Thomas Edward Brown

T.E.Brown in Motion – Visual Poems

“I’ve spent the last three months working on a project about T.E.Brown”

Named the Isle of Man’s ‘National Poet’ it’s surprising that so many people don’t have the foggiest idea who he was. I made it my mission to propel Thomas Edward Brown into the conciousness of twenty-first century Islanders.

wide emily cook and john Kenneugh T E Brown recording resize

John Kennaugh in the recording studio with Emily Cook at DAM productions -Photo by Dave Armstrong


My aim was to create a series of ‘Visual Poems’ taking the words of T.E.Brown recording them and illustrating the voice over with moving image.

In Spring 2014, I approached the Arts Council with an idea, which they swiftly got behind through an Island of Culture 2014 grant, which made the project possible.

I recorded audio of both traditional Manx Speaker John Kennaugh as well as local children reading the works of T.E.Brown, written over 130 years ago. It’s rather magical hearing T.E.Browns words spoken through the voices of today’s youth. Following the audio recording, I went out on film shoots and collected film footage to illustrate the content of the audio recordings, from which I edited the poems as short films using the audio as the narrative.

Images from the recording studio at DAM productions

Images from the recording studio at DAM productions

My aim is to get these visual poems shown in local schools as part of the Manx curriculum, to take the words of the 19th century and deliver them through the most immediate medium of today, moving image, making the words more accessible. The idea was to create a trans-media learning tool for the viewer, merging the boundaries between written poetry, film and spoken word. It’s a true celebration of the arts. We made sure to provide a version of each poem with subtitles, to ensure the content was accessible as possible, as well as display the written words alongside the spoken words. I feel this enriches the experience and gives a greater appreciation for the poetry.

Throughout the process, we gave regular progress updates, including the following video blog from the edit suite after having just been on a shoot down Dhoon Glen. Any of you who have walked down Dhoon will know it’s quite a trek, especially with filming equipment!

When  constructing the  various edits, we remained aware not to have the cuts happen too quickly, as unlike another film where visuals are king, the moving image we laid on the time line was there to support and add to the spoken words rather than distract. We also edited in a way that the cut points supported the rhythm of the poems, again adding another layer to T.E.Brown’s poetry.

Happily, my project has been met with enthusiasm from both the department of Education and the Arts Council who have been very supportive in nurturing my idea. It’s been great fun and extremely rewarding working on this project.

We got out to some superb locations during the filming for this project

We got out to some superb locations during the filming for this project


My main focus was always on finding poems about nature and location, celebrating the natural beauty of the Island. It’s wonderful how much of the content of the poems matches the Island surrounding us today. For instance,  Dhoon Glen  has changed very little, if at all, since  T.E. Brown wrote ‘The Dhoon’ poem about it 130 years ago. I find this utterly inspiring. The Island is so unspoilt, I hope others are encouraged by this project to get out and celebrate the Island through poetry, photography, spoken work and film.

The five poems were chosen to provide a significant enough range of content, in order to appeal to various ages.


A Still from each of the five films

A still from each of the five films

 An example of one of the Poems




I hope next time someone mentions T.E.Brown to you, you can now say, yes that’s the Island’s National Poet! Rather than say, Isn’t that the dude with the road works cone on his head at the top of Prospect hill?


This Blog was written by Emily Cook for Reel Vision Film Productions