1,000 Years of Poetry in English
|Organisation||Poems On The Underground|
|Programme strand||Sample the Arts|
|New Audiences grant||£20,000|
Poems on the Underground expanded and enhanced their programme of poetry displays on the London Underground, presenting a new selection of poets for Tube travellers, as well as a mixed programme of outreach work.
about lead organisation
Poems on the Underground was formed in 1986 to offer an audience of travellers on London Underground trains a rolling programme of poetry taken from all periods, including a strong element of contemporary work.
The Poems on the Underground programme has expanded over the years, offering a variety of approaches, from a display of 20th-century poetry by European poets, to the results of an open public competition. This project was intended to expand the programme, complementing the core display with special offerings to sites outside the tube network. The theme of “1000 Years of Poetry in English” was intended to mark the start of the new millennium.
aims of the project
- To expand the quantity and range of the thrice-yearly posting on London Underground trains
- To offer enhanced sets of poems to targeted groups outside the tube network, as part of an outreach programme.
about the project
Poems on the Underground selected nine poems to begin the project, commencing February 2000. The selection was made to emphasise the full range and variety of poetry in English, including a 20th century translation of a 9th century poem, as well as contemporary poetry from across the world.
London Underground contributed 2,000 Tube card spaces to the project, for one month. The project grant enabled Poems on the Underground to book an additional 1,500 spaces, and London Underground matched this with a further 1,000 spaces. The displays in carriages were complemented by a distribution of posters to schools, libraries, and places of special interest. Poems were also distributed abroad through the British Council. The project involved the organisation in outreach work, using the poems as source material in a number of workshops in schools, a drop-in centre, and the Harrow ‘Words Live’ literature festival.
The final month of the project, in October 2000, showcased the three winners of a young poets competition, which attracted over 100 entries.
about the audience
Millions of travellers use the London Underground each day, and the displays placed by Poems on the Underground have become a well-known and popular feature of Tube journeys. This project followed a well established pattern, and was supplemented by displays on buses as part of the ‘Words Live’ festival, and three associated poetry readings, which attracted a total audience of 480.
outcomes and lessons learned
The project generated a certain amount of press interest, which considerably extended the reach of the work. Most prominently, Metro reprinted the poems at least once a week, and featured articles on each new set of poems. London Underground agreed to donate an extra 1,000 spaces for the end of the project, and the organisation was also approached by the Australian Tourist Commission about a possible display of Australian poets to mark the Australian Centenary. This resulted in an additional 2,000 Tube car spaces in July 2000.
Additional readings and talks were also generated by the project: two in the capital, and two in libraries in Suffolk.