High Level Performances at the Daisy Hardy Poetry Competition

For those of you as yet unfamiliar with the Daisy Hardy Poetry Competition, allow me to elucidate: Each year group from the reception class in the junior school through to our GCSE students in the senior school is assigned a hand-selected anthology of poems appropriate to that age range from which each student will choose a poem, commit it to memory and then the whole school comes together to recite and to listen in a full day of poetry as the Daisy Hardy Poetry Recital Competition. And what a day it is! For weeks beforehand, the buzz running through the school is like an electrical current and the levels of excitement almost too great to bear; this is not a competition that pupils take lightly and many throw themselves in body and soul – indeed, Alex, Ez, and Ryan in year 10 hoping to channel the oratory skills of the great bard even asked to dress in full thespian regalia down to the baggy shirts and tights but this was overruled at the eleventh hour when other students (and parents) remarked that it might give the boys an unfair advantage.

The Junior School Deliver A Masterclass

The junior school started the day by delivering an absolute masterclass; the word I found myself coming back to time and again as I watched the performances was ‘fearless’. The genuine enthusiasm and determination they showed was nothing short of remarkable as they trooped, one after another, onto the stage to recite their poems; it was wonderful although it did make for particularly difficult judging!

The winner from our Reception class was Anya who was absolutely brilliant and delivered her poem full of life and energy. In year 3, the winner was Bea, Seraphina in year 4, Lara in year 5 and Evie in Year 6 whose animated and wonderfully performed recital also won the overall competition in the Junior school – her recital will now be put against the other category winners across the whole school as we try to find a single winner.

An Eclectic Mix in The Junior Category (Year 7 and 8)

The selection of poems for the junior category (years 7 and 8) this year was an eclectic mix to say the least ranging from Shakespeare to Douglas Adams and I was absolutely delighted by the breadth of different poems chosen by the students not least because at last someone chose to take on my favourite poem ‘Ithaca’ – (thank you Izzy – you were wonderful). This category was won by Gabriel who recited a monologue from Hamlet with such a natural ease and grace it left the judges spellbound as they marvelled at how a lad so young could encapsulate so many emotions and convey the depths of Hamlet’s despair as he explained how he had ‘of late but wherefore [he] knew not, lost all his mirth’. Brilliant. But it certainly did not end there and we had many other wonderful recitals not least form Belle who delivered an acting masterclass with her interpretation of De La Mere’s ‘The Listeners’, Skye’s recital of ‘If’ by Kipling and Izzy’s ‘Ithaca’ and we had highly commended performances from Edward, Matilda, and Isobel. And the top spot in our “Junior English as a second language” category was taken, by a unanimous decision, by Geonuk who gave us ‘Brothers’ by Andrew Forster. But really this was a category where everybody put everything into what they did and it was a genuine pleasure to watch.

The Senior Competition

For the seniors (years 9 and 10), not only are they able to take away from this competition the knowledge that they have achieved something of a personal victory but they have the slightly more prosaic benefit of learning a poem from the GCSE anthology which will help them enormously when they sit their examinations in year 11 and this year we had some standout performances with the top spot taken by Dylan who seems to have made it his ambition in these competitions to not only choose from amongst the most difficult poems but to recite them with clarity and pathos and his recital of Tennyson’s ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ was excellent. Similarly, Katie gave us a heartfelt and charged recital of Simon Armitage’s ‘Remains’ for second place and Anya took the third spot also with a clear rendition of  ‘Remains’.

Beautiful Recitals in the EAL Category

Make no mistake, performing these poems under the best of circumstances is a challenge but when these students are reciting poetry so beautifully in their second, or even third language then it is truly remarkable and in the senior ‘English as an Additional Language’ category, first place went to Mila who performed a wonderful extract from Hamlet, Isaac in second place and Edgar took third position with ‘War Photographer’. And the judges also felt it important to acknowledge Emma, Haeun, and Isabelle as highly commended in this category too.

Excellent Performances and Life-Long Skills

It has to be said that we do have as fine a group of young actors as can be found anywhere but this competition is about far more than that and whilst the level of performing was, from many, particularly high this year, this competition is clearly not everybody’s idea of a fun and relaxing day; it was those students who made their way nervously to the stage and stood there under the spotlight with their knees knocking together and made their way steadily through their poems with every member of the audience silently willing them on and then beetled quickly back to their seats to rapturous applause who really brought a lump to my throat because the level of bravery they showed was nothing short of awe-inspiring. It pains me to have to admit that for many, poetry might not be and might never be their focal point and that after leaving Fyling Hall, they might never recite another poem on stage in front of a large group of their peers in their lives but they will at times, I have no doubt, be required to speak to large groups of people and possibly speak in public and this preparation will be of enormous benefit to to them and every single child who took the plunge and participated in this event has earned both our congratulations and our respect.

So, that about wraps it up. The dust has now settled on this year’s Daisy Hardy competition and I broke the sobering news to my students that they wouldn’t have to perform another poem for a whole year, our Fyling Hall scholars accepted the bitter blow with their characteristic stoicism – some even going so far as to try to appear pleased! As I look around however, I can still notice the slight traces of regret in the faces of those who didn’t quite win whilst on the other hand, those category winners are the kings and queens of the school and quite rightly too as they are followed in respectful awe by an entourage of their peers. Indeed, Dylan can often be seen looking into the middle distance with a sort of contemplative air about him as though musing on the beauty of a daffodil or a nightingale and I understand that Gabriel’s signed photograph is being accepted as ready money in many of the shops up and down the Yorkshire coast!

My enormous thanks to everyone who helped to organise the competition this year with special thanks to Mrs Milner, Mrs Jeeves and Miss Havelock as well as to our judges Miss Anders, Tomas, Toby, Mrs Jackson, Mr Hunter, Mr Walsh, and Mr Kai and to all the teachers across both schools who have helped to encourage and enthuse, to cajole and corral  their students and without whom this competition could not have taken place.

The overall winner of the 2023 Daisy Hardy Poetry Recital Competition will be announced at Prize-Giving.

by Mr. Chris Thomas