Poets Without Words

By October 7, 2014

Theatre & Dance. Leeds.

[Photography © Erwan Durand]


We have seen dancers without legs, painters without arms, actors without voices, so why not a poet without words?’


A ‘Purple Patch’: a period of notable success; a time in a person’s life where things come together and excel. This definition not only inspired the name of, but lay the foundations for Bradford-based organisation, Purple Patch Arts.

Purple Patch Arts exists to improve and enrich the lives and life chances of people with learning difficulties. Through workshops, creative learning programmes, projects and activities, Purple Patch Arts ‘inspire creative adventure’ using the arts to build confidence, communication and self-advocacy skills to make things accessible.

Poets Without Words’ is just one of Purple Patch’s recent projects: an exciting project that strives to make classic poetry accessible to young people with learning disabilities. We were lucky enough to speak to Projects Manager Fran Rogers about the development of ‘Poets Without Words’.

Purple Patch Arts worked with schools across Bradford and Halifax to run multi-sensory workshops, using music and drama to explore important texts.

“We developed a series of workshops, starting on the sea and moving around the world before returning back to England, exploring classic texts from each place. The workshops were developed for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities, and so are based around multi-sensory stimuli.


Image 2

‘Sun’. Photography © Erwan Durand


We used a wide variety of texts including Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, Sea Fever by John Masefield, The Pillow Book, The Ramayana and The Tempest. Lines of text were brought to life using sight, sound, taste, touch and smell, with performative elements from facilitators.”

During the workshops, notes and photographs were taken to capture the energy and reactions of those involved. Following the workshops, the second aspect to ‘Poets Without Words’ involved celebrated Barnsley poet Ian McMillan. Ian was challenged to create a piece of original work inspired by the students’ interpretations and experiences. With photography by one of Purple Patch’s freelance artists Erwan Durand, and music by music collective Buffalo, the result is a beautiful; to watch, to listen to and to think about:



“The multi-sensory approach meant that everyone was able to engage with at least part of the workshops, and the reaction we got was truly wonderful. Support staff and teachers saw responses they’d never witnessed before, and a lot of children gained new experiences and exposure to new texts.”

The first ‘Poets Without Words’ project was funded by the Clore Duffield Foundation through its Clore Poetry and Literature Awards. Purple Patch have received further ‘Grants for the Arts’ funding to continue the project:

“We’re just coming to the end of a second project, funded by Grants for the Arts. We delivered multi-sensory workshops that explored classical poetry to children with profound and complex learning disabilities in four schools across Yorkshire, and provided professional development and training in multi-sensory delivery to five established local poets.”


Visit purplepatcharts.org for more information on this and other projects. Follow Purple Patch on Twitter @PurplePatchArts.

www.ian-mcmillan.co.uk | @IMcMillan