A wonderful ending

A woman sits in her wheelchair, wearing black trousers and a bright orange vest. She has short hair and is scowling, tied to the security gate in front of her front door.16 DECEMBER 2014 JU GOSLING AKA ju90 WRITES: After four packed weeks, the 2014 Together! Disability History Month reached its climax last night with the launch of our new poetry anthology at our monthly Pop-Up Poetry Café, this month taking place at the Hub in Canning Town which is also the venue for Cedoux Kadima’s exhibition Home and Memories! ‘Poems from the Together! Pop-Up Poetry Club’ brings together work by 20 poets; 16 of them being Club members and four – Colin Hambrook, Allan Sutherland, Wendy Young and John O’Donoghue – being guest poets who have performed at the café in the past thanks to the generous support of Arts Council England. The anthology has been edited by Club leader and Together! 2012 CIC Programme Director Sarah Hughes.

anthimagesmThe Pop-Up Poetry Club itself has been funded by the People’s Health Trust since the summer of 2013, in recognition of the fact that Newham is the second most deprived borough in the UK and has some of the worst health indicators. The Club has grown out of the poetry project for mental health system users that we ran as part of our 2012 festival, which was funded by East London NHS Foundation Trust and led by our mentors Cooltan Arts in Southwark. As with all of our ongoing work, though, the Pop-Up Poetry Club is inclusive of disabled people from every impairment group, as well as their chosen companions, and the cafés are open to all.

In addition to the monthly café, the Club runs a weekly workshop for disabled people and their companions (currently at the Hub, 123 Star Lane, London E16 1PZ) from 10.30-12noon on a Wednesday), and makes occasional group visits to poetry events elsewhere in London. We prioritise increased self-esteem, self-respect and social networks above creative skills, but all of our long-term members have made significant progress with their poetry too. Depending on their starting point, some have noted that their literacy levels have greatly improved; while others are much more confident about speaking in public. Several members have published work in other anthologies and/or online; while one now has an internet poetry show. Others have just enjoyed the company and the opportunity to read poetry together.

It was therefore fitting that the stars of last night were not guest artists, but the Club members themselves. Many of the poets represented the anthology were present, and read from their work. The range of topics and approaches was vast, and included one poem in Sign-along as well as a number of illustrated works. We were also delighted to have a new poet present reading from her work, Heather Carol, who recently moved into the borough and who had only discovered us via the festival advertising at the weekend. Thank you to all of them. The anthology will shortly be available on Amazon and for the Kindle, but in the meantime you can order it directly from us price £5 + £1.50 p&p; contact us to find out how.

It only remains for me to thank once again our funders Arts Council England People’s Health Trust, the Community Foundation and London Borough of Newham; sponsors Channel 4, Countryside Properties and Trinity Buoy Wharf; all of the artists, film-makers, interpreters and venue staff – too numerous to mention individually here, but who are named in other entries – who have helped to ensure that this has been our best festival yet; everyone who has helped to promote the festival or supported it in other ways; and to everyone who has participated. And of course a very special thank you goes to the festival team who have made it all possible – Carla Aveleira, Dawn Barber,  Tae Catford, Hayley Davies, Hamish Graham, Taylor Henville, Laura Horton, Rachel Horwood, Sarah Hughes, Sasha McSean, Julie Newman, Cliff Segree and Gary Thomas.