Coventry

This is a third poem from a larger collection of mostly new poems. I won’t publish them all online: I want them to appear in print. But – I want to give people a flavour. You can read others here.

It is an attempt to write a picture of England in 2017, through a series of poems about place. It is based on my travel and research. I’m aiming for 100 poems.

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Coventry

“Basil Spence is a prophet
Who seeks to proclaim the Word of God
In modern ways”

Spence had liberated Chartres, cold and dead;
he knew churches needed life –
so started with a model
that cost as much as a house,
for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition;

then he built his new cathedral
from the inside out.
Fed by Bishop Gorton’s understanding
of people and liturgy,
of choir and canons and clergy and communion,

Spence drew pools of lightness,
wove tapestry in stone,
coloured glass, etched glass, copper frames,

thought about the fastness of dye,
the geodetic construction of a bomber,
Gothic ribs, the facets of a fly’s eye,
radio pylons as he reached higher, further.

“It is going to be built, it is going to be built”
in Spain, over and over and over,
until English ideas and Danish engineering
let the disciplined grid of Spence’s vaulted ceiling soar.

John Laings, builders,
gave all their profits back.

The last flame from the burnt cathedral
lit candles on the newest altar;
the first and last,
alive for evermore amen.

2012 – trains, boats and planes

London 2012The year started in spectacular style, standing on the roof of BBC’s Bush House, broadcasting on the world service, and watch the most incredible firework display London has ever seen. And it didn’t really slow down after that.

I’ve visited London (forty times), Brighton (sixteen times), Enfield (five times), Chichester (three times), and Bedford, Coventry, Guildford, Leeds, Lewes, Littlehampton, Manchester, Margate, Portsmouth, Rochdale (all twice). Add time in Amsterdam, Bexley, Eastbourne, Halifax, the Isle of Wight, Rotterdam, Salford, Shoreham, Southampton, Streatham and Stresa in Italy and it’s been a good year for travelling.

I’ve been out of Worthing on 105 days in 2012. That’s trains, boats and planes all covered. I’ve stayed in hotels that are amazing in Stresa and Margate, appalling in Leeds, and lots that are completely forgettable (Travelodge, Premier Inn and the like).

I’ve been to eco-build BedZed, spent a day on a coach trip around the M25, held a birthday party to celebrate 150 years of Worthing Pier, attended the opening of the London 2012 Olympics in a VIP seat as a guest of the Prime Minister, and been to my first football match since the early 1980s (Team GB women, in Coventry. They lost).

I’ve been on the news a few times, in the papers quite a lot, and made a brief appearance on the Antique’s Roadshow with a shepherd’s smock.

I’ve written the introduction to a book for The Caravan Gallery, published Pop Up People, and in sixteen days writing I wrote Pop Up Business For Dummies. I’ve talked about town centres and empty shops a lot, opened pop up shops in Brighton and Enfield with Retail Ready People, launched #wewillgather in the Houses of Parliament, and talked about agile working, frugal leadership, social media for social good and community organising.

Everywhere I’ve been, it’s as the guest of people doing amazing and inspiring things to make the places they live better. Thank you all for inviting me.

2010 in lists

Selected highlights from a frankly fabulous year
Moments in time:
  1. Students protests, London
  2. Pier Day, Worthing
  3. Sean O Hagan’s Music for Sixty Ukuleles and Sixty Children premiere, Wukuele Festival
  4. Tracey Emin ‘I Never Stopped Loving You’ switch-on, Droit House, Margate

Shops and cafes:

  1. Secondo, Brixton
  2. Green Cuisine, Worthing
  3. The Book Ferret, Arundel
  4. Tin Angel, Coventry
  5. Crafty, Belfast
  6. Bookcase of Carlisle
  7. Made In Belfast
  8. Foxes, Carlisle

Books:

  1. Surface Detail – Iain M Banks (Orbit)
  2. A Guide To The New Ruins Of Great Britain – Owen Hatherley (Verso)
  3. Alec – Eddie Campbell (Top Shelf)
  4. Alphabets, a miscellany of letters (Black Dog Publishing)

Places to sit and think:

  1. Worthing Pier
  2. Coventry Cathedral
  3. Carlisle Cathedral
  4. Neal’s Yard, Seven Dials
  5. Old Fort, Shoreham Beach

Empty shop projects:

  1. Theatre Absolute, Coventry
  2. ReFound, Belfast
  3. Slack Space Colchester
  4. LET, Pennine Lancashire
  5. ARKLab, Cardiff

Music:

  1. Yeasayer – Odd Blood
  2. Best Coast – Crazy For You
  3. Dirty Revolution – Before The Fire
  4. Sleigh Bells – Treats
  5. Paul Weller – Wake Up The Nation
Places to stay: