Waad Yuh Beleev It? - Northumbrian dialect poem wins creator national prize

Peter Arnold thought his Waad Yuh Beleev It poem might fall on deaf ears when he got up to perform at the National Dialect Day in Exeter this month

Peter Arnold
Peter Arnold

A tall tale performed in the Northumbrian dialect has won its creator a national prize.

Peter Arnold thought his Waad Yuh Beleev It poem might fall on deaf ears when he got up to perform at the National Dialect Day in Exeter this month.

The Devon audience might know what a bairn is, but they might be less familiar with the words ‘lowp’ (jump), ‘dunch’ (hit or a knock) or a ‘bogle’ (goblin).

But the Chairman of the Northumbrian Language Society, from Hexham, believes his emphatic performance drew in the crowd and saw him take home the accolade for best piece written by the speaker at the event.

The celebration of dialects of the English language takes place every year and explores vocabulary and sayings from the Mid Ulster dialect to Cumbrian and Lancastrian.

“This was the first time I’d ever entered this competition at National Dialect Day,” Peter said.

“I didn’t believe I would do so well against 15 other experienced dialect speakers.

“I must admit I was quite nervous before it was my turn to compete, but it all came together when it mattered so I’m really pleased, and delighted with the result.”

Retired teacher Peter, 69, husband to Claire said people have an affection for the North East accent.

The former Newcastle city councillor wrote his winning piece in tribute to fellow society member Terry Common, who was known for his ability to embellish a story.

“There is a lot of feedback from people and I think there is a rhythm that people respond to with dialects,” he said.

“I think it is because in many ways Northumbrian as a dialect is quite musical and a lot of people respond positively to the North East accent.”

Nine members of the society headed to Exeter for the event, including folk artist Johnny Handle and Stuart Lawson, who competed for prizes.

Kim Bibby-Wilson, secretary of the Northumbrian Language Society, said: “It was a grand weekend in Exeter, and supported by a good crowd of local folks as well as by the various dialect societies from all over.

“Events like this prove that the dialects of English are far from dead, and it was a great experience to hear so many poems, songs and stories in the rich dialect of our country.

“Peter’s prize-winning performance was a real surprise for all of us, and we’re fair chuffed at bringing home another impressive trophy. It really made the long trip worthwhile.”

Next year, National Dialect Day, which celebrates all dialects of the English Language, will be held closer to home in Cumbria.

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