but, I wandered lonely as a cloud? As with all the poems chosen, Paul brought a freshness and vitality in his setting.

A wonderful evening in a very special setting had come to an end.

Paul himself said afterwards:

The audience was wonderfully generous and warm in their appreciation of the performance and I’m extremely grateful to everyone who made it such an unforgettable experience. There is already talk of another performance sometime in 2023, which I’m very much hoping will come to fruition.

Thanks also to Leo and his team at Rydal Mount for organising another outstanding event.