Who are you?

This house has my favourite address in the world. It’s on the edge of a small town called Bawtry near Doncaster in South Yorkshire.  I’d love to have headed notepaper giving that as my abode!

I think where we’re from makes us who we are. It roots us, even if where we’re from isn’t particularly pleasant or wildly exciting.  That’s why when wars and disasters displace people unnaturally it can leave people feeling bereft and in mourning not only for the physical things they have lost but the intangible ones. The familiar wind of a street, the particular smell in the air, the adoration of a certain building.  Then there’s the collective feeling of belonging to a region.  One of the insults rival football fans chant at each other from the terraces is ‘Who Are You?’  It’s intended to show the opposition they are considered of no import, that they’ve never achieved anything. In response to such a jibe, Huddersfield Town fans will stand and declare: ‘We’re Yorkshire!’

I don’t know whether Yeovil fans shout ‘We’re Somerset’ or Brighton fans sing ‘We’re Sussex’ but I love hearing ‘We’re Yorkshire.’  The word ‘Yorkshire’ – either seen or  heard – never fails to tug at me emotionally even though I haven’t lived there for 30 years.

A sense of belonging is important. The ties that bind people to places can be stronger than those that bind people to each other. There’s a famous story of the farmer who refused to leave his farm in the Pennines when the M62 was being built between Yorkshire and Lancashire so in the end they had to divert the road round his property at a cost of I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of pounds.  Good on you, mate!

A while ago I blogged that one of the warm up excercises I use on my school visits (most recently at Danum) is called Liverpool Is by Jim Bennett. Bennett founded The Poetry Kit and talks about how his sense of place is crucial to his writing.  He had a headstart being from Liverpool; if anywhere in England has a sense of its own identity its that city. 

Here’s his poem. I like it because it’s simple but moving; my kind of poem!

Liverpool Is

Liverpool is

town on Saturday

football and beer

Pierhead and ferries

Dale Street Church Street Sefton Park and the rec

It’s places and people

accents and buildings

Liverpool is

the old and new

the Tate and the Walkers

the Spinners and the La’s

Christians and McGough

The Liverpool Scene

and Dead Good Poets

sarcastic and funny

using words like daggers

Liverpool is

a bevie with your mates

having a laugh

the Albert Dock and Canning Street

the Rope Walk Roads

the good old days

the bad old days

poverty and tears

making do

Liverpool is

– taken from the poem Liverpool Is by Jim Bennett ©

Where would your – is be?  Let me know and I’ll publish here the ones that make my heart thud.

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