After a thrilling Battle of the Bards the winner of the Bard of Hawkwood 2015 contest was announced at Hawkwood College’s Open Day. The crowds gathered on the lawn for the Adult Education college’s annual fete, May Day Bank Holiday Monday, 4th May.
· The spoken word contest was announced last May Day – for the tradition is it must be publicly declared a year in advance in the space it is to be held in. The contest was created by local writer and storyteller, Kevan Manwaring, a former winner of the Bard of Bath contest (1998-9) and author of The Bardic Handbook. He moved to Bath 5 years ago and has founded the Cotswold Word Centre: a platform for language, literacy and literature at Hawkwood College. The Bard of Hawkwood contest is one of its initiatives to promote the local literary scene.
· ‘Stroud has such a buzzing creative scene that it seemed the natural place to start a Bardic Chair. Its literary heritage, inspiring landscape, and vibrant artistic community all help to make the conditions ideal,’ said Kevan Manwaring, founder of the Bard of Hawkwood.
· Kevan set the theme for the competition: Flood, and helped choose the judges. He arranged a series of events leading up to the contest, including an Imbolc Bardic Showcase at Hawkwood in early February, and the monthly Story Supper and Stroud Out Loud! Sessions.
· 3 judges were selected – Anthony Nanson (storyteller/author), Jehanne Mehta (singer/poet) and Deborah Leah (trustee of Hawkwood College).
· The 5 criteria they had to make their decision upon were: 1. Literary Merit and relevance to theme. 2. Poetry/Storytelling/Singing skill, 3. Audience awareness, participation and response, 4. Overall performance, stage presence or ‘awen’ (inspiration), and 5. Bardic Statement. Each entrant performed their entry in turn, and then they read out their Bardic Statements, explaining what they would do if they won the Chair.
· After the performances and statements the judges showed their own skills – Anthony Nanson performed his story of Simonides and the Palace of Memory; and Jehanne was joined by her partner, Rob Mehta to perform their song ‘Green Jack’, which got everybody singing along.
· While the judges deliberated there were performances by Kevan Manwaring and Richard Maisey, who have kindly lent the Chair for the contest. It is from the 1882 Denbighshire Eisteddfod, and, until this contest, has remained unclaimed.
· When the judges returned they announced the winner, Dominic James, a Chalford resident, who won the contest with his impressive suite of poems, ‘Athelney’. All agreed the standard was very high and the decision a difficult one, although in the end, it was unanimous.
· Dominic’s first official engagement will be at the Seed Festival at Hawkwood College on Saturday, July 18th.
· The winner will choose the theme for the next year’s contest. All residents aged 18 or over (by May Day 2016) of GL5, GL6, and GL10 may enter. Details will be announced in the Autumn. Anybody interested in being involved in helping out are invited to get in touch via Hawkwood College.