August 9, 2021, by Kathryn Steenson

Cataloguing Connie, Part 2

Connie Ford – veterinarian, poet, supporter of the arts, traveller, political activist, correspondent, sailor – left behind an enormous personal and literary archive.

We are pleased to announce the completion of the Connie Ford catalogue which is now open to view on our website. Over the next few months our blogs will highlight specific aspects of her life. The first blog looked at her veterinarian work. This one will focus on her poetry writing and love of music, dance, and theatre.

Front covers of four anthologies, all of which are plain except for the titles

Anthologies of Connie Ford’s poetry (Ref: CF 1/3/1/1-4)

Connie always enjoyed writing poetry and her collection includes nearly 700 typescript poems ranging from political topics to nature and friends. She was a member of various poetry societies including the Nottingham Poetry Society for which was a former Chair, and the Society of Civil Service Authors. Connie’s poems were featured in several anthologies throughout the 1970s such as ‘Veterinary Ballads and other poems’ in 1973 (Ref: CF 1/3/1/2) and ‘The Crimson Wing: A Book of Political Verse’ in 1977 (Ref: CF 1/3/1/4).

Connie’s poems covered serious topics like ‘Auschwitz, 1976’ or ‘The Lies of War’ as well as more humorous subjects such as ‘R.A.F. display’ or ‘Elite’:

“He paid his doctor privately.
He never tasted marge.
He held a sunset in contempt
For being free of charge.”

(The Crimson Wing, Trentside Publications, 1977).

Her long narrative poem about the nineteenth century ship ‘The Great Eastern’ won Manifold Magazine’s John Masefield Prize in 1968 (Ref: CF 1/5/2). The poem was based on her grandfather James William Ford’s (c.1844-1904) journal when he served on the ship.

All four items contain images of sailing ships

Poster, invitation John to the Masefield Memorial competition, part of the poem, and a beermat from the Courage Tavern (Ref: CF 4/7/2)

In a merging of Connie Ford’s love of poetry and music, she collaborated with composer Irene Armitage to create the song ‘The Passing Bell’ with lyrics by Connie and music by Irene. This song was performed at the Workers Music Association Summer School in 1961. The recording of the concert on magnetic reel-to-reel tape has now been digitised to make it easier to listen to without damaging the original (Ref: CF 4/6/2/3). Connie also collected Workers Music Association music books, including ‘Songs for the Sixties’ which is autographed by Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl, father of Kirsty MacColl! (Ref: CF 4/6/3/10).

Newspaper cutting about the 1961 WMA Summer School, music and lyrics for ‘The Passing Bell’ (Ref: CF 4/6/2), letter from Irene Armitage (Ref: CF 3/5/8), and ‘Songs for the Sixties’ (Ref: CF 4/6/3/10)

Connie also greatly enjoyed the performing arts and collected many theatre and art festival programmes (Ref: CF 4/6/1). A number of items in her collection show her love for singing and dance, including her interest in folk music (Ref: CF/4/6/3), a notebook with dance steps (Ref: CF 4/10/15), and photographs of dances (Ref: CF 5/2/81 and Ref: CF 5/2/105). Connie’s collection even has a photo album dedicated to her enjoyment of bellringing (Ref: CF 5/1/10). She also won the International Choir Competitions at the Festival of Students, Budapest 14-28 August 1949 (Ref: CF 4/11/10).

Theatre production programmes (Ref: CF 4/6/1), notebook of dance steps (Ref: CF 4/10/15), and certificate for winning the International Choir Competitions (Ref: CF 4/11/10)

Her friends noted in the autobiography of Connie Ford through her own poetry: ‘Walking my tightrope: the life of Connie Ford’, compiled by Cathy Grindrod (2001), that Connie was still singing aged 85 and was dancing at a ball in 1997, a few months before she died.

The Papers of Connie Ford catalogue is available here, and the collection can be viewed in the Manuscripts & Special Collections Reading Room by appointment. Email to book and let us know which documents you would like to see.

Posted in From the collections