Jenny Lindsay: Picture the Poet at Tullie House, Carlisle

Writer of spoken word poetry and theatre Jenny Lindsay talks Picture The Poet workshops, character journeys, and performance confidence at Tullie House. 

I was thrilled to be part of this project. As a spoken word educator based in Scotland, it was great to be able to cross the border to meet fine young poets – even when crossing the border meant replacement buses and diverted routes!

Speaking of diverted routes: the group I was working with came to these workshops from backgrounds not in spoken word, theatre, poetry or performing, but through the excellent THe Youth Panel attached to Tullie House and Rabbit Rabbit (Rabbit) attached to New Writing Cumbria.

. With two exceptions, none of the group had written poetry before (by choice, anyway!) and there was a palpable sense of polite but present terror when it was explained that the end result of the workshops would be a live performance in front of a packed theatre audience! One girl in particular said she doubted she would ever describe herself as a poet, while others doubted if their nerves would hold up at the event itself. My plan had always been to combine creative exercises with confidence building and performance skills workshops, and despite their initial fear, every single member of the group wrote and performed their own poetry by the end of the 6 sessions, including a group performance called Picture The Poet, based on their responses to the fabulous photography exhibition in the museum.

jenny lindsay headshotSo, that’s the start and the end of the journey we went through as a group – how did we get there? First of all, we explored creating characters based on our impressions of the poets in the exhibition. From there, we wrote short creative responses in the voice of those characters, before asking ourselves what kind of character we wanted to be on stage. I shared examples of my own and other poets’ work, the group saw the diversity that spoken word offered, and, each in a different way, the young poets started sketching out and experimenting with the stories they wanted to tell about themselves in their performance.

After many writing and performance exercises (and the odd Crème Egg), the group took to the stage on the Friday night and performed brilliantly. I was intensely proud of every single one of them and am thrilled to hear that they intend to continue writing poetry in the future. Many thanks to Apples and Snakes, and Youth Panel coordinator Catherine Moss-Luffrum, for allowing me to work with such a great bunch of writers and poets!

Two poets on The Young Panel of Tullie House could not perform on the Picture the Poet live event on the 4 May  – But you can catch them on Youtube: check out Leon’s poem and Astrud’s poem.

Jenny Lindsay is a writer of spoken word poetry and theatre. She was the BBC Fringe Slam Champion (2012), is the co-producer of live lit series ‘Rally & Broad’ and a member of the Shift/ Collective. She is based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Find out more about Jenny here | Connect with Jenny on Twitter

Inspired by the project? Join us for the Picture the Poet Conference at the National Portrait Gallery on the 25th April, and find out how galleries, museums and libraries can support creative writing and literacy for young people in schools and in the community. Book Now…