Poetry on the Shakespeare Line

You might remember, a little while ago, I posted about an exciting project I was invited to be a part of. ‘Poetry on the Shakespeare Line’ paired a poet with each station from Birmingham Moor Street to Stratford-upon-Avon, a train line named after the region’s most famous resident. I was paired with the idyllic, rural stop of Danzey. The resulting poem, titled ‘A Light’, was a joy to work on and create, and is now live for people to enjoy. Audio of me reading the poem can be downloaded on the Overhear app when travelling on the Line, and the text will feature on posters on platforms in the near future.

When I feel comfortable and have reason to travel on the Shakespeare Line once again, I will take some photos of this lovely station, and post about the inspiration behind my poem and process of writing it. But until then, here’s the press release, which explains the outcome and response to this project.

Start of press release:

Rail passengers in the West Midlands will have a little extra inspiration and entertainment when travelling on the Shakespeare Line from today (Fri 28 May) with the release of 18 specially written poems.

The poems have been penned by 18 West Midlands writers and have been specially commissioned for each of the 18 stations along the line, which runs from Birmingham Moor Street to Stratford-upon-Avon. Authors include five former Birmingham poet laureates and award-winning poets and writers. Passengers are welcome to download the poems using the Overhear app on their mobile phones, they can listen whilst on-board, at the station or when they get home.  

The project is called ‘Poetry on the Shakespeare Line’ and is the brainchild of Black Country Performance Poets ‘Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists’. Steve Pottinger, from the collective said: “These are poems of wit and humour, history and hope. Whatever your taste there will be something for you and we hope passengers will see the Shakespeare Line through fresh eyes once they have heard them.

“Some poems highlight the role of industry, the pleasure of travel, the spirit-lifting green spaces along the route and above all the importance of the Shakespeare Line in connecting people and communities.”

The project has been funded as part of the Your Community, Your Fund scheme, financed by the Department for Transport. Under the scheme, West Midlands Railway and sister company London Northwestern Railway will invest in dozens of community projects across the network over the coming months.The poems represent the range of voices and the diversity and vibrancy of the West Midlands, and the poets have worked closely with ‘Friends’ of the stations, the volunteers who give their time freely to work on the landscaping and upgrade of their local stations.  

The Poets have created pieces which reflect the unique character of each of the locations, some focus on the history of a station while others respond to the environment around it.

Fay Easton, head of community and stakeholder for West Midlands Railway, said: “This project has been a joy to watch unfold.  The commitment of the Poets to really understand the locality and people has been inspiring. I am delighted that the timing for the release of the poems is happening just as more passengers are beginning to return to rail. Poetry can magically bring people together and we are so pleased to have been able to support this project as we continue to celebrate and connect more closely with our local communities.”

The poems will be installed on station noticeboards later this year, together with the ‘Pride of Place’ poem which thanks all of the volunteers and communities for their ongoing support for the railways.

End of press release.

Once again, I’d like to thank Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists for inviting me to be a part of this project!

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