On 3rd October Nottingham Playhouse and Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature co-hosted an evening of events to celebrate National Poetry Day.

Poets from Nottingham Creative Writing Hub hosted a well-attended Moments of Truth writing workshop, followed by the Poetry Funfair curated by Poetry Pulse Research Fellow Becky Cullen, and a dazzling array of poetic talent on the main stage in the form of A Quite Enormous Poetry Event. As Ben Norris, who produced the main stage event said, the Playhouse was ‘awash with verse’!

Madam Poetica, aka Lytisha Tunbridge

NUCoL worked with a group of 25 volunteers, including Nottingham’s fabulous DIY Poets, to stage a fabulous array of entertainment across all three floors of the Playhouse – including a chance to see films produced during the Poetry Pulse project, Poetry Hook-a Duck, Poetry Hoopla, and fortune-telling by Madam Poetica. Forward Prize-winning poet Liz Berry commented, ‘I so loved your brilliant Poetry Funfair and have been telling everyone about it. Such a fun, joyful idea! Well done for making it happen and I hope we’ll see that magic again.’ Many thanks to all our wonderful poets, volunteers and the staff team who made the event a rip-roaring success, as well as Craig Gilbert, Ben Norris and all at Nottingham Playhouse.

Georgia Butcher, Leanne Moden, Eleni Georgeou, Andrew Martin, Dwane Butterly, Joy Rice, John Humphreys, Sue Allan, Matt Miller and Martin Grey.

Reports by volunteer Pauline Black and DIY poet Martin Grey, and photography by Rachel Spivak.

Pauline Black

The Poetry Funfair welcomed guests through the doors of the Playhouse with a range of spectacular audience activities. Magicians roamed the welcome area to perform the poetry (literally) up their sleeves. The Poetry Ghost Train and Guess the Weight of the Poetry Truth were just some of the superb activities that were hosted on the day. Poetry Hook-a-duck and Hoopla were the most popular entertainments amongst the public. Poetry lovers were thrilled by ingenuity behind poetry readings, with showmen and show-women reading out poems from Poetry Hoopla scrolls – and Hook-a-Duck poems. The poetry workshop was inclusive for anyone to write and perform their poems. I took part in filming these performances, and many people queued well into the night to be filmed reciting their poetry.

Talented poets Dizraeli, Liz Berry, Caroline Bird, Vanessa Kisuule, Debris Stevenson, Bohdan Piasecki, Will Harris, Georgina Wilding, Jamie Thrasivoulou and Michael Southan confidently owned the stage. I found myself completely captured by the presence of each poet; they were all naturals under the spotlight, seizing my gaze with every word they spoke. Themes of childhood, race, immigration, trauma, family, friendship, love, parenting, were all included on the night. Poetry itself is a magic that brings our individual experiences together into a space in which we can connect through the simplest fact that we are human.

Andrew Martin and Joy Rice on the Hook a Duck
Pauline Black

Martin Grey

All the fun of the fair filled Nottingham Playhouse on National Poetry Day, as a fabulously dressed plethora of poets brought the Poetry Funfair to all three floors of its foyer. People were invited to try their hand at all manner of poetic playfulness, while poetry magicians circled the room, reading and giving away poems from their sleeves and top hats.

There were prizes to be won at the Poetry Hoopla, where good aims were rewarded with National Poetry Day postcards of poems in languages from Welsh to Cornish. At the Poetry Hook-a-Duck a steady hand landed a poetic scroll or two. Technically you had to win to get a prize, but there were more than enough to give away, win or lose. Poets are nice like that.

Eleni Georgeou weighs up the Poetry Truth!

Metaphorical hands held on tightly to the Poetry Ghost Train, poetic juggling balls were thrown to perfection and poetic fortunes were mysteriously told. A large poetic scroll was filled with people’s messages of what truth is, while the weight of a jar of poetry truths was guessed. Guests became bewildered by a table of poetry magic, watched and reviewed videos from Nottingham’s Poetry Pulse project, and could even record their own poem if they wanted to.

The fair became a queue of good vibes heading through the doors to the main stage, to catch some of the cream of the UK poetry scene. Nottingham is unofficially known as the city of a thousand poets. The Poetry Funfair was a great way to connect people to its poetry, and to celebrate poetry’s special day with a doffed hat and a cheeky smile.

Lauren Terry and Hannah Cooper-Smithson
Lytisha Tunbridge and Dwane Butterly