literature & poetry
spoken word & live literature

Fifty Poems from Five Decades

Join ten of the finest poets writing in the UK today to celebrate the opening anniversary of our spaces.

Join us for a poetic journey from Brutalism to the birth of Notting Hill Carnival and on to Welsh quarries; from disco to punk, from the Tour de Yorkshire to David Bowie. This event doesn't shy away from political moments of the past half century, such as the New Cross Fire of 1981 and our impending exit from the European Union.

The line-up of poets includes Fleur Adcock, Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi, Simon Armitage, Jay Bernard, Malika Booker, Imtiaz Dharker, Caleb Femi, Peter Finch, Ifor ap Glyn, and Lavinia Greenlaw.

Poets include:

Fleur Adcock was born in New Zealand but spent years in England and has lived in London since 1963. Her books of poetry, all published by Bloodaxe Books, are: Poems 1960-2000, Dragon Talk, Glass Wings, The Land Ballot, and her most recent collection, Hoard, a Poetry Book Society special commendation. She has also published translations from Romanian and medieval Latin poetry, edited several anthologies including The Faber Book of 20th Century Women’s Poetry, and written libretti and texts for a number of musical works. She received an OBE in 1996 and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2006.

Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi is one of the leading African poets writing in Arabic today. He represented Sudan in Southbank Centre’s Poetry Parnassus festival. Al-Raddi’s first poetry collection, Songs of Solitude was published in 1996. He has also published The Sultan’s Labyrinth (1996) and The Far Reaches of the Screen... (1999 and 2000); all three collections were published in one volume of collected poems in Cairo in 2009.

Simon Armitage was born in West Yorkshire, England in 1963. He worked as a probation officer for six years before focusing on poetry. Armitage is the author of numerous collections of poetry, the most recent being The Unaccompanied published by Faber in 2017. Simon has also published fiction, including novels, and has written extensively for radio, television, film, and theatre. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for Literature. The recipient of numerous honours and awards, Armitage was named the Millennium Poet in 1999 and a Commander of the British Empire in 2010. He is also the professor of poetry at the University of Leeds and Oxford University.

Jay Bernard is from London and works as a writer and film programmer at BFI Flare (London's LGBT film festival). They are the author of three pamphlets, The Red and Yellow Nothing (2016), English Breakfast (2013), and Your Sign is Cuckoo, Girl(2008), and have been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines, including TEN: The New Wave, Voice Recognition, Out of Bounds: Black British Writers and Place, and Flicker and Spark: A Contemporary Queer Anthology.

Malika Booker is an international writer whose work is steeped in anthropological research methodology and rooted in storytelling. Her writing spans poetry, theatre, monologue, installation, and education. Clients and organisations she has worked with include Arts Council England, BBC, British Council, Wellcome Trust, National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Arvon, and Hampton Court Palace. Malika was the inaugural Poet-in-Residence at Royal Shakespeare Company. Her first poetry collection Pepper Seed was longlisted for the OCM Bocas Prize and shortlisted for The Seamus Heaney Centre Prize in 2014. She is currently the Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow at The University of Leeds.

Imtiaz Dharker is a poet, artist and documentary film-maker. Awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2014, recipient of the Cholmondeley Award and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, her most recent collection was Over the Moon, published by Bloodaxe Books in 2014. Her poems are on the British GCSE and A-Level English syllabus, and she reads with other poets at Poetry Live! events all over the country to more than 25,000 students a year. She has been Poet in Residence at Cambridge University Library, for Thresholds, and has recently completed a series of poems based on the Archives of St Paul’s Cathedral. She has had ten solo exhibitions of drawings in India, London, New York and Hong Kong. She scripts and directs films, many of them for non-government organisations in India, working in the area of shelter, education and health for women and children.

Caleb Femi is the Young People's Laureate for London and is also a director, photographer and English literature teacher. Caleb is featured in the Dazed 100 list of the next generation shaping youth culture. He has written and directed short films commissioned by the BBC and Channel 4 and poems by the Tate Modern, The Royal Society for Literature, St Paul's Cathedral and The Guardian. Caleb has graced major stages such as the Roundhouse main stage, Barbican, British Library, and Royal Festival Hall. He has opened for Lianne La Havas and has performed at many festivals. Caleb has also won the Roundhouse Poetry Slam and Genesis Poetry Slam and is currently working on a debut collection.

Peter Finch is a poet, edge pusher, prose writer, psychogeographer and literary entrepreneur living in Cardiff. His latest book is The roots of rock. His poetry is in Zen Cymru and Selected Later Poems both published by Seren. He is currently working on The Machineries of Joy, poems from the past decade.

Ifor ap Glyn is the National Poet of Wales. He was born in London into a Welsh-speaking family, but graduated from Cardiff University. He was Children’s Poet Laureate for Wales (Bardd Plant Cymru) in 2008-2009 and won the Crown at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in 1999 and 2013. He worked as a television producer and scriptwriter before becoming a poet and dramatist and has worked extensively with the theatre company Cwmni Dda. He performed at the celebratory concert that marked the opening of the Welsh National Assembly in 1999, and has twice represented Wales at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in the United States.

Lavinia Greenlaw was born in London, where she has lived for most of her life. Her novel, In the City of Love’s Sleep, set in an emblematic version of London, is set to be published in September 2018. Her next book of poems, The Built Moment, is expected in March 2019. She worked on Southbank Centre’s literature programme in the early 1990s and she is Professor of Creative Writing (Poetry) at Royal Holloway.

Dates & times

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Purcell Room


Booking fee: £3.50 (Members £0.00)


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Age recommendation
For ages 16+.

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