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This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

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Poetry with Archbishop Rowan at Argyle Primary School

Archbishop Rowan at Argyle Primary School

Wednesday 18th January 2012

Archbishop Rowan Williams visited Argyle Primary School in Camden at the end of the school’s Poetry Week.

Archbishop Rowan was welcomed to the school by Head Teacher Jemima Wade, and accompanied on his visit by the Revd Christopher Cawrse, Priest-in-Charge of Holy Cross Church, Cromer St, who is a regular visitor to the school.

During the school assembly, Dr Williams took the opportunity to talk about the mystery of poetry and how it relates to the mystery of other people and of the wider world. The Archbishop had chosen some poems to share with the children - John Clare's "Winter", Charles Causley's "Green Man in the Garden" and "Portrait", and Theodore Roethke's "Serpent". Poetry, the Archbishop said, helps us see things in new and unexpected ways, and reminds us that to live a really human and joyful life we need to forget about what's safe and tidy and join in the great excitement of the world.

Archbishop Rowan with poets at Argyle Primary SchoolFollowing assembly, Archbishop Rowan spent time talking with a group of parents who had taken part in a poetry workshop earlier in the week and who read their poems aloud to the group. The Archbishop also visited many different classes during his visit, and was able to take part in a Year 4 Poetry lesson along with Abdullahi Botan Hassan, a Somalian poet who lives in the local community and has worked with the school for some time. Students read out their own poems which had been inspired by colours – red, black, blue - and the images and feelings those colours brought to mind. The Archbishop commented afterwards that Poetry Week had obviously gone very deep:

"It's wonderful to see very young children being encouraged to take poetry seriously and to use their imaginations like this. They have produced wonderful stuff."

The Year 4 pupils also had plenty of questions for the Archbishop, some of which were easy to answer, such as "Who is your favourite poet?" (WH Auden), "How many books have you written?" (around 15, including 4 books of poetry), and "Which university did you go to?" (Cambridge, which was great but a very flat city after the hills and valleys of Wales). Other questions were more testing - it is not easy to explain all the roles and responsibilities that come with being Archbishop in a few sentences. However, when asked if the work was complicated the Archbishop said "In a word, yes!".

Artistic and cultural endeavours are highly valued at Argyle, which is a community school with around 400 pupils drawn from the very diverse local neighbourhood it serves. The walls of classrooms and stairwells are covered in artwork produced by the children and Archbishop Rowan was delighted to be presented with one of their pictures at the end of his visit.

Asked why he had chosen to visit Argyle Primary School, the Archbishop said:

"I like to visit schools whenever I can, and this was an opportunity to come and see what a good community school is like in this area. It has certainly lived up to expectations." 

Argyle School students present the Archbishop with a picture

Revd Christopher Cawrse, Archbishop Rowan, Head Teacher Jemima Wade and students.

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