Yesterday was the Grand Final of The P-Factor, the poetry performance competition I devised for local primary schools here in Ryedale. It was truly memorable.

At 4pm I was standing on the stage of the Milton Rooms in Malton with my fellow judges: comedian/poet Kate Fox, publisher/poet Rose Drew and cartoonist/poet Mike Barfield (who just this week picked up the prestigious Strip Cartoon of the Year Award in London). The curtains were closed so we couldn’t see the audience, although we could hear quite a hubbub.

When the booming intro music played and the curtains opened I couldn’t believe my eyes: the large hall, which seats about 300 people, was so full that people were standing down the aisles, in rows at the back and were stacked up on the balcony. Estimates vary but around 450 people had turned out on a Saturday afternoon to see kids performing poems. Wow!

And then the action started – the first group of four children from West Heslerton Primary stood up in front of the bright lights and sea of faces and I wondered if they’d freeze. It was daunting but the children stepped up to the row of mics and gave it their all, to booming applause. The next school did the same and the next: 19 superb, varied, energetic performances. The teachers and parents who accompanied the groups were cheering and roaring. The judges made their enthusiastic comments: there wasn’t a Simon Cowell meanie in sight.

A storyteller, Cat Weatherill, entertained the vast audience while the judges deliberated at the end. How would we pick a winner? Two schools were almost tied for the runner up spot but in the end our choice of the winning performers was unanimous: Norton Community Primary with their outstanding interpretation of the poem Complaint by Allan Ahlberg. Amazingly, they were the youngest group to take the stage…

A huge thanks to the organisers, volunteers, teachers, parents, judges and the children for putting on a memorable show. Also to Hands Up Books for supplying 76 free books for the performers. My real hope is that everyone who was there is now inspired to READ!

The 2013 P-Factor winners, Norton Primary, are awarded their gold medals by Joan Lawrence, Mayor of Malton. Runners up Langton Primary are behind them.
The moment of triumph
The brilliant cow trio of St Benedicts – one of the best performances
Runners up Langton with a rap straight out da hood: great energy
[Thanks to Sarah Leese and Gareth Jenkins for the photos]

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