Over the last year, I’ve been working on a project called Collections in Verse in Sheffield, commissioned by the British Library and Poet in the City, along with two other brilliant poets – Joe Kriss and Kayo Chingonyi.
The idea of the project is to bring the British Library exhibitions to life through poetry and we’ve been working with the British Library exhibition Anglo Saxon Kingdoms. I’ve been resident at Highfield Library and Children’s Centre, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been running a series of ‘listening workshops’ in library and community settings, to find out about the experiences and values that are important to local women.
It’s been a huge privilege to listen to the stories of women in Sheffield, and I’ve written a poem called “Listen, I have Heard Many Old Tales” in response to the community research and the exhibition. Before the current crisis I was working on a collaboration with a wonderful folk-singer called Rosie Hood, to develop a performance piece for the finale Live Late “Digesting History” Take Over of Sheffield’s Central Library. Although the library events celebrating the project have been postponed because of the coronavirus crisis, I wanted to say how grateful I am to all the women who have shared their stories, and to Rosie, the other poets, our producer Ruby Baker and to staff at Sheffield libraries, the Children’s Centre, Poet in the City and The British Library.
The stories that women told to me in Sheffield were incredibly varied, but many talked about the importance of mutual respect, support and connection. Even though we can’t be physically together at the moment, I’d like to learn from these stories and to think harder about supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities. And I’ll be back in touch about the rescheduled events once we’re through this current crisis!