The Duchess of Cornwall praised schoolchildren and care home residents for performing poems as part of an initiative bringing together young and old in celebration of the art form.
Camilla joined the Poetry Together event and tea party at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington, west London, on Wednesday.
She watched pupils from London, Liverpool and Hitchin, as well as a Chelsea pensioner, recite moving and personal poems on themes including the climate crisis and remembrance, and handed them certificates afterwards.
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Broadcaster and former MP Gyles Brandreth, who launched the initiative in 2019, said there were “remarkable” benefits for people to learning poetry by heart, including the improvement of reading, self-presentation and memory.
He said the duchess, who also attended the inaugural event two years ago, “really cares about words and language, the power of reading, the importance of reading, for us to be able to communicate with one another, for us to live fuller and richer lives”.
Camilla told a group of students from St Vincent’s, a school in Liverpool for children with sensory impairment, that their poem, which they read using Braille, had been “absolutely fantastic”.
“It’s brilliant how you do it in Braille, it’s very clever,” she told them, adding that she wanted to learn the writing system.
St Vincent’s student Emily Garner, 16, said she had been nervous at the start but afterwards “felt very proud of myself and my peers”.
“I feel very privileged to be here, to meet the duchess and it’s been an all-round great experience,” she said.
Dr John Patterson, St Vincent’s principal, said the event was helping the pupils be creative, raise their confidence and encourage blind children around the world.
“This is giving us a wonderful opportunity to share our children’s strengths through a medium that just opens doors,” he said, adding that the group had been “thrilled to be included”.
Dr Patterson said the students had gifted the duchess a pouch of wildflower seeds grown and harvested by the children, which symbolised them being “the seeds of hope for the future”.
It’s time to cut the cakes! Greetings from the @Poetry_Together tea party where young people & old people are performing poetry for HRH The Duchess of Cornwall & then tucking into her Nutella Victoria Sponge … pic.twitter.com/FbOQ8LLGLO
— Gyles Brandreth (@GylesB1) November 10, 2021
Pupils from Whitehill Junior School in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, performed the poem I Met An Old Man By The Sea by local poet John Gohorry, who died in October.
The poet’s daughter Clare Bailey is a teacher at the school and joined her students’ recital.
“It was really important to do his poem,” Mrs Bailey said, adding that speaking to Camilla had been an emotional moment for her.
“She said some really nice things to me on the stage – and that’s when I got a bit wibbly – ‘your dad would be proud’,” the teacher said.
Aatif Hassan, chair of Dukes Education and co-founder of Poetry Together, hailed the event as a way to “come together and recognise something so precious to us” and said he was “touched by the energy and passion of all the children”.
After the recital, Camilla joined the students and care home residents for a tea party.
The duchess cut a Victoria sponge cake, for which she had shared her personal recipe earlier this year for the Poetry Together tea parties.
One cake was with strawberry jam, while the other was filled with a chocolate-and-hazelnut spread.
Mr Brandreth cut the second cake and, comparing the size of his slice to the one Camilla had cut, quipped: “This is why her Royal Highness is so slim.”
The duchess asked some of the pupils later: “How do you like the cake?”
To which one student replied: “It’s so good!”
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