Meet The Maker

Herts Year of Culture 2020

Friends & Family Competition

For ‘Friends and Family’ month in August, we asked residents to share what family means to them in no more than 500 words. The winning entry will be turned into a short animated film which will be published on to the community archive website, Herts Memories and become part of Hertfordshire’s local history record.  

We received lots of fantastic entries which were considered by a panel of judges including award winning scriptwriter and broadcaster Nicholas McInerny, who was born in Hertfordshire. 

The top 3 entries were:

  • Family by Ebonie  
  • Friends and Family by Kathy Dunnett
  • Welcome to the Family by Mike Lansdown 

It was difficult for the judges to choose between the top 3, with Mike Lansdown's "Welcome to the Family" being described as wonderfully ambitious with a truly panoramic reach, and Kathy Dunnett's "Friends and Family" as ‘heartfelt’  with a ‘particular resonance during the current time, when we’re separated from those we love’.

However, Ebonie Mather was chosen as the overall winner for her poem "Family" with Nicholas McInerny commenting:

"Family by Ebonie Mather appears to be a beautifully modest exploration of Family in all its aspects but hides a wonderful way with words that captures the truth. For example, 'Family is when you find space in someone's heart to call home'. This quiet confidence exudes throughout the poem as Ebonie moves - through each stanza - over universal ideas such as 'sacrifice' and 'history repeating'. It captures the complexity of family ties - 'holding your tongue', 'impatient, relentless' but finds in the simple act of cutting 'the crusts off' a wonderful image of domestic kindness. 

Ultimately family becomes the place from which we can grow to explore the world - 'the places you'll go; and the safety we need - 'family hold you tightly when the planets collide'. A worthy winner."

As the winner, Ebonie will now work with Pearldrop Video Productions to create an animated film based on her entry, whilst the runners-up entries will be added to Hertfordshire Archives' 'Herts Memories'.

You can read the three entries below:

Family by Ebonie Mather

Family is …
far away places.
You can taste...
the long journeys in sea salt,
pouring hard down our faces
in the tears we cry.
We embrace,
now we are safe.
Family is when you find space,
in someone’s heart to call home.

Family is England.
It’s the abandoned mines.
It’s the lapping docks,
the once ticking clocks,
in pulled down houses,
on streets now forgot.
It’s your dad’s wrinkled hands
From a time that’s now lost.

Family is sacrifice.
It’s what has to be done.
Family is breaking bread,
and butting heads.
Its your mothers’ mother tongue.
It’s your first bedroom,
and knowing who your parents where
when they were young.

Family is history repeating.
It’s trying to be different.
It’s not passing the trauma,
To your only daughter.
It’s accepting the past,
because she still laughs like somebody else,
that came before her.

Family is the water, that washes away
the trail of blood that didn’t stay.
It’s the choices you made,
the paths that you laid, all the people
you loved and the people that saved

Family is leaving behind,
but it’s never goodbye.
It’s the last lunch receipt in your purse
it’s the tear in your eye,
when you lay in the bed,
where you learned that she died.
It’s the person you are,
because you just happened
to be alive at the same time.

Family cuts the crusts off,
and can’t always remember what it’s like to be young.
It knows the oldest person sits in the front.
Family is holding your tongue

Family is impatient, relentless,
it's static and fluxx,
It’s burping and singing
and getting unstuck.

My family’s from dance halls,
and unions.
From resilience and pain.
From bar brawls,
and pub crawls.
It’s more than a name.

It’s more than semantics,
or the hereditary chin,
It’s the places you’ll go,
And the places you’ve been.

Family expands like the universe
and pulls back like the tide.
Family holds you tightly,
when the planets collide.

Friends and Family by Kathy Dunnett

Sitting here, working from home, looking out of a closed window,

Seeing gardens, rooftops, trees, my thoughts turn to my family.

Smile on my face, flickering images flashing through my mind.

Grandchildren first, children – grown up; siblings, pets, people passed on – a tear.

Warm and fuzzy feelings, comforting me, safe from Covid and all of its fearfulness.

Thoughts and memories keeping me safe from the possibilities, blocking the nightmares.

So many memories, so many laughs and lovings, sadness and regrets.

Wanting to turn back the clock and do it better, next time round.

But also, laughing, laughing until the tears run down my face and I cannot speak for joy.

The birth of a child, the birth of a grandchild.

Cats on facebook. Soppy dogs. Horses galloping.

Friends – at home – at work – banter, sadness – difficult now, but hopefully will return.

Looking in the mirror, the years have gone by. My mother looks back at me – ‘you are the mother and the grandmother now’.

Yes, and I love them all.

Welcome to the Family by Mike Lansdown

A distant cave
Support the roof.
Language before words
‘I was here’.

Black and ochre
Essence of the earth
From which we grow
And to which we will return.
Figures stalk the walls
Antecedent and ancestral
My tribe
My family.

Oil upon canvas
Layer upon layer
Generations thick.
Collars and countenances starched
Eyes set, fixed upon the distant days to come.
They stand sentinel and silent
Have oversight
Upon a spiral staircase
Leading to the stars.

Now, in sepia and white
They rise unsmiling
To float into our consciousness.
Nameless, ageless, long-gone
Details lost to a history
Unwritten and forgotten.
But they share my name
And I their genes.
Look carefully and you will see
A hint, or two:
The tilt of a chin, the shape of an ear, a nose that nobody would choose.
They stare across the years
Communicate their hopes, their dreams, their fears,
In words unspoken.
A silent echo.

Dog-eared and bent
The whole no bigger than your old pound note
The family presses
Crowds to stay within the frame.
And on the back:
A date - pencilled, smudged, incomplete
Location scribbled in a hurried hand
A name, or two, perhaps.
Clues that call or wave, tantalise and tease
A signpost toppled by the winds of time.
‘Old uncle Albert? Granny Jean?
It can’t be her, she’s far too lean.’

Colours bleeding at their edges.
‘Were skies ever green or lawns and hedges pink?’
Kodachrome and Polaroid made for brighter times.
Now, crank into motion…
That party,
That game of cricket on the beach,
That raising of a glass,
That determination to have some fun.
That probing lens
Flooded in the glare of a rare British sun.

One small step
A short walk
A world united
Hand in hand.
Lonely footprints in the sand
Silently proclaiming
‘We are here.’
A tank
A man
Who shows no fear.
We hold our breath
Our arms around his shoulders.
When two towers become none
Shockwaves pulse across the globe
And hope seems gone
We almost shut the family album.

And now
Sharp and true
The reddest red, the bluest blue.
We pose and pout
For friends we greet
And trust we’ll never meet.
Might not even like.
A dozen, a score, half a million
Maybe more.
A virtual worldwide family
Hyperspacial neighbours
Who live, freeze, die
And can enter your house
At the flick of a finger
At the click of a mouse.

More numerous than the stars
Or droplets in the oceans
A storm-surge of selfies
Of family, friends, strangers
Dead, alive
And yet to come
A tsunami, a mushroom cloud 
Threatening to block the sun.

A distant cave
Handprints on the roof.
A virtual handshake - suitably distanced
Invites you in.
‘We are still here.’
Welcome to the family.


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