On Saturday and Sunday, I spent some time down at the Cambridge Literary Festival, helping out at the Allographic Poetry To Go stall in the grounds of the Cambridge University Student Union.
The idea behind Poetry To Go is a simple one: it’s like a take-away restaurant. But, instead of fish and chips or a kebab with garlic mayo, punters receive a bespoke poem, written ‘on the spot’ by one of an army of willing Poetry To Go poets!
|A 'sign' of things to come|
Writing to order – and with such a tight turnaround time – is not something I’d ever done before and I felt a little bit out of my comfort zone. But I was keen to give it a try and luckily, I got some really interesting commissions!
Between us, we wrote a lot of poems to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, and we also had a lot of great poem requests from some very imaginative children. In the time I was at the Poetry To Go stall, I wrote a poem about rabbits; an anniversary poem for a couple who had met in a chocolate factory; and a poem commemorating a man who had died suddenly.
It was a rollercoaster of emotions. People brought amazing, humbling, fascinating, heart-breaking, and hilarious stories to us, and we made them rhyme!
I also wrote a poem about a flying unicorn called Startdust. (It was a commission from a little girl with an incredibly vivid imagination!) Stardust flies because he drinks magic water – at least, that was the brief that she gave us.
Needless to say, it was a really fun weekend!
|Who's that hiding behind there? (photo by Lindum Greene)|
Poetry To Go is part of Allographic, and run by Fay Roberts – Cambridge’s own Poetry Powerhouse! Fay did fantastic job: organising a gaggle of poets, and writing her own commissions, and sorting out the admin, and generally being marvellous!
Kudos are also in order for the rest of Poetry To Go team: Emma Ormond, Riaz Moola, Mal Faloon, Robin Lamboll, Lindum Green, Ups Subba, Abi Palmer, Tim Knight, JS Watts, Michael Brown, Elaine Ewart, and our new Fenland Poet Laureate Jonathan Totman.
But the biggest thank you has to go to the punters, who bought some excellent bespoke poetry and gave us so many great ideas! The cash raised through Poetry To Go will help to fund the Cambridge Fringe Festival in the summer, so watch this space for more details on that!
|Ups, Emma and Fay at the Poetry To Go stall|
|A gaggle of poets!|
|Peering over Riaz's shoulder into the courtyard|
If you’ll remember, I was one of the poets commissioned by Peterborough poet Keely Mills to be involved in her sustainable transport project, which forms part of Peterborough’s Green Festival.
In case you’re not up to speed with Cambridgeshire events, the Green Festival is an annual event celebrating Peterborough’s links to renewable resources, recycling and other environmental initiatives. And as part of this, Keely has been collecting poems that celebrate Peterborough’s public transport system, and she’s spent a good deal of her time on they city’s buses in recent weeks, recording the journeys as inspiration for her own poetry.
Seven local writers contributed to this project, and the poems are being recorded and turned into a soundscape, which will then be broadcast in various places around Peterborough on Saturday 23rd May. You’ll be able to hear it through speakers on the Queensgate footbridge, the city market and the bus station, and it will also be played on several local radio stations including Peterborough FM and BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. It’ll then be available as a podcast. So that’s pretty exciting!
The recording session itself was really good fun – we were at Beat This CIC, which is a community music project right in the heart of Peterborough – and it was great to finally meet all the other writers involved in the project.
We also met some local people who had volunteered to record versions of the poems, in order to make the soundscape reflect the variety of accents that can be heard in Peterborough.
Mefisto von Bedre and Louise Murphy recorded my poems for me, and I’m really looking forward to hearing how they interpreted the words!
I’ll keep you posted with more information about this project, or you can check out Keely’s blog for more regular updates!
|Far too excited about being in a recording studio|
This Friday, I’ll be doing some poems as part of The Display Presents! at St Philip’s Church on Mill Road in Cambridge. There’ll be music from Alex Hall, Emily Wainwright and Andy Hosker, as well as a display by artist Fraser White.
The whole thing starts at 7:30pm and is a bargain at £6 per ticket. And it turns out that this show is part of organizer Lester James Allen’s university course, so we really need to make it a success!
You can find tickets via We Got Tickets. See you there!