Tuesday, 26 May 2015

TUESDAY NIGHT NEWS - Bus Poems for the Peterborough Green Festival

I don’t know if you remember me telling you, but a few months ago I was asked to contribute some poems to the Peterborough Green Festival. Well, the wait is finally over and the podcast containing recordings of all the poems has just been released!

But before I give you a link to the podcast itself, let me tell you a little bit about the project and the festival itself:

 So, the Green Festival is this long-running initiative in Peterborough, which first appeared in the city in the early nineties. Peterborough is really proud of its environmental record, with over 350 green businesses in area and the largest number of zero carbon homes in the UK, plus a huge number of eco-schools (Which look amazing, by the way!) so it makes sense that the city would want to show off its green credentials!

This year, the Green Festival used the theme ‘sustainable transport’ to celebrate various environmental organizations in the city, raising awareness of local projects, green spaces, heritage crafting, carbon neutral initiatives, food, farming, biodiversity and recycling.

The Poetry on the Buses Project was supported by funding from Arts Council England and led by marvelous local poet and promoter, Keely Mills. Keely commissioned poems about sustainable transport from a small number of local writers, and also accidentally became the unofficial poet-in-residence on Peterborough’s major bus routes! 

In fact, she ended up spending three months riding the main bus routes in the city, using her journeys as inspiration for a series of poems celebrating Peterborough and its public transport system!

I know you’re probably laughing at me right now. You’re thinking, “Poems about buses? What a boring subject!”

And you’d be right, kinda. Buses are not a glamorous mode of transport. They’re often overlooked in literature (for often, read: always) and bus journeys are pretty much always seen as frustratingly prosaic.

But I think that sharing public space with so many other people – people who you wouldn’t otherwise associate with in your ‘real’ life – gives you a huge opportunity to see things from a new perspective. Plus, you often see the city from a completely different angle: able to stare at the shop fronts and houses – and see over fences and walls – in a way that you can’t when zipping past in your own car.

To me, it’s these altered perspectives that make buses an unlikely but rewarding place for inspiration.

And anyway, who said that poems had to be all Flowers and Greek Mythology?

Piss off, Zeus!

Anyway, after our poems were written, we popped along to the ‘Beat This’ community music studio to get our poems recorded. It was a fairly surreal experience, especially since local residents were recording versions of our poems too! Louise and Mihail read my poems for me, and they both did a superb job!

In fact, the whole podcast sounds completely amazing! You can check it out here: http://www.pect.org.uk/working-with-us/business-sector/green-festival-2015-poetry-on-the-buses-project

And the podcast will not be confined to the internet! Oh no! You’ll also be able to hear it playing in loads of different places across Peterborough this week, including the Queensgate Footbridge, the city market, the Rivergate shopping centre, Serpentine Green shopping centre, and some of the city’s top radio stations!

So huge thanks go to Keely for asking me to be involved in this project. And, if you’re keen to read my commissioned poems, have a gander further down the page. Let me know what you think!

If you’re a nosy parker,
Then you’re in for a treat!
There’s stories flying thick and fast
So save yourself a seat.

Sit just behind the driver –
Don’t put your headphones in!
And when the bus moves off again,
The magic will begin.

You might hear Amal talking
About his latest job,
Or hear the schoolgirls chattering
About their new heart throb.

You might catch Lauren’s story;
She’s saving for a flat.
Or overhear Frank tell his friend
About his farting cat.

You might hear Grace and Nina
Talk all about their girls:
Two doctors and a diplomat –
One day they’ll save the world!

Meanwhile, Marcel and Inga
Are teaching Bertie Dutch.
He hasn’t got a word right yet,
But it doesn’t matter much.

Now Cyril, Stan and Tyrell
Are contemplating tea.
But Bolognese or Roasted Lamb?
They can’t agree, you see.

And Daymo’s showing Enid
The way to work her phone.
They’ve mastered Angry Birds, and now
They’re looking at ringtones.

The old men swap nostalgia
In return for boiled sweets.
The youngsters talk about their dreams
On far off city streets.

Their words are crossing cultures
And bridging the divide.
Commutes are made more bearable
By talking, side by side.

I could ride this bus all day
And listen to their stories.
The murmuring mosaics of
A thousand trials and glories.

I’d never use a private jet,
So don’t ask me to try.
This bus is filled with laughter
As the city passes by.

And when we round the corner,
I curse the butcher’s shop.
See, I’ve become so lost in talk,
I’ve missed my blumming stop!

The Bus Driver
Our driver knows this city off by heart.
He traces routes upon his well-worn palms –
His knowledge isn’t science, it’s an art;
It takes more than a jam to shake his calm.
He knows just how to act, and plays his part
From Bretton down to Stanground and Park Farm.
He loves this job: the roads, the early starts.
The traffics lights have still retained their charm.
The regulars all call him ‘Juke Box Jim’
Because he knows the words to every song.
He treats each tune just like a choral hymn –
Encouraging us all to sing along. 
Being in his bus is such an honour:
I love it when he listens to Madonna!

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