On the Road with Paul Cookson

What did you do this week, Darren?

It’s one of the questions I get asked most often but with the least predictable answers……..

This week I was taking part in a “Poetry Workshop” roadshow. Visiting 6 schools. Talking to 100s of school children aged between 9 and 11. And trying to persuade them that working with words, reading books, and having fun were some things that ought to be the hallmarks of their young, developing lives.



Darren Hirst

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone in this venture. Paul Cookson, who is a longterm friend, a children’s poet and has 44 books published, was the one to make this vision of mine come to life. The children often couldn’t see the dividing line between what Paul does and the comedians they’ve seen on TV. In reality, the difference was obvious for all. It was the poems. Paul’s poems are knockabout fun, thought provoking, image building. Caught somewhere between the Beano and some of the more “worthy” comics of my childhood, there is so much to make you think and even more to make you laugh.

Paul Cookson

All the teachers are female, pretty and younger than me. All the kids are full of life and we are just trying to do something – a little thing – which might help stops the cruelties of society messing up their lives. Hope we did some good even if it was just for a little while. I’m so glad that the charity that I front funds stuff like this and whether a school has available resources doesn’t make any difference to whether they can host it or not.

One morning, Paul and I were joined by Steve Turner, the guy who first got me interested in contemporary poetry (I’d always liked the older stuff) and it was a privilege to meet him. One evening, Paul and I took off for an adult poetry club in a bar to listen to Ian McMillan who originates from the same hometown as me but chose not to leave. I guess this means we practice what we preach – and that words can really enrich lives – all the way through.

Cookson and Turner

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