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The Inaugural Manning's Pit

Poetry Competition - Final Report

Mark Totterdell
Mark Totterdell

                     David Weeks presenting prize to Alex Meller,
                      third in 11 and Under Category

David Weeks presenting
third prize in the 11 and
Under Category to Alex Meller

Manning's Pit by Tim Saunders
Manning's Pit

We are very pleased to announce that Mark Totterdell was the winner of the First Prize in our Inaugural Poetry Competition. Mark's poem "Form" perfectly captured the spirit of place that inspired the competition, and we were also thrilled with the standard of poems entered overall. Frances Corkey Thompson gained Second Prize for her acrostic poem, "Save Manning's Pit" and Mark Haworth-Booth received the third prize for his interesting take on the subject, "#savemanningspit-pleasefollowlinks".

List of Prize Winners (link)

Report on the Presentation Evening:

The Presentations took place on the evening of Saturday January 12th and prizes were given out by David Weeks, Executive Director of The Week Magazine. David works in London but comes home to Devon at weekends and has been spotted at times running though Manning's Pit with his collie dog Storm.

The evening began with organiser Bev Snowden saying a few words about Manning's Pit itself, before introducing the Judge, the well known poet Julia Bird. Julia had come from London for the occasion, and she spoke about the entries and the aims of the competition, which were to raise further awareness of Manning's Pit and its cultural heritage. She then read one of her own poems, “White Horse” from her book "Hannah and the Monk."

Julia Bird, photograph by Martin Haddrill

Julia reading Holly
Cooke's poem (Holly
came second in the 18
and Under Category
but was not able to be

Julia gave us this quote
'I was really impressed by the standard of poems which were submitted to the competition - the theme obviously struck a chord with people who wanted to talk about their relationships with beloved natural beauty spots both in Devon and further afield. The poems I chose for the winners and highly commended awards were those which combined a sincere personal feeling for place with an outward-looking creative sensibility - but everyone who entered the competition helped support the Save Mannings Pit campaign, so I'd like to cheer all the participating poets, especially the children.”

                    Manning's House

The house in Pilton Street where Benjamin Manning
lived in 1850 (photo from
mid 1900s)

It was then time to announce the winners, beginning in reverse order with the names of those whose poems were Highly Commended. As the judging had been done anonymously, Julia herself had no idea who had won until we announced the names of the winners. It was a complete coincidence, then, that among the Highly Commended was Sheena Ferguson who lives in the house that was once owned by Benjamin Manning, the nineteenth  century entrepeneur whose name lives on in Manning's Pit.

Broadgate Villa
Broadgate Villa
home of Saki in 1870s,

An even greater coincidence is the fact that the Prize winners in the 11 and Under Category happen to be two boys (Toby and Theo Lawrence) who live in the house where writer Hector Hugh Munro (Saki) lived. Manning's Pit is the last part left of what was “the countryside Hector loved.” Toby and Theo were unfortunately ill and unable to be presented with their prizes on the day, but were filmed later reciting their poem (see link to videos below.)

Ryan Vowles
Ryan Vowles

Mark Totterdell by Martin Haddrill
 Mark Totterdell

Poets near Manning's Pit
Poets from the Poetry
Society's North Devon
Stanza, near Manning's Pit

Prize winners etc - photo Tim Saunders
Prizewinners grouped
with Judge, David Weeks, Brian Norman and
Highly Commendeds.

One of the stars of the evening was Ryan Vowles, aged 14 when he wrote his poem, who won the 12 to 18 age group Category and read his poem with tremendous feeling. He told us that he had visited Manning's Pit many times with his grandfather and he hoped that it would be preserved for future generations too.

Finally we came to the most important presentation, as mentioned at the beginning,  which was to Mark Totterdell from Exeter who won First Prize in the Adult section. Mark is a free lance copywriter, and he has won a number of prizes as well as having had two collecitons published: "This Patter of Traces"  (Overstep Books 2014) and "Mapping"  (Indigo Dreams publishing (2018.)

Mark was brought up in rural Somerset and his poem was inspired by memories of a field near his childhood home that is now built over. We were very pleased to welcome him to Barnstaple, and he told us that earlier in the day he had made his own visit to Manning's Pit.

As Julia said earlier, we would like to thank all those who entered poems because they were the one who made this competition a success. While we are fighting to preserve this one special place, we wanted to open the Competition up to everyone, everywhere, who might have have feelings for a much loved piece of countryside close to the town or village where they live.

We also wanted our competition to attract serious poets and it certainly did that, since all the first, second and third prizes in the Adult Category all went to poets who were already well known in the poetry world.

While the competition was open to anyone and entries came from as far afield as Lancashire. Scotland, Poland and India, we were also pleased that two locals from Pilton were among those whose poems were Highly Commended (along with Anne Beer, now of Hele but formerly from Pilton too)

Our thanks also go to Sharon Dixon of The Plough@St.Anne's. Although the building is small (which was why - unfortunately - we couldn't invite as many community supporters or group members as we would have liked to have done) it was a wonderful venue, and we really appreciated the help and support that they gave us.

The full list of Prizewinners

YouTube Playlist of videos from the evening.