In August 2014 I became poet-in-residence at Greenwich Rail Station. Three painters were also artists-in-residence, in an opportunity organised by Made in Greenwich Gallery in collaboration with Southeastern, with many thanks to Irena Hill and Sonia Caulson.
Together we had an exhibition, “On the Line: Art and Poetry @ Greenwich Station”, at the Made in Greenwich Gallery in October 2014. The work chimed well, with different but complementary styles from painters Gillian Burrows, John Govett and David Weekes, and three poems — one to match the tone of each artist.
Posters were mounted at Greenwich Station, one for each artist. Mine featured two poems from the exhibition (see below).
During the initial month-long residency I interviewed station staff, hung out on the platform and in the Victorian ticket hall (1838) at different times of day, writing notes, listening, and enjoying the unique atmosphere. When I asked staff what their favourite time of day was, they told me mid-morning, when the commuters have passed through and tourists begin arriving. This surprised me — weren’t tourists annoying and more work? Many of them are international and struggle with limited English. “We’re their first port of call”, one said. “You know can make a difference to their day”, another told me; “I just wish I knew more languages!”
This generosity of spirit, an acceptance of the noise and work created by cosmopolitanism, as well as its excitement, is the mood I tried to capture in my sonnet The Hall, 1838 – 2014. Other poems reflect stories told to me or details I discovered following staff tips, as well as my own fascination with sounds. For their warm welcome, good humour and many cups of coffee, I will always be grateful.