Keynote Speaker Andrew Motion

Jenny Hon Sec: I was all prepared to give Sir Andrew a hard time, having read his ARC article where he seemed to be re-stating the usual tired old line that archivists need to be less insular and more innovative. So it’s nothing to do with the comparatively miniscule amounts of funding available then? It’s just that in our tweedy academic way, it’s never occurred to us to promote our resources.

He won me over though with the poetry archive online. If you’ve never looked at this, go and look now! It’s fantastic – I don’t have the URL to hand but I imagine it can be easily googled. He did discuss the image problems of poets – they could write poetry but usually read it badly – the focus was on the printed word rather than the spoken. This meant that the “acoustic” beauty of spoken poetry was lost. He also spoke of the fascination of hearing the poet read his or her own work. Similarly archivists are not trusted to interpret the material directly to users – some interpreter is apparently needed to act as a link. Sir Andrew also spoke about the help that the Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA) Council could give and the need to advocate for archives and archivists.

Until Tuesday I had never actually been moved to tears in a conference session (bored to tears on occasion, but we won’t discuss that now). A recording of Charles Causley (Cornish) reading his poem Eden Rock was a genuinely arresting moment. He died two weeks after the recording was made – as well as making the poem especially poignant, this fact also highlighted the need to ensure that a record survived. I won’t try to explain the poem – go and have a listen and see what you think.

This was one of the most interesting and moving presentations I’ve ever heard.

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