Festival celebrated poet's life and work

DEVOTEES of the area's most famous poet gathered in Helpston at the weekend for its annual celebration of his life and work.

The 27th John Clare Festival took place over three days and attracted visitors from around the country - including one of the great writer's own descendants.

Despite being in her 80s, Dorothy Rose made the journey from her home in New Malden, Surrey, to join in the celebrations of her ancestor, who died in 1864 and is buried in the village.

Helpston resident and honorary vice-president of the John Clare Society, Peter Moyse said: "Dorothy, sadly, is losing her eyesight but her family were determined for her to have a memorable year and she was very pleased to be with us.

"This year's event was absolutely marvellous and people came from all round the country to visit.

"Of course they are all drawn by their love of John Clare's work but another reason is the fellowship - the festival is very much like a family gathering."

The festival began on Friday with a midsummer cushion ceremony, where pupils from John Clare Primary School carried traditional floral decorations to the poet's grave in St Botolph's churchyard.

The weekend also included talks, exhibitions and music from folk group The Mellstock Band.