The Shop of Poems

Community Engagement Project

Shopping for Poetry

The Shop of Poems was part of Hull Gada and an engagement project in the run up to the BBC Contains Strong Language Festival and celebrated the beauty of poetry with Hull’s vibrant Polish community.

As a producer for the UK City of Culture, I worked with poets, Bohdan Piasecki (founder of Poland’s first poetry slam), Wojciech Cichon and Weronika Lewandowska, in delivering a series of workshops, pop-up poetry activities and an actual ‘Shop of Poems’ at the local shopping centre.

The fitted-out shop displayed printed poems on large boards like in a fancy clothes shop and we created a welcoming space for the public to visit – although nothing was for sale!

The Hull Gada (Hull Talks) Shop of Poems

Hull Gada: Launch party / ARTYKUŁ PO POLSKU: PATRZ NIŻEJ

At the launch event, Bohdan Piasecki performed new work inspired by Hull’s Polish community in a live spoken word show with many others also contributing.

It was a fantastic evening of whooping, hollering, stories and rhythms, laughter, tears, storytelling and lyricism.

Language barriers were overcome thanks to translated and captioned performances, which was a new experience for both audience and artists. The launch event was successful in attracting 10 of Hull’s local spoken word artists from the Polish community to perform – plus local performers Vicky Foster, Joe Hakim and Matt Nicholson.

Throughout the duration of the exhibition the audience were encouraged to use the workshop space and were prompted to write a poem on a selection of themes in English and Polish.

Bohdan performing at the Shop of Poems launch event

Stats & Feedback

Workshops reached over 170 children and young people, through
close collaboration with two Polish Saturday Schools, and two
masterclasses were run for Hull volunteers. These enabled the volunteers to learn more about Hull’s Polish community and raise awareness on immigrant issues, as well as to gain confidence in
approaching members of Polish community to support the project.

14 pop-up poetry activities took place at a variety of locations: in total, there were around 100 conversations and almost 40 poems written.

The Pop-Up Poetry Station that travelled around the city

Almost 100% of the audience agreed that Hull Gada gave everyone the chance to share and celebrate together and that it was an enjoyable experience. Over 80% stated that the project made them feel more connected with the stories of Hull and its people.

Over 50% of audience members stated the project empowered them to take part in more arts and activities in future and 30% stated that Hull Gada improved their self-esteem/confidence.

Of course everything needed to be translated so that the project was accessible to Polish and non-Polish speakers. Shown: Project leaflet on the left, shop windows on the right.

Much of this was achieved thanks to Meg Malgorzata Miszczuk, our local producer and translator, with experience of Polish cultural projects.

Hull Gada was part of the literature and spoken word strand of the UK City of Culture and build up to the BBC Contains Strong Language Festival.

A comfotable lounge-cum-shop space for poetry was created