For the past five years, BBC Local Radio has teamed up with specially chosen poets to create new verse for broadcast on National Poetry Day in October. This year, we’re celebrating all they have achieved.
Back in May #BBCLocalPoets were mobilised early to highlight acts of compassion nominated for the BBC’s Make A Difference service, inspiring a poetry collection that bears witness to lockdown’s acts of neighbourliness: from marathon kitchen runners and washbag makers to the brave-the-shave police of Oldbury.
Each of the 39 BBC Local Radio stations across England has commissioned a poet in their area to respond to some of the 700,000 Make A Difference stories sent in by listeners. In turn, their work has inspired poet and broadcaster of BBC Radio 3’s The Verb, Ian McMillan to a mighty feat of celebration. Listen to the Make A Difference podcast for more from the poets involved.
McMillan said “what struck me when I read these stories was how moving it is to have this record of ordinary people telling personal stories of these turbulent and terrible times. I’ve tried to reflect that in my poem as well including the idea of the tiny local kindnesses that build and build and really make a difference to how we see ourselves and our future”
The 2020 #BBCLocalPoets include the official Derby County Football Club football poet Jamie Thrasivoulou for BBC Radio Derby, the Poet Laureate of Sheffield Otis Mensah, British Ethiopian poet, writer, theatre maker Zelly Lisanework for BBC Radio Suffolk and BBC Radio Nottingham’s Ben Norris, playwright and actor, known for his portrayal of Ben Archer in BBC Radio Four’s The Archers.
The project began when BBC Radio WM asked Birmingham poet Matt Windle to write about how the people of the West Midlands were helping each other. Sarah Harness, Editor at BBC Radio WM said: “Matt’s poem, Make A Difference, really summed up how the people here are pulling together and we thought it would be great to show how those in other parts of the country were responding in similar ways. We hope the collection of 40 poems will spread a little joy in these challenging times”.
The BBC’s Head of Audio and Digital for England Chris Burns said: “Poetry has an amazing quality to help celebrate, remember and thank those for the many good deeds taking place around the country and how BBC local Radio is at the heart of bringing people in need together with those who can offer help and support.
Susannah Herbert of Forward Arts Foundation, the charity behind National Poetry Day, said: “A shared poem is a powerful act of connection: it tells us we’re not alone. In commissioning BBC Local Poets to celebrate the generosity of their communities in these troubled times, BBC Local Radio stations are beacons of creativity. We hope their listeners are now inspired to send their own poems to their local station in good time for National Poetry Day on October 1.”
You can hear these poems on BBC Local Radio stations on Friday 29th May and also via the link to the BBC Local Radio stations on bbc.co.uk/makeadifference
If you have a poem about these extraordinary times, then please upload it to bbc.co.uk/upload
In 2019, we joined forces to challenge stereotypes and celebrate the delights of the different regions that together compose the United Kingdom.
BBC Local Radio stations, prompted by National Poetry Day’s Truth theme, invited listeners to tackle lazy cliches by sharing truths about the places where they live, the kinds of truths that deserve to be better known. These local insights inspired celebratory new poems by the 13 local poets which you can now enjoy below. Be sure to share your favourites online using the hashtag #HomeTruths.
BBC Radio Derby | Jamie Thrasivoulou | NOWT BUT PRIDE
BBC Radio Devon | Kimwei McCarthy | Because You Invited Me
BBC Radio Humberside | Jodie Langford | Howling of the Hullhounds
BBC Radio Kent | Alice Gretton | Because we have our roots
BBC Radio Lancashire | Jane Routh | If it were dry, the thread would snap
BBC Radio London | Theresa Lola | Despite the Noise
BBC Radio Norfolk | Molly Naylor | One year in Norwich
BBC Radio Northampton | Nairobi Thompson | Prouder Than Proud
BBC Radio Oxford | Timileyin Amusan | Redemption
BBC Radio Sheffield | Warda Yassin | Sheffield
BBC Radio Shropshire | Jean Atkin | Here By Elephants
BBC Radio Somerset | Liv Torc | Somerset
BBC Tees | Harry Gallagher | The Magic that only Teesside Brings