Here’s a little Summary of 2008. Throughout I have been artist in residence at The Southbank centre supported by The Paul Hamlyn Foundation. It has been incredible. But the year began in January with a short stint as writer in residence at California State University in Los Angeles.
On returning in February immediately I started writing a song with musical impressario Laka D for The Olympic Torch parade. In March “In The Name Of The Torch” was sung by hundreds as violinist Vanessa May flanked by Chinese security guards walked the steps onto the stage outside The Royal Festival hall with the Torch clasped nervously high above her head. Helicopters flew above but the song echoed outwards across the Thames. The lyrics spoke for those excluded as much as those included.
Throughout the year I’d been broadcasting my poems for the Sony Award Winning BBC radio 4 show Saturday Live. Saturday Live has a rostar of five poets; Kate Fox , Matt Harvey, Murray Lachlan Young, Luke Wright, Elvis McGonagall and myself. In July I put together a sell out show of The Saturday Live Poets at The Purcell rooms in The Southbank centre. Shortly after this event I decided to stop writing the monthly poem.
I am not great man on the marketing front. I had a book coming out in October. S topping a regular broadcast to two million people on an award winning bbc radio programme may not have been the wisest move.
July was the month for Cries From the Heart for Human Rights Watch where I performed on stage alongside Patti Smith Joanna Lumley Julie Christie, Sir Ian Mckellen and many more. It was the month where I read at the Glastonbury festival too for The Southbank centre along with the artist Shlomo and his beatboxing phenomenon. I was asked to introduce Leonard Cohen onto stage this month but turned it down as I would have to stay at the festival a little longer. Big mistake. I should have done it.
In August I read in Botswana for a week at the Power In The Voice festival which united the countries of Southern Africa in one massive performance in front of the presidents wife, government digniatries and an audience that came to about one thousand, put together by the British Council.
Late August into September I travelled to Africa again, to Eritrea to visit my grandfather and grandmothers grave. I was Shouting From the Rooftops of Southbank centre as part of The Hayward Galleries smash hit exhibition – the most talked about in London this year - about the deconstruction of architecture.
Within two hours of returning to London on September 4th I stood proudly( if a little jetlagged) in The financial heart of Europe as Bishop Desmond Tutu unveiled a poem of mine which is inlaid into a sculpture near Fenchurch street station. It would be weeks before banks started collapsing.
Later in September I travelled out to the arctic on an incredible once in a lifetime voyage with artists and musicians KT Tunstall, Martha Wainwright, Shlomo, Jarvis Cocker, Laurie Anderson Ryuichi Sakamoto Leslie Feist Vanessa Carlton to name a few. It was organised by Cape Farewell. Have a look at their award winning website
Within a few days of returning and throughout October I toured my fifth book Listener published by Canongate. I brought Chuck D to read at The Southbank centre but couldn’t attend the sell out show myself . October was also Poetry international at the Southbank centre, a festival of international poetry. It is there that I did the London launch for my book an installation called Washing Lines and much more. A new poem was put up onto the counterweight of the lift hat runs through the Southbank centre. I acknowledge Jude Kelly he artistic director and The Paul Hamlyn Foundation in my book, because had it not been for them it wouldn’t have happened.
In November I had the honour of doing a short reading as part of Eloquent protest with the politician Tony Ben. Throughout the year I have been judge of various competitions: the place prize for contemporary Dance, The George Devine Award (The Royal Court), The Index on Censorship Prize and The Forward Poetry Prize with combined prize winnings of an hundred thousand pounds. It’s always a pleasure to distribute money to artists.
December. Throughout the year I have been host of The Saturday Club at Stratford Circus in Stratford East. The night is regularly a must see in Time Out and showcases new talent alongside established talent. The Saturday Club – expect the unexpected.
Alongside these highlights I have been reading my poetry throughout Britian and Europe. These are a small selection of a few of the highlights from the year. But the highlight is the residency at the Southbank Centre. My base at the south bank is the riverside rooms. And it is there that I am making a difference. The Southbank centre artists in residence are gathering momentum. You can’t help but watch their space. Drop by some time why not. It’s all good.