10 Things I Know About Public Art

You have a 1 in 6 chance, if you take a Go North East bus, of coming across one of my poems. They’re on 100 of a 600 strong fleet as part of the Great Exhibition of the North. The poems, based on research about ‘getting out’ from Newcastle University, are included in my new book Changing Room (Salt, 2018).

Last week, I spent a stranger than usual morning bus-spotting at Gateshead Interchange. My friend and I settled on the Gateshead flyer and took photos of me gurning next to a poem in front of passengers who were either disinterested or had politely averted their eyes. This is the second time my poems have been on buses. Last year it was for the bus company First York for the same project. I am unlikely (unless I take to graffiti) to ever again have the experience of seeing my poem on a bus as it whizzes down the high street. These are the things I have learned.

  1. People will often say yes if you ask them for things – like, for instance, will you put my poems on your buses please? It is amazing what people will say yes to.
  2. You will be braced for a wave of interest when you step on a bus and then realise that no-one is looking at your poem.
  3. It is cheaper to leave a poem on the outside of a bus to disintegrate than to take it down.
  4. Grafting*– as they say on Love Island – can be very satisfying.
  5. Poems look very different when displayed next to a change in service notice. This may or may not be seen as a good thing. See it as a good thing.
  6. Bus drivers are extremely kind – as are most people.
  7. If you have poems on buses they are everywhere geographically but they still might not be on anyone’s radar.
  8. Don’t take yourself or your poetry too seriously.
  9. The Highwayman, The Green Arrow, The Diamond and the Fab Fifty Seven are indeed buses.
  10. Be brief.

*For grafting, read tweeting, blagging, blogging, fund-raising etc…