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Busy children's programme at annual poetry festival

The annual StAnza poetry festival taking place in St Andrews next month will build on the success of last year's expanded children's programme. This year, young audiences can hear readings from children's poets and writers, see performances and participate in poetry workshops.

Matt Harvey, whose wit and humour will be familiar to Radio 4 listeners, and Matthew Fitt, creator of the popular Itchy Coo characters, will perform together on March 18.

On the same day, in Praise Songs, a show linked to the festival's theme of land and ecology, storyteller Hugh Lupton and musician Chris Wood will celebrate the relationship between horses and mankind.

Music and poetry combine again on March 19 in a performance by traditional musicians Gordon Tyrrall, Brian Peters and Geoff Bowen, which is suitable for children over 12. The trio have set the poetry of John Clare to music alongside arrangements of the poet's own favourite tunes.

Also that day, Maureen Sangster and writerecologist Jackie Galley will retell Scots poet Robert Henryson's Animal Fables using puppets and masks, with an update of the stories to include modern environmental concerns.

Sangster and Galley will also offer children the chance to make masks and puppets and create their own Henryson-inspired animal poems.

Poet and children's writer Valerie Thornton will invite children to have poetic fun with that familiar phrase "Don't do that!" on March 18.

A workshop party at St Leonards New Park School on March 19 is inspired by the Australian aboriginal tradition of creating songlines to describe journeys across the outback.

This year, in the run-up to the festival, StAnza has been offering workshop sessions with guest poets and writers in local schools, led by students from the creative writing programme at St Andrews University.

There's still a chance to enter the StAnza's children's poetry competition, which is open to schools and individuals in Fife and has three categories: junior (P4-P5), intermediate (P6-P7) and senior (S1-S2). The closing date for poems based on the festival theme of land and ecology is March 3.

St Anza 2006, March 16-19 www.stanzapoetry.org

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