The Yorkshire market town of Otley has teamed up with Children's Heart Surgery Fund to raise money for the charity by offering 'Personalised Poems for a Pound' in the run up to Valentine's Day, 2017. Otley is thought to be the only town in the country with its own official poet – and local bard Matthew Hedley-Stoppard will pen the personalised poems in return for a minimum £1 donation to the charity. People wishing to use the service simply upload the name of a loved one when a donation is made and Matthew will craft a bespoke poem in their honour.
Otley has a long history with the arts – the Chevin Forest that backs the town is home to Bronze Age carvings that mysteriously come to life when wet, and many of 19th-century romanticist J.M.W Turner's paintings were inspired by the surrounding landscapes. Today it is home to a strong arts scene at centres such as The Otley Courthouse and music venue Korks, as well as being home to four different poetry groups and workshops.
Established in 1988, Children's Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF) is the award-winning charity that supports the Congenital Heart Unit at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI). Covering Yorkshire, Humberside and North Lincolnshire, it helps some 10,000 children from these regions that pass through the unit each year, including the 400 or more that require open-heart surgery.
Donations raised from the poetry campaign will benefit the charity's Keeping The Beat appeal to raise £500,000 towards a revolutionary children's heart theatre, based at LGI. CHSF has already pledged £1.25 million towards the project that will help fund a bespoke new operating theatre to help treat babies and children with congenital heart disease.
Children's Heart Surgery Fund, CEO Sharon Coyle said: “Our mission is to provide funding and resources for Leeds Congenital Heart Unit which is needed to care for a child's heart, mind, family and future. We hope men and women, young and old will make use of Matthew's skills to provide a special touch for their loved ones on this most romantic day of the year.”
Matthew Hedley Stoppard who has been Otley's official Town Poet for the last year said: “Being Otley's official poet is an honour, we believe that doesn't exist elsewhere in the country. I'm proud to be able to use my skills to be able to raise funds for such a wonderful cause.”
Members of the public can get their bespoke poems courtesy of Matthew by denoting a pound or more at chsf.org.uk/poems. Personalised poems between February 1 and February 12 will be returned within 24 hours.