Dissent

Activist Poets are Making Waves in Britain

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The poetry provoked an enthusiastic response – perhaps surprisingly – but a change is as good as a rest and some informed entertainment provided something different for the pickets and their supporters. Following this, the poets put a gig on outside the gallery which was a resounding success. It coincided with the day the management finally agreed to terms, so Poetry on the Picket Line (PotPL) spun it that it was the poetry that won it. A report, for Different Truths.

Poetry on the Picket Line might sound a little unlikely, but it works. It’s a squad of writers prepared to turn up on picket lines and read poetry — something a little different and, usually, it goes down pretty well. It started off by accident a few years ago during the dispute at the National Gallery during the campaign against privatisation heavily supported by the PCS union culture group, whose members were taking action to protect their jobs, terms, and conditions.

Trafalgar Square isn’t a bad place to stage an outdoor poetry gig, but, as it happened, a couple of writers just thought it might be good to have a change from speeches and started reading poems instead. People liked the idea and it grew from that.

The poetry provoked an enthusiastic response – perhaps surprisingly – but a change is as good as a rest and some informed entertainment provided something different for the pickets and their supporters.

Following this, the poets put a gig on outside the gallery which was a resounding success. It coincided with the day the management finally agreed to terms, so Poetry on the Picket Line (PotPL) spun it that it was the poetry that won it. It was about much more than that, of course — 111 days of strike action, apart from anything else.

Word spread quickly — these are quality operators — so now PotPL is in demand, having done work with other PCS disputes across the culture sector but also at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the junior doctors dispute, the cleaners’ strikes at LSE and SOAS, the Barts hospital strike and the Bectu cinema workers dispute. Most recently, they’ve been very active on UCU picket lines.

PotPL poets do what it says on the tin. Turn up at pickets and demos and read poems — with a mic, without a mic, through a megaphone, whatever. Pickets are generally pretty pleased and surprised to see them. They appreciate the support and some of them even appreciate the poetry.

Plus, it’s unusual. So pictures get taken and videos get made and shared on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. That helps raise the profile of the dispute and that’s vital in the case of something like the current Picturehouse campaign (pictured) where there’s a boycott of the cinema chain and it helps to raise the profile of the poets too.

Then, when they do gigs, the poets talk about the work, pass the hat around, sell T-shirts and badges, with the money going back into the various strike funds. It’s all about the solidarity and it works.

Why does it matter? Because it brings poetry onto picket lines and picket lines into poetry. Real people connecting with real poetry in the real world. That’s got to be a good thing.

Chip Grim 
The writer is a contributor to Morning Star, London
©IPA Service 

Photo from the Internet

 

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like