I enjoy the challenge of a commission and the connections they can make happen. Public commissions often enable me to write with and for specific communities whereas private commissions are an opportunity to bring joy to individuals and families on special occasions.

Our Alwoodley, A Festival of Sports, Games and Community, 9th July 2023

I was commissioned by Leeds 2023 to be the Festival Bard for a day of sports and games in Alwoodley. As part of my role, I attended events, spoke to festival goers and produced this piece of poetic reportage in response.

    Imagine a man of any age or appearance, head back in an   
    armchair in an Alwoodley semi-detached, listening to leather 
    on willow, a commentator’s comforting tones. 
    Another runs the circuit of the reservoir, fragments of The   
    Ashes blowing out from his phone. 
    Hundreds of trainers race. We clap them on at Goodrick Lane,   
    recalling numbers pinned to vests, how we fared before knees 
    gave way. 
    Walkers listen for long dead languages and living bird call, 
     rebuild Alwoodley Hall in their minds, watch for changes   
     seasons bring to the surface as a black lab leaps like a high  
     jumper onto a wall.
    In the church with a silent copper bell above the door, 
    thoughts fly into the blue horizon on wings of gulls and song. 
    Tai chi takes Lara’s worries away. We are forgetting our  
     injuries, seeking contact and connection, peeling the onion of   
     ourselves, of the form, waiting for that magic itch. We touch   
     fingers together in our chairs, movements mirroring the  
     weather, almost convinced they can grow clover in the rain.
     Meanwhile, Jerry’s playing table tennis with Bowie in the   
      void, so close he notes every smile, every scowl. Don’t pick up  
      your bat in anger; today he’s Ziggy, a planet on his forehead, 
      wrist flick nifty. But this is no mime – the ball is Mars forced 
      into unusual orbit, out of play. Is it possible, Reuben wonders,  
      to hear the pop pop pop, ping pong ping pong sound in   
      Back to the earthy rugby player I meet mid bench press,   
      muscles and game fed on carbs and meat, favourite matches    
      at The Lakes with big lads, farmers. You can try for the main  
      clubs but there’s no place like a home club. 
      Roll call of heroes: Christie, Jordan, Akabusi, Hoy.  
      Muhammad Ali who refused to take his fight to Nam, was  
      punched, instead, with the weight of hate, but this war is  
      against the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. 
      Sport can make us better people if we let it, like You Go I Go  
      at Shire Fit. Tommy doesn’t believe he can lift the barbell but     
      his team raise their voices, his faith. Go on Tommy! Tara’s in  
      his head, We all have our challenges but I am drawn to the  
      impossible. Then the bar is airbound, improbable but certain.  
      Rubber mats catch what might be sweat or tears. Hoops  
       jangle their cheers. Kindness lands on a board of faces  
       before fluttering out into the world.
       At Alwoodley Cricket Club, a boy spins on the pitch, arms 
       outstretched. A woman taps her bat on the ground. The    
       chant springs up, Bouncy Castle, bouncy castle, bouncy  
       castle! Mothers confess their desire to shed, for a while,  
       shoes and duty, jump on rubber, Total Wipeout style. Food     
       from the barbecue you can hold in your hands – burger,  
       sausage, samosa. Cricket attracts people from everywhere – 
       The Caribbean, Tamil Nadu, Pakistan 
       where a girl is heading on her imaginary bike, through  
       nature to hot sun and grandmother left behind. She knows,  
       like the climate host, we must use our bodies to power our  
        lives, that this is where our future lies. 

Other Commissions

  • 2020
    • The Cultural Institute commissioned ten artists to produce work for the Beyond Measure project. My response ‘The Force of their Lives’ is an immersive audio poem exploring the theme of artist mental health. See and hear the created works at the online exhibition. Listen to ‘The Force of their Lives’ with headphones if you can.
  • 2018
    • Ilkley Literature Festival gave a microcommission to a collective of writers and musicians for an r&d project – Words on Skin. In the wake of the Windrush scandal, Brexit, the refugee crisis and hostile environment policy, this was a calling to reflect on the things that stain our skin. The project is led by Michelle Scally Clarke and also features Sai Murray, Richard Bostock, Cherie Taylor Battiste, Ricky Venel Stone and Julie Easley. We are looking to develop this show in future
  • 2016-17
    • I was a commissioned writer and performer on Imove’s Haunt project
  • 2016
    • Beam commissioned ‘Our Treasures’ an audio poem trail as part of my role as Lead Artist for Altofts Festival in a Day
  • 2013
  • 2012
    • Commissioned to write and perform poems and flash fiction inspired by Clare Wood’s ‘Unquiet Head’ exhibition at The Hepworth Wakefield as part of the Wakefield Artwalk
    • Commissioned by The Hepworth Wakefield to produce a written and audio poem inspired by the John Wells artwork for visitors with learning disabilities and people engaged in lifelong learning
  • 2006
    • Commissioned to write and perform interactive story for children ‘Then The Earth Moved’ on the theme of Geology by The Rotunda Museum, Scarborough
  • 2005
    • Conversactions, a digital art and conversation commission by Humbermouth Festival with Simon Bradley
    • Collaborated on and wrote two children’s stories for the Scope ‘In the Picture’, a project aiming to include more children with disabilities in children’s literature.  ‘The Most Brilliant Idea’ was animated by Carmel Brown.
‘My Sister the Ostrich’ was illustrated by Adam Gado


Private Commissions

I have written poems for weddings, birthdays and other occasions. I aim for all commissioned poems to be well-crafted and original – it is important that whatever I create is tailored to you and the person or people the poem is for. If you’re interested, email me to arrange an initial chat.