“Black Panther” and Ackerman’s Microcosm, &c.


Today was a good day. First, a meeting with the lovely Will Carr, Director of The Poetry School. Swanky little office in Lambeth Walk, shared with Poetry London (for whom I’ve just written three reviews) and two doors down from Spread the Word. A literary enclave, sort of. Will recently moved down to London from Manchester, where he was an Arts Council head, and is finding his feet in this vibrant scene of ours. We agreed that these are good times for poetry.

Stunning Spring light. Took the 344 back to Liverpool Street. Just beyond Southwark Bridge a beautiful young woman caught her shoe on the paving, stopped, gloriously self-assured in a tight grey skirt, to reheel, glancing back towards the river before continuing her journey with a flick of black hair. I love this City.

After a swift half with Tim Wells in The Golden Heart, Spitalfields, I headed over to The Bishopsgate to meet one the Institute’s most loyal ‘users’. Pensioner Laurie has got to be one of the most fascinating people I’ve met for some time. A former wine butler, amongst other things, he grew up in the East End and has been visiting the BI since his 20s when he lunched in the Institute’s canteen. Thank God I recorded the interview; there’s no way I could have scribbled down all the memories, anecdotes, facts and tid-bits he came up with! His stories about playing in the bomb sites in the 50s were particularly absorbing. Each site had its own schoolboy nickname, like ‘Black Panther’ (Bishopsgate), ‘Chinatown’ and ‘The America Hole’ (Aldgate). My head’s already buzzing with ideas for the poems I have to come up with during the Residency!

I popped back later in the afternoon to join a talk given by the Bishopsgate’s larger-than-life Archivist, Stef Dickers, to an assembly of staff members. I’ll be spending a lot of time in the Library, which houses a great collection of books, magazines and ephemera on London history. Particular emphasis on labour movements and radical politics. They also have a copy of Ackerman’s Microcosm of London, which contains illustrations by Thomas Rowlandson, of whom I’m a big fan. Stef has promised to show me the Archives in the basement, and Clive, one of the technicians there, has promised to take me up to the roof. Yeah!

More from the Bishopsgate next week…

1 Comment

  1. emma says:

    Hey Tom,
    just reading through the blog. Recording is the way forward. Record record record. I always find talking to older people amazing, their memories become almost a parallel universe, existing simultaneously with what’s going on around you as you’re writing because they are so vivid.
    Yes, this is exciting stuff, looking forward to reading the poems.

    Love emma x

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