Durham schoolgirl set to perform her poem in front of the people she wrote it in honour of

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A Durham schoolgirl will read her poem about returning from war in front of hundreds of veterans, military service men and women and their families at Durham Cathedral’s Festival of Remembrance Concert on Saturday.

Year eight pupil Alice Robson from Belmont Community School is delighted after winning a competition to create a poem for the Cathedral’s Festival of Remembrance earlier this term.

The competition invited KS3 pupils in years seven to nine across the region to write a poem based around the theme of ‘The Return.’ Last month, pupils were encouraged to think about how they would feel returning from war themselves or to imagine that they were waiting for a relative to return. Entrants submitted their poem on October 16 to be judged by head of education for Durham Cathedral Charlotte Rowbotham and head of marketing Ruth Robson, with the winner announced on October 22.

Alice’s winning entry is written from the perspective of a child whose father has returned from war. The 13-year-old from Gilesgate, Durham, said she was able to write the poem in one evening.

She said: “We had been doing war poetry at school and they told us that we should have a go at writing a poem. So I went home and wrote it that night. I am pleased with the result and my parents are very proud. I was a bit surprised to win, but I think it will be OK when I read it on Saturday.”

Alice, who has been to the Cathedral before with her school said her parents will come along to watch her at the weekend.

The competition runners up - Emily Bainbridge and Cameron Tait-are also year eight pupils at Belmont Community School. All three were presented with a certificate.

Ms Rowbotham, said: “The standard of poems was very high and there were some wonderful entries but we felt that Alice’s poem really gave insight into the emotions that a serviceman’s child can go through. I’m sure this will resonate with so many coming to the Festival of Remembrance Concert and we are delighted that Alice will be reading it as part of the event on Saturday.”

Alice’s poignant poem will be read at the Festival of Remembrance Concert, which is a spectacular celebration of military pomp and pageantry with performances by military bands, a muster parade by members of the armed forces and emergency services and the now-famous poppy drop from the Cathedral bell tower.

This stunning celebration also raises funds for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, which offers lifetime support and financial assistance to serving and retired soldiers and their families.

Tickets for the Festival of Remembrance Concert at Durham Cathedral are priced at £10 - £18 and are available from the Gala Theatre Box Office on 03000 266 600 or www.galadurham.co.uk

Alice Robson’s winning poem:

The Return

His once bright eyes reflect,

The grotesque war’s effect,

Things that cannot be unseen

I can’t believe that he’d been keen.

His hands tremble in fear,

Though there’s no terror here.

Hands that held grenades, guns, the dead,

Uniform fixed with needle and thread.

I reach into his heart,

And I pull it apart,

But I only find dust,

Where pleasant memories were crushed.

I know he’s not well.

That I can tell.

But all I can say in fright,

Is, “Daddy, are you alright?”