Saturday’s relay was a great success. We careened around the West Midlands in a minibus, racing through high streets and across parks to perform our poems in relay. All of our poets made it to their alloted destinations, all of them wrote their 20 lines, and we released ten pigeons from the brilliant Project Pigeon who raced back to Birmingham and determined the final order of the poem.
As the day wore on we lost time, gained it back, grabbed cups of tea where we could, infiltrated cinema queues and park festivals, performed live on Touch FM, entertained a pub garden full of walkers on the Malvern hills, and delighted the security guards and station managers at Stoke station. Kids on bikes helped us release our pigeons, elderly wanderers took a quick rest to listen to us in Bromyard, and dog show enthusiasts got more than they bargained for in Polesworth.
It was a fantastic day of surprises, laughs, rushing around and excellent poetry. All of our poets responded to their task in different and interesting ways, and the words we got to know well by the end of the day seemed ever more relevant as the band of merry poets grew.
- Unsuspecting walkers at Malvern
However, a relay is still a race, and we must tell you the results!
Our ten pigeons arrived safely back on saturday evening, and once they had a quick rest they revealed the order in which our poems returned. The full poem will be written up for you soon, but here is the final order as they flew in…
- Hatton Country World’s poem by Helen Yendall came in first.
- Second was Bromyard’s ode, by sack-racing Deborah Alma.
- Next in was Burton-On-Trent’s ode to beer, by Philip Monks.
- Fourth was Telford Odeon’s poem about the art of queuing by aptly dressed Dave Reeves.
- Fifth was Adrian Johnson’s poem for the Malvern Hills about cycling.
- Sixth was Polesworth, with Malcolm Dewhirst’s poem for the park.
- Seventh was the place it all began, Stoke on Trent, with Emma Purshouse’s imagining of Platform Diving.
- Eighth was our final venue, Stafford, with Roz Goddard’s offering on pies and snorkelling.
- Ninth was Worcester’s stain glass making ode, by Rohit Ballal.
- Tenth was Kurly McGeachie’s poem for Highley, hot coal shovelling!
- The pigeons take flight
- A bus full of poets!
Here are a couple of pictures of the day, but watch this space as the team from Monty Funk , who followed us around for the entire 12 hours recording, will be producing some audio/interactive content for us – to mark the day and build a lasting legacy as we head towards London 2012.
Gracious thanks to all of our venues, poets (special mention to Emma P, who was first on the bus and performed her poem no less than TEN times) and team – we all had a wonderful day, and the weather held.
Particular thanks to London 2012 and Arts Council England for inspiring and supporting the venture.
Tomorrow we embark upon the maddest event we’ve ever attempted (and we are known for having odd ideas).
The Great West Midlands Poetry Relay is a big ask, but we are so excited to be doing it. We want to thank, and wish luck to, everyone who has agreed to be involved.
Our poets, Emma Purshouse, Philip Monks, Malcolm Dewhirst, Helen Yendall, Rohit Ballal, Adrian Johnson, Deborah Alma, Kurly McGeachie, Dave Reeves and Roz Goddard – we can’t wait to hear your poems and hope you’ve packed your sandwiches and got your comfortable travelling clothes on ready to step onto the poetry bus. The bus will be packed with snacks, pens, paper and other things required to keep ten poets alive for twelve hours.
We’re also delighted to be working with the guys over at Monty Funk who are coming with us and recording audio all day that they will then edit into a series of podcasts about the Relay – you’ll be able to experience the poems long after the day’s events are over. They will be available online and even mapped so you can download them in the places they were created.
Thanks are also due to our friends at Project Pigeon
We also want to thank our venues, all ten of them, without whom this wouldn’t be happening. We can’t wait to see how the shoppers at Hatton Country World or the cinema goers at Telford Odeon react to our bus rolling up and the inevitable outpouring of poets.
Lastly, thanks are due to Arts Council England and the Cultural Olympiad Open Weekend team for supporting the event.
We will be LIVE BLOGGING tomorrow on this site – as often as we get signal, we will be updating to let you know where we are along the route, how big and unruly the poem is becoming and who has been travel sick.
Lastly, we’ll be on BBC Radio WM tonight after 9pm, on the Loyd Williams show, and on BBC Radio Stoke tomorrow at 7.15am talking about the Relay, so listen out for us.
That’s it for now – we’re off to polish the megaphone and pack the bus!
To celebrate the Cultural Olympiad Open Weekend on Saturday 23rd July 2011, ten poets will complete a poetry relay across ten locations in the West Midlands.. This will take the form of public events in different venues, including stations, libraries, Polesworth Park, Hatton Country World, a motorway service station and the Pie and Ale Pub in Stafford.
At the first location, poet A will write and perform to an audience the first segment of a collective poem. They will then join a team minibus and be taken to location two. There poet B will read the first segment and continue in that vein, writing their own segment. Then poets A and B will each perform to an audience. They will then be taken to the third location, where they will be joined by Poet C. The team of poets and segments of the poem will grow until ten segments and ten events are completed. All the finished pieces will then be attached to ten racing pigeons from Project Pigeon who will be released to carry the ten segments of the poem back to their Birmingham loft. The order in which they arrive back will determine the final manifestation of the poem.
|8am||Stoke On Trent, Railway Station, Booking Hall, ST4 2AA||http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations/sot/details.html|
|9.15am||Burton On Trent, Library||http://www.istaffordshire.co.uk/profile/282991/Burton-on-Trent/Burton-Library/|
|10.15am||Polesworth Abbey Green Park – as part of Love Abbey Green event with Touch FM, B78 1DU||http://www.loveparksweek.org.uk/Whats-on-detail.aspx?EventID=85eb71fa-46e0-40cb-a6db-1c9abc2266e8&County=Warwickshire|
|11.40am||Hatton Country World, Toffee Shop, CV35 8XA||http://www.hattonworld.com/shoppingvillage/|
|13.10pm||Worcester Arts Workshop – Cafe Bliss, WR1 1RU||http://www.worcesterartsworkshop.org.uk/aboutus.asp?menuID=Cafe%20Bliss|
|14.30pm||Malvern Hills – British Camp (Herefordshire Beacon) car park||http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=wr136dw&hl=en&ll=52.063573,-2.345753&spn=0.018864,0.038581&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=18.61907,39.506836&z=15|
|16.05pm||Bromyard Town Green – behind the Public Hall near St Peter’s Churchyard
|17.15pm||Highley – Severn Centre forecourt, WV16 6JG||http://www.severncentre.co.uk/index.htm|
|18:20pm||Telford Odeon, Forgegate, TF3 4NE||http://www.nationalvenues.co.uk/shropshire/telford/telfordodeon.htm|
|19:35pm||The Pie and Ale House, Crabbery Street, Stafford, ST16 2BA||http://www.pieandale.com/|
Here’s a google map of the day!
Come along to celebrate the Cultural Olympiad and get involved in the creation of the relay poem which will be inspired by each place the poets visit and the concept of a relay race!
Follow the relay on twitter (@gwmpr) and see where we are along our route!
There are now just twenty four hours between us and the first event of The Spring Thing 2011.
It has been a busy week here in the Festival office, putting finishing touches to our plans, designing and making our big version of Magnetic Poetry (and we will be posting pictures of your poems on twitter at #bbfspringthing) and a few other things just for fun (because you can’t spend *all* your time between events in the Bookshop…).
So even if you are just passing through on Saturday or Sunday, there will be something to see and people to say hello to – so please do stop by! We will be based in the main foyer area of Birmingham Conservatoire from 11am-9pm both days.
You know all about the events by now, but just incase you need a refresher, the programme is here. Tickets are still available for most things (although some are going fast!), and you are welcome to buy them on the door. To avoid disappointment you are welcome to get tickets to any of the weekend’s events at our Ticket Desk within the Conservatoire from 11am Saturday. This is located immediately inside the main entrance.
To celebrate the start of the weekend, we are offering you the chance to win a place on our unique writing workshop experience at the Project Pigeon Loft on Sunday.
This is an evocative and interesting space, and you will have the chance to work with novelist and comic writer Paul Macdonald, as well as meet the curators of Project Pigeon and learn a bit more about what they do. You might be wondering how birds and writing go together – but this isn’t about Pigeons per se. Have a look at the Spring Thing Newspaper Issue One for an interview with the project’s curators and some words from Paul. The article therein may also provide some inspiration for the question below!
We have two places to give away. These usually retail at £23 so take advantage of this unique give away and spend a few sunny hours wandering around the loft in Digbeth. There will be tea and coffee, too, and Festival Newspaper writer Anouk Abels will be on site to capture the experience in words.
TO WIN: Email us here and tell us which popular probiotic drink is apparently important to the diet of a Pigeon. We will contact the winners by Saturday morning.
If you are not a winner, don’t worry – you can still buy a ticket to this workshop (subject to availability) here.
Meanwhile, today, Friday, the Festival team will be out and about in the centre of Birmingham (around Birmingham Cathedral and Birmingham Central Library) asking you for your phrases to describe Birmingham – as inspiration for Talking Cities on Saturday night. Come and see us between 12-2 today, we will swap you a word for a chocolate!
We hope to see you this weekend at some of the Spring Thing’s events, or in the foyer enjoying the chance to read, relax and talk to friends. Say hello to our team – we love to meet people!
Have a great Spring Thing.
The Festival Team
We are very excited here. It is less than two weeks until we enjoy two whole days of books, writers, chatting about books and writers, sharing ideas, networking, workshops, and of course a few quirky things too.
Coming up next week:
On Friday 8th April, the BBF team will be out and about in the city, at Birmingham Cathedral and Birmingham Library, asking you to get involved in a writing installation. So if you see us, stop by and say hello! We *might* be carrying chocolate…
Give & Take is a new feature of the Festival, too. It’s simple – you bring along to events any books you no longer want, and donate them to the G&T bin. You are then welcome to help yourself to a book from the bin.
Anticipation is building…
The event most people seem to be talking about is Project Pigeon’s writing workshop – in their actual pigeon loft in Digbeth. Far from being a cold and unwelcoming space, this is a friendly, informative, enlightening place where the project’s curators, Alex and Ian, are eager to talk to people about the pursuit of social change they are on, (and introduce us to the baby pigeons they’ve hatched this month). A place full of story and history, atmosphere and personality, inspiration will not be hard to come by.
We’re also getting excited about the fantastic John Hegley, who will be making us laugh and think on Sunday evening and closing the festival is style. That’s right after we celebrate the third birthday of indpendent press Nine Arches with readings from several of their poets . That’s a whole night of excellent poetry, cake and conversation.
Launching The Daily Spring Thing
To celebrate the Spring Thing, and the rich literary fabric here in Birmingham, we are launching The Birmingham Book Festival Newspaper. This is a free paper that will be published every day during both Festivals of the year. So, in preparation for the Spring Thing, issue one is ready. In it you will find plenty of information about events, advice on planning your weekend depending on your writing/reading interests, and yes, there is even a gossip column. Heaven knows what’ll go in that…
Issue Two will be published on the morning of the Saturday of the Spring Thing, and will be packed with information about the weekend ahead. It will include, among other things, an interview with crime writer Sophie Hannah, who is joining us on Saturday to eat cake and talk about the messy business of writing about murder and mystery.
Now to choose the cake…
Sunday 10th April 2011
Writing with Project Pigeon & Paul McDonald
£23/£17 / 11am – 1pm /Project Pigeon Loft, Milk Street, Digbeth, Birmingham B5 5NH
Do you know much about Pigeons? That they have won medals for saving lives, been featured in many great works of art and films? That they race, find their way home and can even be involved in artworks? Pigeon fancying has a long history in the West Midlands, and those at Project Pigeon are part of an expansive, innovative project designed to explore the history and social impact of pigeon keeping in this region. Project Pigeon works with pigeons and people to bring about social change. They do lots of things with their pigeons, such as run workshops, make musical performances, curate exhibitions and design and build city centre lofts. Project Pigeon is run by Alexandra Lockett and Ian England. The project started in January 2009 and it is open ended – it has taken them to lots of places and they have made lots of discoveries.
They have invited us, and writer Paul McDonald, to come along and meet the birds and hear some of the amazing stories of this adventure.
Born in Walsall, Paul McDonald left school at 16 to train as a saddlemaker. In 1986 he began full-time study, completed his PhD in 1993 and now lectures at Wolverhampton University. Paul remains in Walsall where, to his horror, he’s developing a taste for chunky jewellery and combat dogs. His novels include Do I Love You? and Kiss Me Softly Amy Turtle. He is published by Tindal Street Press.
Please note that due to the nature of the venue, facilities are limited. Warm clothing and sensible footwear is advised. Tea and coffee will be available but you are welcome to bring a flask!
For more information, visit www.project-pigeon.co.uk
Project Pigeon’s Loft is located on Milk Street, Digbeth, Birmingham (in Boxxed’s backyard opposite a youth hostel, under a viaduct)
Book Online or call 0844 870 0000