It was back in the heady summer of 2019 when I first started working with some East Lothian locals to create poetry in Prestongrange Museum, a former mine and industrial estate at Prestonpans. At the time I had a part-time job in the museum so I thought it was a good opportunity to get creative. Visitor Services Manager Debbie Chalmers-Turnbull gave the go ahead, we put up some posters and away we went, meeting weekly over the summer to explore Scotland's first industrial estate and the stories of those who passed through, from monks to miners, from pit ponies to potters. We should do this again next year, we thought.
Oh how the world had changed with the onset of the global pandemic in spring of 2020. Yet as outdoor activities began to be permitted I thought, well as Prestongrange is mostly an outdoors museum, why not do it as an outdoor only walking-and-writing group. We had a great time and in only 6 weeks composed the impromptu creative writing that constituted Poems to Prestongrange. We managed to have it published together with some lovely chalk drawings of the museum site by Jennie Knights.
Unfortunately however the museum visitor centre stayed closed and there was no possibility of an in person launch. Not to be dettered we got back together online in spring 2021 and wrote about our experiences of lockdown, which is available to buy as an EBook. We finally managed to get together in person in October 2021 at the museum for our much delayed reading and book launch. Excerpts from the book were read and received a warm reception. Those present even had the opportunity to take away a rare signed copy!
Thanks so much to contributors Ruth Asher, Debbie Chalmers-Turnbull, Jill Franklin, Dawn Holmes, Jennie Knights, Elly Robertson, Wendy Shiells and to staff at Prestongrange Museum. This has been a wonderful journey and I am pleased to hear that the group continues to meet and stay connected with the museum.
If you are ever in Prestonpans pop in and pay them a visit. I'm sure Debbie would be happy to see you, and maybe even sell you a copy of Poems to Prestongrange from the museum shop! Alternatively, you can purchase online!