Kilburn Speaks poetry project launched

Three poets in residence are working with people on the South Kilburn estate to put their experiences of the area down in words

A couple of streets down from Tennyson Road – named after the Victorian Romantic poet by 19th century property developer Solomon Barnett in homage to his wife’s love of literature – lies the home of a new project to unite the community around poetry.

South Kilburn Speaks, operates out of a new pop up arts shop in Peel Precinct, and comprises of three professional writers – Aoife Mannix, Niall O’Sullivan and Simon Mole, who each spend several days in the area, getting to know the community, and helping them to put down in words their memories and experiences of South Kilburn.

Aoife Mannix, the project’s lead writer, said: “In an urban environment where things are constantly changing, you can quickly lose that sense of history. But there are people who really remember and care about it.

“If we can find a way of putting this down into words than it will be captured and preserved.”

The three poets have been working with residents, getting to know the community, and helping them to articulate what life is like for them in South Kilburn.

The poetry written by the writers in residence and people living on the estate is then posted on a blog and printed on sandwich boards outside the shop in an ongoing dialogue between the project and the community.

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It will also be immortalised in art installations – engraved in paving stones and carved into railings – in a permanent testament to life in South Kilburn.

Ms Mannix said: “We didn’t want to create that type of public art which most local people walk straight past, without understanding it.

“We want to take the stories and imagery from the work, and put them into the environment so people feel it is actually about them.”

Niall O’Sullivan has been visiting knitting classes and tea mornings, getting to now the elderly community and incorporating their words into his poetry.

He said: “They are a really good source of the actual history of the area. There are things I am told that you can’t go away and find on the internet, but it is still vivid, and living, in the memories of this community.

“I have learnt so much about the old shops and places which defined this area – but no longer stand here.”

By incorporating the young and old in their project, the poets hope to strengthen cross generational ties within the community.

Niall added: “Because of all the community activities, there is a lot going on here which you might not spot at first sight. Our project will hopefully create a permanent testament to the vibrancy and life of the area.”