A hometown epic from Lowestoft

TO THINK of an epic poem, most of us would come up with the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf, but one writer is trying to change that with his own 9,000-word verse on the history of his hometown.

TO THINK of an epic poem, most of us would come up with the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf, but one writer is trying to change that with his own 9,000-word verse on the history of his hometown.

Singer and songwriter John Ward, a popular music lecturer at Lowestoft College, has spent the last 20 years putting together the 31-page The Iron Bridge from the seaside resort's rich heritage.

The 1,550-line poem will be performed in 80 minutes with no intervals at the Ferini Gallery in Pakefield tomorrow, accompanied by music by Mr Ward and paintings by a local artist.

The epic work encompasses the loves, pains and struggles of people in a community born around a harbour from Saxon and Viking times through the ages covering the plague, the 20th Century high fishing industry, wartimes before finishing with the present seaside resort.


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Halesworth-born Mr Ward, 39, has lived in Lowestoft for the last 30 years but never set out to write an epic to rival John Fitchett's early 19th Century 129,807-line poem on the life of King Alfred – the longest poem in the English language that took 40 years to write.

"I wrote a lot of separate poems, inspired by Lowestoft, but I had no ambition in mind – I just like to write," he said.

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He admits he has a love-hate relationship with his hometown.

"When I tell people about it, I always say first of all, 'It's ok, you can laugh'. "Lowestoft is really tatty and run-down but at the same time it's got some wonderful things in it as well. There's always something to do."

The father-of-two has released three critically acclaimed albums of original songs and travelled around the country touring.

"There are a lot of towns that are a lot worse than Lowestoft," he added.

He teamed up with local actor Nick Murray Brown, who will perform the poem, local artist Mark Burrell, whose paintings run alongside the published poem and feature in the performance, and harp player Xenia Horne, the project's director, who thinks the seaside resort is experiencing a cultural renaissance.

She said: "Lowestoft has suffered for some time from a negative press. Now, with the advent of The Darkness, there is a definite change in the general feel of the town."

Tickets for the 8pm performance are £6 from 0800 9751728 with the accompanying art exhibition continuing until June 30. Copies of The Iron Bridge are available from the gallery and bookshops in Lowestoft and Norwich.

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