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.


My Sisters Hugged me to Work 

A poetry and multi-art textile piece created with textile artist Becky Moore for Any Work that Wanted Doing. Curated by Gill Crawshaw, this art exhibition was on display at Leeds Industrial Museum and dealt with the lives of disabled millworkers and was created by disabled artists

A Plot is Hatched in Gildersome (Leeds 2023)

Gildersome Get Together helped me shape a story about a real life plot to overthrow the Church and Parliament in 1663. Listen to ‘A Plot is Hatched in Gildersome’ here:

Walking Poetry (Leeds 2023)

With members of Alwoodley group Walkabout, I led a walk around Eccup Reservoir during which we shared snippets of history and our sensory impressions of the environment. Afterwards I brought together walkers’ observations to reflect the collective experience of the walk in a poem (displayed below).

Walking Poetry at Eccup Reservoir

Becky Cherriman with Barbara, Pat, Nick, Jamie, Ana, Roderic, Simon, Zoe and Vicky for Leeds 2023

Some muggy days it seems we have forgotten 
what we construct can be beautiful.
Everything has mud at its base 
like this reservoir we circle to heal our wounds. 

Words whirr with the generator
as runners breathe fast, 
flash past in rainbow soles,
leaving prints like Romans long ago.

No rumble of passing traffic here
but rustle of copper beech and oak, 
air subtle and warm after rain,
our sole fear ­– volans pilamalleus globulos i

straying from Caesar’s Fairway. We cross 
the parish boundary, a bell rings, right to pass
and a man calls for mass trespass 
to claim what should be shared.

Who can be said to own this wide expanse 
of mirrored clouds, shadow and light, chop and calm?
Thistles or stinkhorn, proud at the edge,
foxgloves dosing out their poison from the green woods

or the sweetest of chestnuts, 
ruckus of geese behind the alder?
Is it the majestic kite, Jurassic ferns
or tiny toads waddling between our boots?

Elizabeth who inked her name on bark, 
the bridge’s eyes 
or navvies whose laughter and sweat lapped at fresh banks,
the ding-ding-hello-thank-you of this family on bikes?

Vicky gifts us Turkish delights 
and we question what it means to be native 
when this soil has buried dictionaries of tongues –  
Northumbrian, Welsh, Latin, Etruscan  

like fragments of North African pottery 
or stones from an ancient hall. Roxy!
The black lab leaves 
limited time for wistfulness, leaps 

into our consciousness 
and onto the metre-high wall to view
swallows dip and sip, 
periscope of a grebe’s neck.

Each time we visit
we note the level of the water,
how the seasons and years 
alter all.

We turn to fractals, white noise in the chutes,
approach the hems of a nearby field
where crickets crackle like electric fences,
where, in late May, geese know to land in their multitudes.

I have glimpsed a veiled ghost 
in the doorway of a barn 
danced through with housemartens,
this witchy tree was shaped by lightning.

Even in the dirt, there is magic. 
See the crows crowded in clover,
greenfinches that scatter from the hedgerow,
horses lowering their ears under the lone oak. 

We recall when we came here hoping for meteors, 
how they drowned in ambient light,
the drought that brought tankers from Northumberland,
of feet and feet of snow, 

days when reservoirs across the country froze,
winters so cold bricks were warmed on the hearth,
the sycamore’s warning and golden bend of barley,
the weaving dance of the Maypole, Swiss lakes,

a man with a basket of mushrooms and maggots,
taste of dandelion coffee,
hops that grow up and along,
stick, when we pick them, to our clothes.

Blood shrill in our veins from the sun, 
we welcome the cool formation of pines 
shaped, like so many places, for rifles and ships, for war.
Little else thrives under their austere parade. 

Thank the skies that in the school yard, 
it is only cabbage whites on the rampage
and the harvest of artichokes, sweetpeas 
and broad beans is blooming from the earth.

Pauses on this walk teach 
that the songs of the named and unnamed are here
if we learn how to sift the soil, 
listen, like horses, to the heat, to the trees.

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

I was 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.

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.
Photo by Jonathan Turner @jonturner on Instagram of extract of artwork Left: On gridded paper printed on grey cloth part of a poem with phrases separated by back slashes and spaces: …nonising to lasses\ \Addle us enough\ \eye-to-eye\ \if we’re sick Right and centre: Patchwork of hexagons in different materials and muted colours interspersed by patches of ephemera e.g., a patch that includes a label with the following text: The WIRA Fineness Meter and Made at the Wool Industries Research Association Leeds and another with: I was set to spinning and doing jobs; any work that wanted doing. My knees are bent inward, ligaments relaxed. I can scarcely abide to walk up and down the room. Sometimes I am bad and am forced to go home. Blue stitches cross the gridded paper and some of the patchwork.
Photo by Jonathan Turner


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.