Walsall Arboretum Workshop

On Thursday 23rd July I ran a writing workshop in Walsall Arboretum as part of the Walsall Town Festival. The workshop was held in the morning and in the afternoon we went to the Bakehouse in Walsall for lunch and writing up the work, which was then performed by the writers. It’s risky attempting that kind of write-edit-perform in a day activity but in this case it worked well and resulted in some very good work. You can read a few of the pieces below and, hopefully, more will be added later.




by Nina Lewis


We take a walk around the lake.

I stare at the water from some distance

protected from the edge by plant-life.


The water is deep and faceless,

no-one knows the measure.

It is too dark to see the next inch down,

more black than brown.


Lake water takes me inside myself, sets my mind

to darker matter.

Like a ferocious animal, in suspended stillness

the water waits for opportunity to pounce,

all claws, teeth and current.


The desire to move towards it, tame it, join it,

strong. Just a toe, a dip, a foot.

I imagine, skin testing theory,

feel the tug of demons below the surface

pulling me down, pulling me in.


I take a step back,

stare at the ripples mimicking a gentle mass.

I know better, the bowl is hidden,

an enormous quarry, limestone graveyard.


My breath is stolen just by looking,

dark waters beckon.

I muster strength to resist,

ground myself in concrete,.


That black smile persists,


Invites me  ̶  to make as one.

Drift, drown. Live.


 By Janet Jenkins




What can I say?

Today and for some time I’ve been squashed

into this sculpture and placed

on a rocky outcrop in Walsall.


Should I be flattered?

Chosen by, I don’t know who, to be carved

and put on view to passing and pausing folk?

Some admire me; others think I’m a joke

and want to climb on me

despite the warning signs.


I hear them guessing

who else has been sculpted.

It seems to be a fish of some kind

and I’m relieved it isn’t real;

I wouldn’t wish

to have a live, pungent creature

tangled up with me for even one second.


I need to stay strong,

this is where I belong for now,

but I’m keeping my eye on you all

and beware, I might escape one day;

glide into your bag, or better still

up your trouser leg….. And hear you

sscream! J


©Janet Jenkins





Sinister faced swans stare into nothing,

bobbing and bored they wait side by side,

until people climb in chatting, laughing,

pedaling away with a sense of pride.


It’s said that these giant creatures

are frightening the genuine birds,

or is it a breed more powerful?

There’s another story I‘ve heard


saying Liz and Phil sent their servants

one night to this Walsall lake,

they snuck away with her special birds,

to the palace, to roast and bake.



©Janet Jenkins


By Andy Summers


This should have been easy

A walk in the park.


Out and about

In the green and blue

A trap is sprung


At first – surprise,

Then in a heartbeat, dull, beneath.

The second – shock

Pulse touching nerve,

Expectation turned on its head.


There, the tendrils of ageless ferns


The wooden bones of the moment.

In this forbidding avenue

Shard and branch


The course bark on each twisted spine!


Truth dawns, creeps in,

Invades the anticipation,

Silences that previous, joyous certainty,


Breaks boughs with its cold stare,

Its cruelty

Reminding that All Life is Here.


Beauty battles it out

With this beast,

This sprawl of sinew, vein and artery,

Pathways fading into the far distance,

Draining the town

As its people gasp for air.




Arboretum – jewel in this urban crown

Flatters and deceives

Promising light relief,

A respite,

A brass plaque on a park bench.


But delivering

A rock

A hard place

A painted floating decoy

A bitter image of escape

A gate slammed shut.


So, that breath of fresh air

Is lost

In a cloud of the real world


Town Gate.


The trap closes

Its perfect deception complete. A beautiful beast.