Half-way through being Hampshire Poet 2016

by isabelrogers

It’s early July. Time to sit down and see what I’ve achieved so far, and wonder where the next six months will take me.

I’ve had 15 meetings with all sorts of different people across the county to talk about how I can get involved with what they are doing (from Andover to Portsmouth, Southampton to Basingstoke).

I’ve been on BBC Radio Solent three times (twice live at a ridiculous time in the morning and once recorded). I’ve written two newspaper articles and contributed to a new arts magazine. I visited both Hampshire Stanza groups (poetry groups affiliated to the Poetry Society): one in Southampton and one in Portsmouth. I discovered and then visited a poetry group that meets in Petersfield library.

chawton long hall

The Long Gallery at Chawton House

I wrote a four-poem sequence for Chawton House to help them celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Emma, which involved visiting Chawton House three times as well as the actual writing. Those poems are now displayed in the places in which they are set.

gilbert white house

Gilbert White’s House

Visiting Gilbert White’s House twice to plan for my part in their Nature Day on 28th May was a treat. I then led all-day drop-in workshops for kids and families to write their own nature poems.

After a request from a poet I met at the Southampton Stanza group, I ran a poetry performance workshop in Portsmouth in April, to help poets gain confidence when they read their own work in public.

I went to the April launch event for Winchester Poetry Festival, which will be running in October.

On 23rd April I took part in the All-Day Sonnet reading in Winchester, and as Hampshire Poet was given the very first sonnet to read to kick the day off.

Also in April, I had my first meeting with Proteus Theatre Group in Basingstoke to start planning for my role in the I Am Jane project during Basingstoke Literary Festival. I went on to attend five out of our total of six sessions at two Basingstoke schools to work with girls putting together their expressions of life as a teenager, comparing it to Jane Austen’s experiences.

In May, along with my second stupidly early live appearance on BBC Radio Solent, I was guest speaker at Winchester’s Loose Muse, a regular event held to celebrate women’s writing.

I went to the Hat Fair launch in Winchester, to prepare for heading up Team Poets on 2nd July.

badgeThe Written By Women strand of the Basingstoke Literary Festival ran from 24th to 26th of June. As Writer in Residence, I was at six events over those four days, including the film presentation of the I Am Jane project and leading a workshop exploring form in poetry. In the middle of that weekend I nipped back to Winchester to present the prizes for the Young Poets competition at Winchester Writers’ Festival, as I had judged the competition earlier that month.

Also in June I spoke to Year 1s at a school in Winchester and apparently inspired a bunch of six-year-olds to write funny poems with a lot of toilet humour, which I’m counting as a win.

I read at an evening event at Pilgrims’ School in Winchester, with Rachel Curzon and Richard Stillman, and spoke to Portsmouth Writers’ Hub at one of their meetings.

hat fair

The excellent Hat Fair audience (before it started raining)

My latest event was the Winchester Hat Fair, where on 2 July I led an intrepid team of nine poets into the streets to perform our poems to a great audience who weren’t scared off by the occasional heavy shower.


Coming up, I’ll be one of the speakers in the July Vanguard Readings in London, and reading with Joan McGavin at Havant Poetry Group. I’ll be taking part in the South Downs Poetry Festival, running a workshop and reading.

There is a Heritage Day event in Hampshire in September, where I’ll be reading with Stephen Boyce. This will actually be the first time I’m commissioned to write new work (this post is unpaid but part of the role is to write at least three commissioned pieces of work). Angela Hicken and I have agreed that my commissions may slip into next year, which is one advantage of this post only being appointed every other year. I’ll be reading in the Stockbridge Poetry Café later on in September.

October will be a busy month, with National Poetry Day on 6th October. Its theme this year is ‘messages’, and I’ll be writing my second piece of commissioned work for that. Winchester Poetry Festival runs from 7th to 9th October, and then the following week I’m doing a workshop in Winchester with Jo Bell and also going to speak to Winchester Writers’ Society and judging their monthly competition for October.

As well as all this, my debut poetry collection will be published with Eyewear in October, so I’ll be arranging readings, a launch and associated publicity for that. (You’ll buy a copy ..? Marvellous.) All I need to do now is decide on the title.

In November I’m going to talk to the Southampton Writing Buddies group.

That’s all so far, but I know the second half of this year will fill up before too long. I’m already putting out feelers to other schools in the county after request from parents of the young poets I presented prizes to at Winchester Writers’ Festival.

I have tentative plans to put on some sort of showcase event for some of the brilliant poets I’ve met across Hampshire so far. I’ve had requests to repeat my poetry performance workshop, and also to put on a series of workshops to help poets improve their work. I won’t be idle. More coffee please.

ziggy asleep

By next January I’ll be like this