“I was just fourteen and stuck in the ‘bright but lazy’ English class at Exmouth school. Then at the end of a lesson one afternoon our teacher dutifully read out a note about a five-day residential writing course organised by the ‘Arvon Foundation’ at Beaford Manor in North Devon. At the back, three of us quickly exchanged glances, realising this meant ‘time off school’! To his amazement we applied and two months later found ourselves being dropped off by our parents in the wilds of the North Devon countryside. The two residential poets, John Moat and John Fairfax, quickly dispelled our plans of secret drinking and lazing around with their commitment and enthusiasm and I found myself and a dozen other youngsters wandering through the lanes, sitting up late into the night or perched in some corner of the rambling old vicarage trying to fill an empty notebook with meaningful words and images. I had a guitar with me and tried to turn some of these ramblings into songs.
“Then, on the final night, we were told that local poet Ted Hughes was coming in to read some of his poems and listen to our stuff! All of us had been read The Horses, Pike or The Hawk In The Rain at school but we were quite unprepared for what we heard that night. Standing by the flickering hearth, a tall imposing figure, his hair flopping over his eyes as he read in that deep, sonorous Yorkshire accent; Crow, The Thought Fox, Griefs For Dead Soldiers and many, many more. Visceral, powerful and very English. We sat at his feet in silence and awe. We mumbled our bits and pieces and I nervously sang something or other. Then, at the end of the night he approached me. ‘What’s your name son?’ he asked. ‘Steve’ I replied. ‘No, your full name’ he went on. ‘Stephen Andrew Knightley’ I told him. Then he said ‘The ancient Celts believed that if you gave a man your full name, he had your soul’. He stretched out his open palm towards me then quickly closed it as if catching a fly. He looked steadily at me for a while. ‘Now I’ve got yours.’
He still has.”
Thanks to Steve Knightley for the latest in our series of artists blogs. Steve will be performing with Show of Hands this weekend at Bristol Folk Festival ahead of the Show of Hands ‘Standing Room Only 2011’ tour which starts on 4th May – see the Tour Dates page. Steve’s latest solo CD, Live In Somerset, recorded at The David Hall, South Petherton came out in January.