JESSA and Mick Liversidge are to perform Fields And Lanes Under The Willow Tree, an uplifting hour of timeless songs and poetry, in the open air at Easingwold Community Library on Sunday afternoon.
“Fields And Lanes is a joint project for Mick and me, inspired by the wonderful reaction we’ve had to our outdoor poetry and songs in lockdown,” says Jessa, the song half of the creative Easingwold couple, whose performances can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/fieldsandlanes/.
“It’s been a great structure for us through the weird and difficult times we’ve all been going through: a way of expressing ourselves creatively, choosing and learning the songs and poems, and we’ve had such warm responses from a wide range of people.
“To begin with, when lockdown started, it was great for those who couldn’t get out – and a nice way to see the countryside as well.”
Actor Mick chalked up 82 outdoor poetry readings before calling a temporary halt to his regular routine on September 9 when learning dialogue for acting work demanded his attention.
“It all began at the beginning of lockdown,” he recalls. “I was due to appear in a play at the end of March: it was a two-hander, so lots of dialogue learned and lots of work put in by all involved, for nothing.
“So, I was feeling a bit lost and down, but we saw Sir Patrick Stewart had decided to recite a Shakespeare sonnet a day to keep him active, which prompted Jessa to suggest I should do the same with passages of Dickens.”
Mick took that advice on board but decided that his love of poetry should lead him to recite his favourite poems instead. “So, what I did was find a poem, learn it and go out into the beautiful countryside around here the following day and recite it,” he says.
“That’s what I did during lockdown, one day looking for a suitable poem, making sure it wasn’t too long, learning it during the evening, ready for ‘outdoor poem’ recital the following day.
“It became harder as the weeks progressed as I had to find new poems that I’d not heard before. The positive side of that is I’ve found some real gems. I’ve loved doing this and it really has kept my brain active and ready for the next job when it comes along.”
Mick wrote on Facebook on September 9: “After 8I ‘outdoor poems’, today’s No. 82 will be my last…for now. I’ve loved reciting them so much and many of the poems have genuinely moved me to tears, so I’ve decided I’m going to continue reciting one a week for the foreseeable future. I’m looking forward to getting out into the countryside as the seasons change and finding new poems.”
Meanwhile, Easingwold Community Library has been running socially distanced, Covid-secure events under its beautiful willow tree, the latest being Sunday’s all-seated show starring Jessa and Mick at 2pm.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to share a selection of our songs and poems with an actual live audience, after months of performing to our phones and laptops,” says Jessa, whose diary is invariably busy with teaching and choir-leading sessions for Singing For All, the York Military Wives Choir, youth choirs and more singing groups besides.
“On Sunday, Mick will include some of the most well-known poems such as John Masefield’s Sea Fever and W H Davies’s Leisure and even some Spike Milligan.
“The songs, from pop classics by Carole King and The Beatles to gentle folk songs, and even my own take on a Harry Lauder classic, will all be sung unaccompanied, apart from my new performing friends, the real songbirds.”
Places for Fields And Lanes Under The Willow Tree must be booked in advance on 07526 107448 or via firstname.lastname@example.org to ensure that everyone is aware of and agrees to the safety procedures. Tickets are free, with a pay-as-you-feel collection on the day.
“It’s a beautiful space, under an amazing willow tree, and the forecast looks promising,” says Jessa, who is keen to do further performances.
“With both of our busy schedules during normal times, it has been so lovely to work on this project together, and we hope to roll it out to other suitable venues in the next year. So, if anyone involved with an outdoor space would like us to bring Fields And Lanes to them, it can be arranged. You can send a message via https://www.facebook.com/fieldsandlanes/.”