Former music teacher, 78, beats thousands to win lockdown arts competition

David Bramhall, from Harleston, was chosen as winner of the poetry category in the inaugural King Le

David Bramhall, from Harleston, was chosen as winner of the poetry category in the inaugural King Lear Prizes. Picture: Jane Bramhall - Credit: Archant

A former music teacher has seen off nationwide competition which encouraged artistic creativity among older people during lockdown.

David Bramhall, from Harleston, was chosen as winner of the poetry category in the King Lear Prizes

David Bramhall, from Harleston, was chosen as winner of the poetry category in the King Lear Prizes by writer and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth. Picture: Gyles Brandreth - Credit: Archant

David Bramhall, who lives in Harleston, triumphed in the poetry category of the King Lear Prizes, a new arts contest launched in March.

The 78-year-old’s poem, ‘Snape Maltings: The concert hall late at night’, was chosen above thousands of others by writer, broadcaster and former MP Gyles Brandreth.

It was inspired by his experience performing and conducting at the unique Suffolk venue.

Mr Bramhall worked for many years as a teacher, conductor, arranger and choir-trainer, before gravitating from music to the written word following his retirement.

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He has since self-published a number of non-fiction books, novels and short stories.

Revealing his reasons for entering, Mr Bramhall said: “Very few people read the books I write - those who do are polite. On the other hand, no one reads my poetry at all.

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“I could hardly pass up the opportunity to reach a wider audience, and to see if my verse is actually any good.”

He added: “This is going to make a big difference to me. Although I write prose continually, I have never taken very seriously the little verses I scribble from time to time and certainly never thought of myself as a poet.

“To have one of these scribblings singled out for such distinction is going to change my attitude entirely - perhaps I’m better than I thought.”

The inaugural King Lear Prizes was open to people aged 70 and above with no professional experience in the arts.

Taking its name from the Shakespeare play written during outbreaks of the plague in London, the competition invited entrants to submit short stories, poetry, short plays, solo musical compositions and art.

In all, 15,000 people from across the UK and British citizens overseas entered the six categories.

For his efforts, Mr Bramhall will receive £1,000 in prize money.

Gyles Brandreth, who judged the poetry category, said: “I chose David’s poem as our winner because it evokes that ‘post-show’ feeling so well, with its rituals and emotions.

“The poem is well thought through both in its technical aspects and in its imagery and mood. It’s a poem to be proud of.”

Snape Maltings: The concert hall late at night

The orchestra has ceased to play, the audience has gone away. Onstage, small crosses on the wood, Mark where the solo singers stood.

Now comes the rush to home or pub, to glass of wine and late-night grub. And fond post-mortems in the bar, how fine the choir or orchestra!

Cup of tea or beans on toast, and which the bit you liked the most. And was the tenor slightly flat, or did you just imagine that?

The ushers gone, the foyer hushed, the seats are folded, floor is brushed. And piles of unsold programmes lean, beside the ticket cash machine.

The car doors slam, performers tell, each other that it went off well. We certainly must come again, soft silence settles on the fen.

Inside, the air is warm and thick, contained by wood and russet brick. A well of velvet, dark and dim, where ghostly oratorios swim.

And all the music ever heard, each silver note, each lambent word. Still rings though not a soul is near; still hums, electric, in your ear.

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