A talk with Kate Clanchy: The Migrant Crisis and Poetry

We entered the small quaint church in St Endelllion, for the service Meditation on Migration hosted by poet, Kate Clanchy. It is a Sunday morning in the village church. The sun touched the stain glass windows with fragility and harshness – perhaps a metaphor for things to come. The service began with an introduction, prayers and hymns which set the mood for the forthcoming talk on the migrant crisis, love, poetry, diversity and how these subjects tie together as one. The begin the talk, Kate tells us that she is not a Christian but believes the church is a “wonderful space” and “a place to be safe and talk” which instantly created a sense of togetherness and warmth.

Kate Clanchy is a poet and teacher who works in a school in East Oxfordshire, which in the past three years has seen a heavy increase of migrant children from varying backgrounds, cultures and nationalities. The school is an all-inclusive environment where the children are free to express themselves without fear of judgement, a place where “no one makes fun of anyone’s name” and “no one is a majority”. Poems written by the children that she teaches have been broadcast by BBC Radio 4, giving their voices national exposure. Kate’s presence is warm and gentle, she speaks with love, compassion and kindness; a voice that makes you want to listen.

A selection of poems voice by the migrant children themselves were played in the church; silence fell across the room. As their innocent voices detail the loss and horror they have experienced there is a heavy sense of hope and defiance etched into their words, a sense that they will not be defined by their pain. Kate adds that in order to allow her students to open up and delve deep into their emotions “I tell them to write about what they definitely don’t remember”.

The harpist began to play and we stood for our final prayer.

The talk gave us a reminder that the migrant crisis is still ongoing and the effect it still has on the children and their families. But it also sent an important message of love and acceptance.


You can purchase England: Poems from a School from PanMacmillian and Amazon


By Laura Betts   @LauraJBetts