As we close the book on SPINE Festival 2016, Paul Lyalls, SPINE Festival Artist in Residence, talks poetry with primary students, mums, and young ones at Askew Road Library… and giant books too!

IMG_0056 For 3 days Askew Road Library (in downtown Hammersmith and Fulham) became the centre of the universe (or one of them) as SPINE Festival big-banged into life. There were non-stop class visits, all action baby bounces, poetry parachutes, Under 5’s in overdrive and one enormous-as-can-be book:  ‘The Askew Road Library Big book of poetry’. The book was big. On the way in, travelling in style on the Victoria Line, escalator wind blew it onto a 6 year old Superman, sending him stumbling backwards – is it a plane? Is it a large IKEA packaging reinventing itself? No, it’s…a book!

“It was fun to write our own poem and get tips as well. I really enjoyed
listening to the poems too because they made me laugh”  workshop participants

On the Thursday, babies, mums, visiting classes and grown ups wanting to rediscover their inner Beatnik came thrCczI8IvXEAA1v-Z copyough those library doors – which slid open Star Trek style to let the masses boldly go into the rhyming frontier. Brilliantly assisted by the regular library staff  (The overdue crew), lots of great performances, poems and feel-good poetry vibes bounced from spine to spine, we are talking taking big happy shelfies!

“Amazing, funny, creative, inspirational” – parent of participant

Friday kicked off in the same vain, with 40 Mums and 40 under 2s allowing the poetry to mix and flow into the rhyme time. By now our big book of poems was filling up with individual poems, group poems – lots of brilliant stuff. People were taking it off the shelf (if they could get someone to help them lift it) and the groups kept coming. By the time we hit Saturday, the last day, over 300 people had taken part.

“[The most useful aspect of the event for me as a teacher was] To show students that poetry can be fun and about anything including mundane things such as shopping at IKEA!”  – teacher


Children were putting their work and other people’s work in to the book. All ages were writing poems and our book was nearly filled. The final page was covered by the Saturday Chatterbooks group who produced ‘The greatest Roald Dahl poems never written’ (‘cept they were now).  5pm came, the library closes – it’s over – but it’s not; the experience lives on in nearly 400 people’s memories. The book has an ISBN a bar code and keeps the poetry writing forever there, to inspire and remind.
Massive thanks to the Askew Road Library team (Z, A, V, L, J and others), and thank you to all who took part.

I had a fine-sublime-Spine-time.

 You can connect with Paul on Twitter | Find out more about Paul here.

Spine Festival 2016 took place from the 3-5 March, giving children, families and young people the chance to experience loads of FREE arts and literature events in local libraries across London! For more information visit the SPINE blog page or check out the SPINE Festival 2016 film. SPINE Festival is produced by Apples and Snakes in partnership with library authorities across London. #SPINEfestival2016.