A Fanfare for the Poetry Funfair

Wednesday 2nd October 2019

Who on earth are you and what on earth are you doing at the Playhouse?

I’m Becky Cullen, a poet and researcher at Nottingham Trent University. With the team at Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, I am at the front, the side and behind the first ever Nottingham Poetry Funfair.

Since January, I’ve been working on a research project – Poetry Pulse – looking at how live-streaming and video can help to spread the word about Nottingham’s fantastic poets and poems. I’ve been thinking about how we can reach new audiences for poetry while keeping track of all the poetry oozing out of the slabs in the square and finding its way into cafés, caves and classrooms all over the city and county.

It seemed like a natural step to bring together the celebration of poetry in Nottingham and the celebration of National Poetry Day. Somewhere else, somehow, Ben Norris was having a similar idea, and when I met him on a river bank, me clutching a book of poems to identify myself, we joined forces, swearing a solemn vow to give the public a National Poetry Day to remember. You’ve seen the line-up, right?

What is the Poetry Funfair, exactly?

The Poetry Funfair is a poetry and funfair mash-up, a combination as tasty as the mushy peas and mint sauce at our very own Goose Fair. Nottingham is the city of a thousand poets – we have a rich tradition of using poetry to speak our minds.

The theme of National Poetry Day this year is Truth, something that seems really important to think about in this era of fake news. As a Nottingham person, the truth is important to me; I like our heritage of people who say it as it is, whether that’s Jesse and Florence Boot making medicine and books available to the working classes, or Byron speaking out for fair treatment of refugees. So thinking about Truth suits an event in Nottingham like a piece of fine lace.

When I was putting together ideas for the event I really wanted to play with this very serious theme. I think it’s really important to enjoy poetry and the pleasure of playing with words, and have tried to find as many ways to do that as possible.

A Word from our Sponsors

Midlands4Cities, NTU and Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature have all supported Poetry Pulse. Throughout the project I’ve been testing out different kinds of technology, with the help of Rebecca Goldsmith, Phil Nodding and Jules Ayodeji, and poets Panya Banjoko, Jo Dixon, Sue Dymoke, Bridie Squires, Leanne Moden and Martin Dean.

The Poetry Funfair is a chance to share some of the films and live stream footage produced as part of the project, and I feel really happy about this, and I’m interested in knowing what people think of the films to feed into my research. Throughout the project I’ve been thinking about what it would be like to have a kind of Poetry Netflix, and what that needs is lots of poems.

So I thought it would be a good idea to give people the chance for Poetry Funfair visitors to record a poem on the night, as a kind of gift for the archive. Roll up, you lovely, generous people