During the past year and a half of the Covid crisis we’ve been forced to swap seeing friends and family in the flesh, or going out to venues, with relying on all kinds of technology to keep in touch.
And despite slowly rebuilding our social lives thanks to the easing of restrictions, there are some takeaways from the three lockdowns that a number of us are willing to keep going.
One such thing is virtually taking part in events. Being able to still participate in something without having to worry about babysitters or getting glammed up (although the latter is of course optional!) has seen a lot of people sticking to screen-based entertainment over the past few months.
One local organisation that has decided to Zoom a very special night is Baby Umbrella, a breastfeeding and early-parenting support for new mums and dads of newborns all the way up to pre-schoolers across West Kent.
Having previously operated under two separate services – Kent Baby Matters West Kent and Baby Cafe Tunbridge Wells – in 2021 the two groups came together to form one new and comprehensive service for Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks.
Over the numerous lockdowns the group, which runs both appointment and group sessions, has found that keeping in touch virtually has become quite a convenient way to still be part of something.
“It has been very difficult for parents to come out and meet other families during the pandemic, so a Zoom event enables everyone to attend, even with a tiny baby in arms,” say organisers Nicola Kirkwood and Laura Shtaingos.
Both Nicola, who is a Baby Umbrella Trustee, and Laura, its director and breastfeeding counsellor, are passionate about using creativity and writing to process their journey through motherhood.
“We love writing about our own experiences and reading about those of others,” they explain.
“We have found this a huge source of support and comfort through what can be a roller-coaster journey, bringing a child into the world and figuring out how to be a parent.”
Nicola and Laura add that one of Baby Umbrella’s objectives is to provide parents with opportunities to come together in groups and share their experiences together. But obviously the coronavirus put paid to all that last year.
Hence the idea for ‘Mums Poetry Night IN!’ was born. The event, which takes place today (Friday July 16 from 8pm), will showcase local wordsmith Natalie Thomas along with a number of other poets. Among them are Ana Sampson, who has edited eight different poetry anthologies, including She is Fierce and Night Feeds and Morning Songs; Debra Alma of Keele University; and Catherine Ball, who is a GP by day and poet by night.
“The advantage of hosting on Zoom is that we can also welcome poets from around the country to join us,” say Nicola and Laura.
The Mums poetry night on Zoom will raise money for Baby Umbrella support services and provide parents with additional ways to come together.
“We hope to raise several hundred pounds from this event, and every single penny raised will go towards our services supporting local families in West Kent with breastfeeding and early parenting,” they say.
“We will be welcoming a wonderful group of inspiring poets from around the country who will be sharing their writings inspired by motherhood”
So how will the event take shape on the night?
“We will be welcoming a wonderful group of inspiring poets from around the country who will be sharing their writings inspired by motherhood.
“There will also be an open mic section when participants will be invited to read their own work. Hosted via Zoom, our poets will be reading their work and we’ll be discussing the benefits of writing about motherhood, and how to get started as well as taking questions. This will be an unforgettable evening not to be missed!”
Baby Umbrella’s Mums Poetry Night IN! is on tonight, Friday July 16, at 8pm on Zoom. Tickets cost £8 and can be bought via babyumbrella.as.me/poetry
For more information about Baby Umbrella, visit: babyumbrella.org.uk
THE FEMALE POETS ON THE BILL…
Natalie Thomas: A poet and singer from Tunbridge Wells. Originally from the Midlands, she has lived in the South of England for so long now her accent is as mashed as her tea.
Ana Sampson: She has edited eight poetry anthologies, including I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (the third bestselling poetry title of 2009), She is Fierce (a Number One Amazon category bestseller), and Night Feeds and Morning Songs, a collection of poetry about motherhood.
Catherine Bell: A mum to a nearly six year-old girl and a two-year-old boy, Catherine works as a GP, writing bits of poetry on her phone when she gets a few seconds to herself. Her professional interests include women’s perinatal health, so she is really pleased to be able to support Baby Umbrella.
Deborah Alma: is a UK poet who teaches Creative Writing at Keele University and has worked for years as a writer in the community. As ‘Emergency Poet’, she administered poetry on prescription from her vintage ambulance. She is Editor of Emergency Poet – an anti-stress poetry anthology, #Me Too and Ten Poems of Happiness. She also co-edited These Are the Hands – Poems from the Heart of the NHS with with Dr Katie Amiel.
Grace Pilkington: A writer and poet who focuses on mental illness, women’s issues and motherhood. She performs at literary nights across the UK, has recited her work on the BBC World Service, and appeared at such literary festivals as Hay and Port Eliot.
Gita Ralleigh: A writer and NHS doctor born to Indian immigrant parents in London. She has been published by The Emma Press, Magma Poetry and The Rialto. Her debut poetry collection A Terrible Thing was published by Bad Betty Press in 2020.
Katharine Perry: She writes poetry mainly about her experiences of motherhood. Katharine founded The Mum Poem Press in July 2020 to connect, support and encourage other mums doing the same. She runs the Mum Poet Club, a writing group for parents who write poetry.