I’m coming near to the end of my residency at Trowbridge Town Hall so I thought I’d say a few words about it. I had hoped to accomplish a lot more (and I haven’t finished yet!) although there was never a formal agreement about what my role would entail. I approached Tracy Sullivan, Director of Town Hall Arts earlier this year with a plan to introduce poetry into the arts programme at the Town Hall (which is being regenerated into an arts centre). We agreed that I’d offer weekly poetry workshops for adults, and these were added to the brochure, but other poetry events have been thought up on the hoof and added to the Town Hall Arts’ website (which is confusingly called Trowbridge Arts. I think Town Hall Arts is part of Trowbridge Arts).
The slight confusion about identity is to some extent due to the evolving nature of the arts centre. Four years ago the building was actually closed and falling into disrepair, and it has taken the hard work, imagination and dedication of a small group of local people to breathe new life into the Town Hall which is still emerging into an arts, heritage and cultural hub in the centre of Trowbridge.
As a registered charity Town Hall Arts receives some funding from public bodies including Arts Council England, Wiltshire Council and Trowbridge Town Council but it relies in other part on charitable giving and volunteers to keep the enterprise alive.
Consequently, this hasn’t been a funded residency but that doesn’t mean to say that we (Town Hall staff and volunteers, people who’ve come along to join in with poetry events, and me) haven’t achieved quite a lot in a short space of time and I think this shows that it is possible to make poetry happen in a community setting even when all the odds aren’t in your favour.
I’m not recommending the no money bit, by the way. I believe that arts events should be publicly funded because they make a big difference to people’s lives. Aside from being enjoyable, stimulating, inspiring, interesting and fun, they increase general well-being; improve literacy and communication; facilitate social engagement; increase footfall and therefore help the economy. But, in this instance, my timing was off, and project funding had already been allocated before my poetry plans were accepted. I feel that my contributions have been my way of making a charitable donation to Town Hall Arts which is truly worth supporting.
But, enough of all this, let me tell you about my residency at the Town Hall and what I have managed to do since September:
- I’ve set up a Poetry Society Stanza group which meets each month;
- I’ve taught two terms of weekly poetry workshops;
- I ran a National Poetry Day event at the Town Hall which involved ten local schools as well members of the public, members of my poetry classes and the Stanza group, and nearby poets and artists;
- I researched some of the fascinating history of the Town Hall and wrote a poem about it (which I used in the NPD schools’ workshops) and collaborated with wonderful artist Ben Midgley who illustrated my poem;
- I’ve set up a separate blog to share Town Hall poetry and poetry news (this is still a work in progress);
- I’ve arranged for Town Hall Poets to be the Trowbridge Chapter of the Candlestick Press Collective ( and therefore receive and give feedback on new pamphlets);
- I’ve organised a Poetry and Spoken Word Open-Mic Night (on December 12th, 7pm – 9.30pm).
All in all, it’s not too shabby but, with funding, there is a lot more that could be done. I’ve introduced other poets and writers to the venue so I hope that more poetry and writerly events will mushroom in the near future. I think they will. I’m still the representative for the Poetry Society Stanza group and will continue to support the Town Hall as much as I can.
If you’re ever in Trowbridge, be sure to call in.