National Poetry Day and BBC Local Radio commission 13 new #HomeTruths poems challenging clichés about regional distinctiveness

National Poetry Day and BBC Local Radio have joined forces to challenge stereotypes and celebrate the delights of the different regions that together compose the United Kingdom.

From today, leading with National Poetry Day’s 2019 theme of Truth, BBC Local Radio stations from Derby to Devon, Lancashire to London are inviting listeners to honour the hidden truths about the places and communities where they live and work. The aim is to get beyond the off the peg clichés and ask those who live there how to reflect the glory of Britain’s distinctive regions.

The best of these insights – highlighting perceptions, local lore and even in-jokes too often overlooked by tourist brochures – will inspire new poems by 13 local poets in England to be broadcast by the BBC on National Poetry Day, 3rd October 2019.

Across BBC Local Radio, on social media and in interviews and discussions, people are invited to identify phrases, incidents, landmarks and stories, and bring them to the attention of their nearest BBC Local Poet with the hashtag #HomeTruths

Each BBC Local Poet will transform these stories into a resonant and memorable poem, to be filmed and broadcast as a central part of the 25thanniversary celebrations. While several of the poets – including Young Poet Laureate for London, Theresa Lola, the Grand Bard of Exeter, Kimwei McCarthy and the Derby County Football poet, Jamie Thrasivoulou – have been immersed in their regions for years, others, including 19-year-old, Timi Amusan, who fled his Nigerian birthplace for safety in Oxford, bring fresh eyes and ears to the places that have welcomed them. 

Alice Gretton, one of the 13 BBC Local Poets who is matched up with BBC Radio Kent comments: “This project is beyond words for me. As a young artist, this opportunity has offered me an honest voice in such an incredible way. I look forward to sharing and celebrating the truth of the garden that is my home, whilst also dispelling the myths of young people stereotypes.”

Susannah Herbert, Executive Director, Forwards Arts Foundation says:

“Poetry’s a great way of taking on clichés and stereotypes: we’re suddenly seeing real competition between regions to call themselves “most poetic city” or “places of poetry”. Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall and Bath’s Roman Baths are among the heritage sites freshly turning to poets to change their profiles, while the new poet laureate, Simon Armitage, has put his Yorkshire birthplace, Marsden, on the map as “the Poetry Village”, and Nottingham claims to be the city of 1,000 poets.  Sheffield, and Birmingham boast of their festivals and spoken word scenes with the enthusiasm once reserved for sports teams. ”

Chris Burns Senior Head of Local Radio Commissioning , said:  “I’m delighted that our collaboration with the Forward Arts Foundation has once again resulted in a fantastic line-up of poets, all of whom will be working alongside our BBC Local Radio listeners to uncover new and surprising aspects of their local areas.  I hope the results of #BBCLocalPoets – 13 poems about different places in England – will deepen and enhance our understanding of what it means to live in this gloriously diverse country today.”

This is the fourth year that National Poetry Day is partnering with BBC Local Radio, in an on-going initiative that has seen more than 70 new poems commissioned since 2015, on themes of Change (2018), Freedom (2017) and Messages (2016). Participating poets include Hollie McNish, Luke Wright, Caleb Femi and Liz Berry, with the greatest reach attained in 2017 when Oxford University Press drew on listeners’ nominations of cherished local words (from “cheeselog” to “ginnel”) to build a detailed picture of the UK’s changing language.

To share a truth about your region on social media use #HomeTruths #BBCLocalPoets

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