Episode 6: Searching for Utopia (27 mins)

A unique arrangement of performances, reflection and debate with Dr Ruth Padel, the Reverend Lucy Winkett, James Massiah and Niles Hailstones from Asheber & The Afrikan Revolution.

As part of Poet in the City’s festival of Poetry and Lyrics at Kings Place, together we explore how the realms of poetic language and music have helped map the search for a perfect world – be it personal, political, or spiritual. We examine the potential for Utopia, and its flaws, taking the listener on a creative journey to imagine the impossible.


Ruth Padel is an award-winning poet and tutor of Poetry at Kings College London. From her first publication, Alibi (1985), to her most recent work, Tidings (2016), Padel has combined her interests in the natural world, migration and history to establish a unique voice, publishing anthologies and non-fiction works on topics such as Greek mythology, tiger conservation in Asia and the life of her great-grandfather Charles Darwin.

James Massiah is a contemporary poet, musician and DJ whose work ranges across the themes of mortality, religion and sex. Massiah has given readings at Tate Britain, the Southbank Centre and the Houses of Parliament since breaking into the South London poetry scene, alongside founding The A & The E in 2012, an organisation that discusses the arts and philosophy.

Asheber and the Afrikan Revolution are a collective of musicians and teachers who combine the styles of Afrikan, Reggae, Jazz, Soul and Spoken Word to convey their message of making a positive difference in the world. The group has given electric performances at the likes of the British Museum, Vibes and Pressure and Afrikan Liberation Day, since their creation in 2007 by Niles Hailstones.

Reverend Lucy Winkett trained as a professional soprano before becoming rector of St. James’ Church Piccadilly in 2010. Rev.d Winkett is a regular contributor to Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day”, and her book “Our Sound is Our Wound” was published in 2010.

Poetry, Music and Audio featured on this Programme:

  • “My idea of Utopia is…” montage featuring: Caprice, Rasheeda Page-Muir (Poet & Feminist), Jon, Inge, Nick Cope (Singer/Songwriter), Maz, Dee
  • Sunset on the Coast near Naples by Ruth Padel (2016), written for the Bristol Festival of Ideas: Contemporary Poets and Utopia. Read by Ruth Padel at Kings College London on 04.04.17.
  • “Which songs or poems evoke your idea of Utopia?” montage featuring: Isis, Neil, Charlotte, Rasheeda Page-Muir, Dee, Katie Melua (Singer/Songwriter)
  • “On a scale from 1 to Utopia, where are we?” montage featuring: Neil, Isis, Caprice, Nick Cope, Dee, Inge, Katie Melua, Jon, Elaine Mitchener (Vocal & Movement Artist), Linda, Rasheeda Page-Muir, Maz and Chris
  • Fly Me Home by James Massiah. Read by James Massiah at LBC Radio on 04.04.17
  • “Can we ever reach Utopia?” montage featuring: Neil, Inge and Joanna.
  • Asheber & the Afrikan Revolution Live Showreel 2013

Poet in the City Producers is a group of talented 16-25 year olds changing the way we see poetry by producing innovative media and live events to promote this age-old art form in the modern world.
This special edition podcast episode is brought to you by Poet in the City Producers Axel Kacoutié, Amica Sciortino Nowlan, Ariel Silverman, Louisa Danquah, Milica Cortanovacki and Olivia Amura.

Episode 5: Poetry and Comedy (32 mins)

With Wendy Cope, Luke Wright, Zoe Wanamaker, Tiffany Watt Smith, Rachel Cooke and Will May

Produced and Presented by Alia Cassam

Episode 5 celebrates the sidesplitting, surreal and downright silly side of poetry.

Insights and anecdotes come from poets Wendy Cope and Luke Wright, Zoe Wanamaker channels the spirit of Stevie Smith with some fantastic live readings, and Dr Tiffany Watt Smith, of the Queen Mary University of London Centre for the History of the Emotions, helps to keep order with an academic view on laughter.

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Wendy Cope became an overnight success with the publication of her 1986 debut poetry collection Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, and in 1987 she received a Cholmondeley Award for poetry. Two Cures for Love: Selected Poems 1979-2006 was published in 2008. In 2010 she was awarded an O.B.E. Her most recent collection, Family Values, was published by Faber in 2011. She is patron of Poet in the City.

Luke Wright is poet, theatre maker and broadcaster. His debut collection, Mondeo Man, was published in 2013. Luke is John Cooper Clarke’s support act and he co-programmes The Latitude Poetry Arena. He has written and performed eight one-man poetry shows. His debut play, the award-winning What I Learned From Johnny Bevan, tours throughout 2016.

Zoë Wanamaker is an Oliver-Award- winning American-born British stage, television, and film actress. She played Stevie Smith in the eponymous play at the Hampstead in 2015 to critical acclaim.

Tiffany Watt Smith is the author of The Book of Human Emotions (2015). She is Research Fellow at the QMUL Centre for the History of the Emotions and has worked as a director in theatres including The Royal Court. She was selected as a BBC New Generation Thinker in 2014 and appears regularly on BBC radio.

Rachel Cooke is a writer at The Observer, where she has won several awards. She is also the television critic of the New Statesman. Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties was published by Virago in 2014.

Will May is a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Southampton. He is the editor of The Collected Poems and Drawings of Stevie Smith (2015) and the author of Stevie Smith and Authorship.

Poetry, Music and Audio Featured in this Programme:

  • Stay-at- Home Dandy and Have a Gong! by Luke Wright. From the spoken word album Stay-at- Home Dandy (Nasty Little Press: 2014) Luke’s Got A Joke (extract) from the spoken word album We’re All In This Together
(Nasty Little Press: 2012)
  • Bloody Men and Some More Light Verse by Wendy Cope. From Two Cures For Love: Selected Poems 1979-2006 (Faber: 2008)
  • The Galloping Cat, Not Waving But Drowning, Do Take Muriel Out and Souvenir de Monsieur Poop (extract) by Stevie Smith. Read by Zoe Wanamaker at Kings Place on 15.02.16 Audio recordings copyright © The British Library Board
  • Intro music: Faith in Donkeys by Carlos Filipe Alves

All other music from the albums Tricolore (2013 ) and Etch & Etch Deep (2013) by Haiku Salut

  • Man laughing – recorded by Mike Koenig

Episode 4: The Poetry of Samuel Beckett (35 mins)

With James Knowlson, John Pilling and Lisa Dwan

Produced and Presented by Alia Cassam

In this special edition podcast we take you on a journey through sound, into the world and work of Samuel Beckett.

With expert commentary from his biographer James Knowlson and the academic John Pilling, as well as insights from acclaimed Beckett actress Lisa Dwan, we’ll discover how Beckett used poetry to ask the questions that lie at the very heart of what it is to be human.

Featuring live material from a Poet in the City celebration of Beckett at Milton Court Theatre in London, we’ll hear live readings of Beckett’s work, examine Beckett’s life and relationship to poetry, consider the artistic preoccupations which made Beckett unique as a writer, and ask whether Beckett still speaks to audiences today.

You can save a copy of the podcast to listen to later by clicking on the download button on the player above.


Lisa Dwan is an internationally acclaimed actress and performer of Beckett’s work. She was directed by Billie Whitelaw at the Southbank Centre in 2009, and her trilogy of Beckett’s Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby has been touring the world to international acclaim.

James Knowlson was a friend of Samuel Beckett for the last 19 years of the writer’s life and is the author of his sole authorized biography, ‘Damned to Fame. The Life of Samuel Beckett’ (Bloomsbury, 1996).

John Pilling is the editor of Samuel Beckett Collected Poems, and has written or edited numerous books and articles on Beckett for more than thirty years.

Edward Sayer and Rebecca Lee are rising stars from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama

Music and Audio Featured in this Programme:

All music featured kindly provided by Portishead:
‘Roads’ from the album ‘Dummy’ (1994)
‘Only You’ and ‘Over’ from the album ‘Portishead’ (1997)
‘The Rip’, ‘Threads’, ‘Machine Gun’ and ‘We Carry On’ from the album ‘Third’ (2008)

Episode 3: Contemporary German Voices

With Ulrike Sandig, Durs Grünbein, Don Paterson and Karen Leeder (36 mins)

Produced and Presented by Alia Cassam

In Episode 3 we take you on our own German cultural exchange through poetry.

The podcast brings together themes and perspectives from our Contemporary German Voices series of live poetry events, which saw Poet in the City, in collaboration with TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellow, Professor Karen Leeder from Oxford University, bring two of Germany’s best contemporary poetry voices to UK audiences.

As well as showcasing the work of brilliant German poets Durs Grünbein and Ulrike Almut Sandig, the podcast features live poetry performance and commentary from guests including the award-winning UK poet Don Paterson.

With the spotlight on Germany, we’ll be finding out about all night poetry festivals in Berlin, how a Grimms fairy story gets turned into electrifying sound-art, looking at the influence of Rainer Maria Rilke on contemporary British poets, investigating the art and craft behind translation, and myth-busting the idea that German poets classically tend to be philosophical, inward looking and soul-searching.

You can save a copy of the podcast to listen to later by clicking on the download button on the player above.


With Karen Leeder, Ulrike Almut Sandig, Don Paterson and Durs Grünbein 


Karen Leeder is Professor of Modern German Literature and Fellow and Tutor in German at New College, Oxford. She is a prize-winning translator of contemporary literature including Evelyn Schlag, Selected Poems (Carcanet, 2004) for which she won the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for Translation, 2005. She has published widely on modern German literature and recent publications include Brecht and the GDR, ed. with Laura Bradley (2011), Durs Grünbein: A Companion, ed. with Michael Eskin and Christopher Young (2013) and, about to come out: Re-reading East Germany: The Literature and Film of the GDR and Figuring Lateness: Lateness, Belatedness and Late Style in Modern German Culture. Karen has published reviews in a variety of newspapers and journals as well as appearing regularly on radio and television. She is an Oxford University TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellow.

Ulrike Almut Sandig is an acclaimed German poet who was born in Großenhain (GDR) in 1979 and now lives in Berlin. She started publishing her poetry by pasting poems onto lamp posts in Leipzig and spreading them on flyers and free post cards. After completing her Magister in Religious Studies and Modern Indology, she subsequently graduated from the German Creative Writing Program Leipzig. A prose book and three volumes of her poetry have been published to date. Previous publications include radio plays and audio-books of poetry and pop music.

Don Paterson is an award winning UK poet. His is author of several award winning poetry collections including Rain (Faber) which won the Forward Prize 2009. Other collections include The Eyes (after Antonio Machado, Faber, 1999), Landing Light (Faber, 2003; Graywolf, 2004) and Orpheus (a version of Rilke’s Die Sonette an Orpheus, Faber, 2006). He has been awarded the T S Eliot Prize on two occasions. He received the OBE in 2008 and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2010. Don teaches poetry at the University of St Andrews, and since 1996 has been poetry editor at Picador MacMillan.

Durs Grünbein is an award winning German poet. He has published numerous collections of poetry and essays in German, and has translated a variety of authors, including John Ashbery, Samuel Beckett, Henri Michaux, and classic texts from Aeschylus. His poems have been translated into English by Michael Hofmann and published in Ashes for Breakfast: Selected Poems (2005). A poet who is frequently described as the best to emerge in Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall, ‘Durs Grünbein’s poems read as if the forces of history pressing in on the present drove them into this world.’ New York Times

Music and Audio Featured in this Programme:

Intro music: ‘Europa Geht Durch Mich’ by Manic Street Preachers feat. Nina Hoss – from the album Futurology (2014)

All other music taken from the album MÄRZWALD by Ulrike Almut Sandig and Marlen Pelny © Schöffling & Co, Frankfurt am Main 2011

Live footage from Richmix  22.02.15 and Keats House 12.05.15. Audio recordings copyright © The British Library Board

Episode 2: Poetry and the Election (35mins)

With Hollie McNish, Helen Mort and Edith Hall

Produced and Presented by Alia Cassam

In episode two, we ask whether poetry can give us another way of looking at the election and can tell us more about ourselves than the latest the poll-figures. We talk to two of the UK’s brightest contemporary poets about how they take on the politics of today – talking immigration and feminism with Hollie McNish, and looking at how issues of economic policy and the environment get translated into the poetry of Helen Mort. If language is having a crisis in politics at the moment with spin-culture taking hold, we find poetic antidotes with Edith Hall, Professor of Classics at King’s College London, looking to historical examples of political language with both style and substance. And when it comes to creating social change, we ask what role poetry today plays in the debate.

This podcast contains some themes which some listeners may find upsetting

You can save a copy of the podcast to listen to later by clicking on the download button on the player above.


With Tim Dee, Hollie McNish, Helen Mort and Edith Hall


Tim Dee is a BBC Radio Producer and writer. He specialises in arts programming for Radio 3 and 4, particularly poetry. Programmes include The Echo Chamber, A Map of British Poetry and Poetry Please. He also produces history documentaries and radio drama. He is the author of three books including The Running Sky (2009), The Poetry of Birds (2009) – an anthology co-edited with Simon Armitage, and most recently Four Fields (2013).

Edith Hall is Professor in the Classics Department and Centre for Hellenic Studies at King’s College London. Her most recent book, Introducing the Ancient Greeks: from Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western Mind, was published in 2014. She appears regularly on BBC Radio and television and has acted as a consultant for professional theatre productions by the National Theatre, the RSC, Shakespeare’s Globe and recently with Ian Rickson and Kristin Scott Thomas for the Old Vic theatre’s production of Medea. She is co-founder and Consultant Director of the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama at Oxford University, Chair of the Gilbert Murray Trust and a Judge on the Stephen Spender poetry prize.

Hollie McNish is a published UK poet and spoken word artist. She has released three poetry albums Touch and Push Kick both to critical acclaim, and she is the first poet to record at Abbey Road Studios with her double album Versus. Her collection of written poetry is Papers, published by Greenwich Exchange, London. Graduating from Cambridge University in 2005 and with a Masters in Development Economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, she gives readings and organises workshops both in the UK and internationally, and she runs the poetry in education organisation Page to Performance. Hollie has had commissions ranging from Radio’s 4s Woman’s Hour to The Economist, and her work has featured on XFM to MTV. She embarks on a UK wide tour this April.

Helen Mort was born in Sheffield. Her first collection Division Street was shortlisted for the Costa Prize and the T.S. Eliot Prize and, in 2014, won the Fenton Aldeburgh Prize. She is the Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow at The University of Leeds. Her poems have appeared in magazines including Poetry Review, The Rialto, Poetry London, The Manhattan Review, Granta and The North. She is currently working on a first novel and a collection of poems about mountaineering. Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has described Helen Mort as “among the brightest stars in the sparkling new constellation of young British poets”.

Music and Audio Featured in this Programme:

  • Intro music: BBC News 2000 performed by Dream Themes (2014)
  • Extract from ‘Scab’ read by Helen Mort at the 2014 T.S. Eliot prize readings, recorded by the Poetry Book Society (2014) Available online: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nz8l6G3U9wI
  • Song: ‘Ever Had a Little Faith?’ by Belle and Sebastian from the album ‘Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance’ (2015)

Episode 1: Off the Page and onto the Stage (34:59)

With Sir Andrew Motion, Juliet Stevenson, Dean Atta, and Tim Dee

Produced and Presented by Alia Cassam

Why does Andrew Motion think all poems are performance poems? How did Juliet Stevenson’s reading of a WH Auden poem onstage lead to the beginnings of a career in acting?

These and other intriguing questions are explored in ‘Off the Page and onto the Stage’ – a special edition podcast from Poet in the City that takes an insider’s perspective on the art and craft of taking page poetry and turning it into live performance.

With insights, commentary and performances from actors, producers and poets, this programme goes on a journey that begins with poetry performances of the past, to those happening here and now, and finally looking into the future for live performance.

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You can save a copy of the podcast to listen to later by clicking on the download button on the player above.


Dean Atta is a writer and performance poet. He won the 2012 London Poetry Award and was named as one of the most influential LGBT people by the Independent on Sunday Pink List 2012. His debut poetry collection I Am Nobody’s Nigger was published in 2013 by The Westbourne Press.

Tim Dee is a BBC Radio Producer and writer. He specialises in arts programming for Radio 3 and 4, particularly poetry. Programmes include The Echo Chamber, A Map of British Poetry and Poetry Please. He also produces history documentaries and radio drama. He is the author of three books including The Running Sky (2009), The Poetry of Birds (2009) – an anthology co-edited with Simon Armitage, and most recently Four Fields (2013).

Andrew Motion is Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. He was Poet Laureate from 1999 until 2009 and was knighted for his services to literature in 2009. His new collection of poems is The Cinder Path (Faber) and Ways of Life: Places, Painters and Poets (Faber) is his latest collection of essays. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and co-founder of The Poetry Archive.

Juliet Stevenson is one of Britain’s leading actresses, both of stage and screen. In 1992 she won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress for Death and the Maiden. She is widely known for her role on screen in the award-winning film Truly, Madly, Deeply, directed by Anthony Minghella. Other film credits include Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Emma (1996) and Mona Lisa Smile (2003). In 1999 Juliet Stevenson was awarded a CBE for her services to drama.


  • Intro music: ‘Dansi Dans’ by For A Minor Reflection – from the album ‘Höldum í átt að óreiðu’ (Feb 2012)
  • Reading of Ted Hughes: ‘Pike from Lupercal ’ – from ‘The Spoken Word Ted Hughes: Poems and Short Stories’, British Library Publishing (Oct 2008)
  • Song: ‘See You Later Allen Ginsberg (Take 2)’ – from ‘Bob Dylan & The Band: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete’ (Nov 2014)
  • Song: ‘Before’ by Vok – from the EP ‘Tension’ (Oct 2014)
  • Song: ‘Thynnkudagur’ by Jóhann Jóhannsson – from ‘Dis’ (Nov 2004)
  • Song: ‘Hafið er svart’ by Jónas Sigurðsson – from ‘Þar sem himin ber við haf’ (2012)
  • Song: ‘To The East’ by Electrelane – from ‘No Shouts, No Calls’ (Apr 2007)