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!
It’s that time of the year again. Birmingham Libraries are currently seeking the next Birmingham Poet Laureate.
The new laureate will compete for the title against other hopefuls, performing around the city on National Poetry Day (6 October) and ending up at our Festival Launch for a special live announcement that evening.
Full Details about the scheme and how to apply can be found here. The deadline is 12th August 2011.
This is a unique opportunity to get involved with the writing community in Birmingham and promote poetry in the city. Good luck!
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 April 10th 2011
John Hegley: The Adventures of Monsieur Robinet
£8.50/£6 / 8pm / Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham Conservatoire, Paradise Place, Birmingham B3 3HG
A brilliant evening of performance poetry and comedy to mark the end of the Spring Thing – join us, and John Hegley, to end the weekend in style..
Tales about a Frenchman with some unusual [but clean] habits, which include burying his dog’s kennel and his own luggage pieces.
The stories appear alongside other new works, which include an address to aliens on the subject of transport, a poem about a non-talking parrot, and some animal impersonations with the aid of a handkerchief.
Suitable for most people over seven.
The audience are invited to sing along. But not to dance. Much.
Hegley is known as a poet and singer with a common and comedic touch, hence the quotation from The Observer, ‘Awesomely mundane’
‘Typically brilliant songs and stories about a Gallic small-town hero with a dog called Chirac’
The poet Adrian Mitchell said of him:
’Just because he is one of the funniest men alive, do not
underestimate his dedicated gentleness.’
And The Luton News said that his lyrics,
‘…quite often make little sense’
BOOK ONLINE or call 0844 870 0000
Sunday April 10th 2011
The Birthday Party – Nine Arches Press are 3!
£6.50/£5 / 5.45pm / Recital Hall, Birmingham Conservatoire, Paradise Place, Birmingham B3 3HG
Praise for Mollicle:
“Claire Crowther’s work is wittily compelling, a complex music. Poems by Crowther are events. With equal power, Mollicle reflects the outer world and the mind’s life, intensely illuminated.
day and night, repay your loan:
shine with sun’s compulsive light. ”
- Alison Brackenbury
“Claire Crowther’s poems employ what seems to be a singular form of logic – each one is like a mirror she has handed you in which you see something familiar, yet in a way you hadn’t managed to see before.”
– Roddy Lumsden
Luke Kennard won an Eric Gregory award in 2005 for his first collection of prose poems The Solex Brothers (Stride Books). His second collection of poetry The Harbour Beyond the Movie was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection in 2007 making him the youngest poet ever to be nominated for the award. His criticism has appeared in Poetry London and The Times Literary Supplement. He is currently reviewing fiction for The National.
– Nick Laird, The Telegraph
Luke Kennard writes vibrant, original poems that stick in your mind for a long time and enliven your imagination.
- Sophie Hannah
She lives in Birmingham and has two grown-up sons.
From the Boat comes from a time of waiting, of mourning, and of finding small consolations. They are, many of them, small poems, the opposite of heroic. Bare, spare in mood, and exploring a sense of dislocation and disorientation, they look coldly at what is left when almost everything is pared away.
BOOK ONLINE or call 0844 870 0000
Sunday 10th April 2011
Poetry Workshop with Roz Goddard
£23/£17 / 11am-1.30pm / Seminar Room, Birmingham Conservatoire, Paradise Place, Birmingham B3 3HG
Who knows what an apple thinks? (Edwin Morgan).Explore the role of poet as the receiver of messages. How do we interpret what a fence panel thinks, or a peach? We will look at celebrated poets who use personae and use voices other than our own.
Roz Goddard’s fourth poetry collection is The Sopranos Sonnets & Other Poems (Nine Arches Press). She is a former poet-laureate for Birmingham, and her work is permanently displayed in BMAG’s newest gallery. Her poetry has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4. She runs writing workshops and courses, including for the Arvon Foundation and mentors individual writers. She is currently studying for an MPhil in writing at Glamorgan University. More details of her work can be found at (www.rozgoddard.com)
Book Online or call 0844 870 0000
Saturday 9th April 2011
Talking Cities: Performance Poetry
Free! No need to book / 6.30pm / The Library Theatre, Birmingham Central Library, Paradise Place, Birmingham B3 3HQ
Hosted by, and featuring, Birmingham’s Poet Laureate Roy McFarlane plus a host of special guests [watch this space!], this evening of performance poetry looks at cities – our own and those we visit. Supported by Birmingham Libraries.
Partly inspired by Poet Laureate Roy’s recent visit to Amsterdam, this event encourages other poets to think about the places that mean something to them – home and away.
Lively, touching and not without laughs, this showcase has been devised specially for The Spring Thing.
Guest poets on the night include Dave Reeves, Julie Boden, Bohdan Piasecki, Kadisha, Alan’ Kurly’ McGeachie and Roz Goddard.