There is said to be an ancient Chinese curse that runs “May you live in interesting times.” A more recent version might say “May you be Worcestershire Poet Laureate in interesting times”, and these past few months have been nothing if not interesting! Only a few days after my inauguration came the Brexit vote – I live in the most diverse and multicultural part of Worcester, and I absolutely love it; every day I hear a new accent, during Ramadan I see Muslim families setting out at sunset with baskets of food to break the day’s fast with friends, and recently the fireworks for Diwali have been going off over the city. It feels as though our strong, safe tolerant community now under threat, and now the result of the American election has left many of us shocked and fearful. These certainly are interesting times, and we poets, writers and artists have to be interesting in response, to understand, interpret and challenge this peculiar new reality.
I’ve had a very busy few months since I took up the role as Worcester Poet Laureate, and I think I’m the first holder of the position who has also been holding down a day-job, so I’ve certainly been keeping myself occupied since June! The role has opened a lot of doors for me. I’m now doing regular broadcasts on BBC Hereford & Worcester, and have a monthly column in SlapMag to spread the news about Spoken Word events in Worcestershire. I organised the event for National Poetry Day in October – a wonderful evening with great poets in a lovely new venue. I have contributed two poems to a forthcoming pamphlet to raise awareness of the presence of First World War graves in UK cemeteries. Combined with my role as Poet in Residence at the Museum of Royal Worcester, I’ve been running a poetry competition – we have had so many fantastic entries that it was really difficult to choose an outright winner.
Also in these past few months, I’ve performed at the Worcester Music Festival, appeared at the event for Mental Health Awareness Day, become compere at SpeakEasy, performed at Woo Feministas events at Cafe Bliss, and been commissioned to write and perform a poem at the Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery for the opening of their Battle of Orgreave exhibition. I continue to perform regularly at 42, have had an acting role in a film, and even been an extra in a music video. Yes, things since June have definitely been interesting!
As for forthcoming events – I am planning what I think will be the main event of my year, a collaborative event with another Worcester-based arts group. It’s still at an early stage, and ideas are constantly evolving, but I am hoping that it will result in a spoken word event unlike anything that has ever been seen in Worcester before!
I’m beginning to think that a year isn’t enough to carry out all my plans – I need a decade at least . . .