The World's First Poetry Prom to launch summer celebrating The Wirral Way

The first ever poetry prom is just one event that's sure to bring visitors flocking to the area this summer where they are determined to live life 'the Wirral way' WORDS BY PATRICK O'NEILL PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

Sea shanties, Land of Hope and Glory, battalions of WI matrons chorusing Jerusalem beneath Union Jack banners. Yes, I know, you've heard it all before. Summer Proms at the Albert Hall and elsewhere have become a byword for bombast, bravura and the British bulldog spirit.

Now, thanks to John Gorman and his friends, there's an alternative way to celebrate the proms: the Wirral way.

John is Festival Organiser of The World's First Poetry Prom, when on July 10th a plethora of poets will produce verse in  'every available space,' in Hoylake, a town which until recently was chiefly famous as home to the Royal Liverpool Golf Club (where Tiger Woods won the British Open in 2006 and which returns to the course in 2014.)

John is still fondly remembered as one third of The Scaffold, a trio which included poet Roger McGough and Mike McCartney (brother of Paul), which in 1968 turned 'Lily the Pink' into a national icon. Now backed by Mike and Merseyside legend Billy Butler, the Poetry Proms are part of The Festival of Firsts. 'Three days of music, art, poetry and theatre.'

Running from July 8th to 10th they also include A Music Prom, a Theatre Prom and an Art Prom 'The idea is to do something for the first time for the Wirral, for the North West and for the World,' said  John modestly. And since the real mile-long prom at Hoylake is among the longest in Britain, there is plenty of room for visitors to promenade beside the Deeside between events. For details check

But there is much more to Wirral than happenings in Hoylake. Cheshire Life lensman John Cocks and I went first to the much-photographed Devon Doorway in Heswall to meet the members of the Heswall Society, a formidable group of citizens who according to chairman Dennis Clegg exist to promote 'the best of Heswall.'

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And the best of Heswall is pretty good. According to a recent survey of the country's finest seaside resorts, the Wirral town is the best in the North West. The study used government statistics, house prices and lifestyle factors including school league tables, the crime rate, local employment, amenities and transport links.  

Heswall also came third nationally behind Lymington, a Georgian market town on the edge of the New Forest, and Sandbanks, the exclusive Dorset peninsula stretching out into Poole harbour. None of which came as a surprise to the members of the Heswall Society founded in 1953, who, just like Her Majesty the Queen, will celebrate their diamond jubilee in 2013. (Now that will be an excuse for the waving of flags and the singing of patriotic songs.)  

In Heswall they list 'the quality of the air, wildlife, local shops, pubs and eateries, and historic buildings, as well as outstanding housing, schools and community spirit,’ among reasons why they think Heswall is tops. A hinterland which also includes Ness Gardens, Parkgate, West Kirby, and all the glories of the Dee Estuary are also highly valued.

Of special interest this year is the official opening of Heswall Hall on October 1st to 8th. And there is Heswall Arts Festival  on October 15th to 29th. Explained artistic director Dr Valerie Warr: 'The festival is a community venture designed to encourage a wider interest and involvement in the arts in all guises. It is our aim that the people of Heswall and surrounding villages will come together in the Festival to raise community cohesion and encourage local talent.'

The Society also publishes four informative 'Walk' leaflets, which offer guided walks through most of Heswall, and considerable insight into the history of the town and its buildings. They are available at �1 each from The Village Shop, or the Wirral Way Information Centre at Thurstaston. For more contact

Among my own personal  Wirral favourites I would also include Thornton Hough,  Bidston Hill, Birkenhead town hall,  Bebington,  Eastham, Caldy and of course Meols, where they recorded the hit TV series Watching (which regularly featured Cheshire Life, to show what a posh place it was.)To that list I have now added, Heswall and Hoylake, whose history, heritage and hospitality means that they never have to drop their 'aitches.' 

Wirral Food and Drink Festival August 28th-29th

Wirral Food and Drink Festival has grown into one of the most successful in the country.

Claremont Farm, Bebington, is host to the event and home to farmer Andrew Pimbley, winner of the Wirral Food Champion Award 2010. August Bank Holiday weekend Sunday 28th August and Monday 29th will see Claremont Farm transformed into a feast of food. (Festival hours: Sun 10am to 5pm, Mon 10am to 4pm) or


Ina Schmidt director of marketing at European Partner Solutions on the Wirral, has become patron of The British Red Cross for Merseyside and Wirral. She has raised over �80,000 including The Red Cross Ball which last year raised more than �35,000.  She said: 'For me it's really important that people get involved and  I am proud to say that we have a loyal team of local students who came from schools like West Kirby Grammar, Caldy, St. Anselm's, Birkenhead  School and Birkenhead High School. This team  is at university now, but they all come back to help us raise money '

West Kirby Grammar School student Kim Morgan, 17 was selected from 600 entrants to become Wirral's new poet laureate. She will compose poems to mark Remembrance Sunday, and write lyrics for the Festival of Firsts. 'I am really excited to have won. I love writing.' she said.

Burton Manor’s annual Outdoor Summer Shakespeare weekend is safe, despite the recent closure of the 19th century-built former adult learning centre. Dean Taylor Productions guarantee 'business as usual' when it returns for a sixth season. In conjunction with the ‘Friends of Burton Manor’ they will perform Twelfth Night in the beautiful grounds of Gladstone’s famous old house on Friday July 8th and Saturday July 9th.  For information phone 01772 466256.

West Kirby Marina was visited recently by the Duke of Edinburgh, patron of the Model Yacht Association of Great Britain, when they celebrated their one metre world championship with the assistance of event director Mike de St Paer of the West Kirby Sailing Club.                                 

Famous people associated with the Wirral  include Nelson's mistress Lady Hamilton, DJ John Peel, actors Glenda Jackson and Daniel Craig, cyclist Chris Boardman,  presenter Paul O'Grady and MP Frank Field.

In 1929 the third World Scout Jamboree was held at Arrowe Park.

The print version of this article appeared in the July 2011 issue of Cheshire Life 

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