National Poetry Day (NPD) and BBC Local Radio have commissioned 12 poems for each of the BBC regions in England to “celebrate the small changes that really matter to people”.
The campaign launches on Monday (18th June), inspired by NPD’s 2018 theme, ‘Change’, with BBC Local Radio stations across England calling on listeners for stories of the changes that mean the most to them.
The most inspiring of these stories - from personal changes of heart to changes affecting entire communities over time - will then become the creative spark for a dozen new poems by a dozen local poets, to be broadcast on the BBC on National Poetry Day, 4th October.
The 12 local poets, including Young Poet Laureate for London, Momtaza Mehri, award-winning Yorkshire poet, Kate Fox and the East Midland’s Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves, aim to show how poetry can change the world.
Launching the initiative, writer, film and TV producer Henry Normal described what drew him to poetry. Normal, who has worked on films such as “Philomena”, “Alan Partridge”, and “Gavin and Stacey”, said that he was inspired to write poetry to connect with his autistic son.
“Change can happen in all sorts of ways and sometimes just one word can make a difference," he said. "I didn’t write poetry for 25 years but what drew me to writing poetry again was trying to make sense of my journey with my autistic son, Johnny. He’s now 20 and one day I took out over a thousand photos of him from age two to 20 and could see how he’d changed.
"The first poem I wrote was about trying to capture the feeling – the truth - of those photos. I think the great thing about poetry is that it gets to the truth of the human condition.”
Fox said: “Change is exciting and terrifying - but what better way to think and feel about it than with poetry?
“I’m looking forward to being inspired by Radio York listeners’ stories of change to create something that might act as a spur or a crutch or a talisman. Poetry can make us hear words and stories differently, as if for the first time. They focus our attention and become a small present, in both senses of the word, in the middle of change.”
“When you want to find out how people in the past really thought and felt, poetry is often a better guide than headlines or statistics,” said Susannah Herbert, NDP’s executive director.
“Our poets now are map-makers of the human heart, making visible the changes that count, the ones that escape the notice of satellites and CCTV. In calling on BBC Local Radio’s listeners for the subjects that deserve to be honoured in new poems for National Poetry Day, we are putting poetry at the heart of a national conversation, where it belongs.”
James Stewart, editor of GNS Programmes for BBC English Regions, said that each poem would be broadcast on the broadcaster’s local and regional radio and TV services as well on social media.
It is the third year that NDP has partnered with BBC Local Radio. Last year there were 12 commissioned poems based on the public’s favourite expressions, inspired by the theme of 'Freedom'.
To share a story of change on social media use #PoetryforaChange #BBCLocalPoets or visit nationalpoetryday.co.uk.