A Chat With Poet And Performer Pam Ayres

Pam Ayres

In the October 5 issue of “The People’s Friend”, I had the chance to chat to Pam Ayres about her poetry and her new book, “Up In The Attic”.

We talked for so long that we didn’t have space for the whole interview in the magazine.

So here’s an exclusive, just for our online audience: the questions we couldn’t fit in!

What inspired you to start performing poems? Did you get any encouragement at school from your teachers?

“There were certainly two I remember — Mr Reeves and Mr Holyfield.

“They didn’t talk about it being a career, but they encouraged me massively.

“Mr Holyfield started a school newspaper, and he used to ask me to write a story for it every week. And Mr Reeves saw something in me that was special, and he gave me a book to write stories in.

“Those two teachers stand out because they made me feel special I suppose — that I had something a bit special to offer.”

Did you feel like you were competing for attention in a family of six?

“Well, I never got spoiled. There was no question of that — it was every man for himself, really!

“It was a great family to grow up in; a great big gang of us. I don’t feel that I had to compete for attention, as my mother was very even-handed — serve them all alike — she didn’t have any favourites.

Do you test the material out at home first? Read it to your family?

“No, never. It’s so different to talk to a big audience — or any size of an audience. It requires a particular approach and staging, because you are the only one on stage. You have to be ‘large’!

“You cannot do that at home in the front room in front of your husband!

“I only ever test things out on a stage with an audience.

“I might say to them, ‘this is something I thought would be a good idea. I’m going to read it to you and see what you think of it’.

They quite like it, too, because they feel that they’re being influential.”

Do you have a collection of unpublished poems? Things you’ve written just to get something off your chest?

“No, not really. I have a few odds and ends that didn’t come together, but mostly I work on things until I’m happy with them and they are of a standard that I can put them in a book.

“I don’t write a lot of stuff and then keep it to myself.”

Are you still keeping bees?

“No. I did for a long time, but we have downsized now.

“Before we had a lot of space around, and if the bees swarmed it didn’t really matter because I could go up the tree and get them back.

“Now I have very nice neighbours, and I don’t want to have to go and collect bees from their gutters or chimney or something.

“We now have a wildlife garden, which I’m really interested in.

“I’ve made a pond, and I’m planting all sorts of things that will bring birds, butterflies and insects in to my garden.

“That’s my big interest at the moment. It always has been, but I’m concentrating on it now.”

Read the rest of our interview with Pam Ayres in this week’s issue!

Have you ever fancied writing poetry for the “Friend”? Click here for some advice from our Lucy!

Alex Corlett

Alex is the "Friend's" Features Editor, working with the talented Features Team to bring you everything from cryptic crosswords to financial advice, knitting patterns to international travel and inspirational real life stories. Always on the hunt for a new feature idea, Alex also enjoys cycling and loves a good tea room.