A series of new poetry films is being released across social media to mark the 250th anniversary of Bristol poet Thomas Chatterton’s death on 20 November.

Anthony Anaxagorou

The poems were written in response to Henry Wallis’ Chatterton and were filmed beside the painting during its loan from Tate to RWA Bristol last month. From Sunday 15 to Thursday 19 November 2020, a daily film will be posted by Lyra – Bristol Poetry Festival. On Friday 20 November, all films will be uploaded to the Festival of Ideas YouTube channel. The poems are by Anthony Anaxagorou (pictured above), Theresa Lola (pictured below), Keith Jarrett, Fran Lock and Chris McCabe. The filming was by Michael Jenkins (8th Sense Media).

Theresa Lola

Danny Pandolfi and Lucy English, co-directors of Lyra, said:

After spending months talking to the poets about their preparation, research and writing, it was quite a surreal experience to see the poems performed live beside the original piece of art. Upon arrival in the room, all of the poets commented on how the colours look completely different in person, and how it felt like an emotional connection with the painting had been formed through their relationship with the poem. Michael Jenkins’ videography paired the painting and the poet in a way that really captured the intense and intimate atmosphere so excellently curated by RWA in the exhibition room. We’re really proud of the project and the anthology of poems, and these films are a brilliant celebration and culmination of the whole experience.

The poetry films will be released on Lyra’s social media platforms (Twitter: @LyraFest; Facebook: www.facebook.com/lyrabristol) with the hashtag #BristolPoeticCity

2020 marks 250 years since the death of Chatterton. Despite his accolade as the ‘Father of Romantic Poetry’, he’s largely unknown in Bristol, his birthplace. A Poetic City is a multi-partner, citywide programme  that builds on existing knowledge of Chatterton’s life and times; celebrates Bristol’s current vibrant and diverse poetry scene; and aims to inspire poets of the future. Chatterton’s story also provides an opportunity to examine a range of contemporary themes such as: artistic credulity and credibility; fake news and fake art; young artists; arts and mental health; on-going barriers to accessing culture in the city; the nature of celebrity; the resurrection of the Gothic; and the nurturing of creativity.

The poems feature in the Bristol Poetic City anthology, which includes new poems written by former Bristol City Poet Vanessa Kisuule and her successor, Caleb Parkin, as well as Josie Alford, Emily Berry, Rachael Boast, Malaika Kegode, Rebecca Tantony and Tom Sastry. Hard copies are available for free from venues around the city. It is also available as a PDF download.

The Poetic City programme is funded thanks to grants awarded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, using money raised by National Lottery players.

National Lottery Heritage Fund


Chatterton, 1856, Henry Wallis. Tate: Bequeathed by Charles Gent Clement 1899. 

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