Caleb Parkin was announced today as next Bristol City Poet, following in the footsteps of Vanessa Kisuule and Miles Chambers. The announcement was made by Marvin Rees at the One City Gathering. Caleb will hold the role from 2020-2022.
Caleb is a poet, performer, facilitator and filmmaker with a particular passion for inclusive environmentalism; wellbeing; arts, culture and heritage; and LGBT+ pride. His poems have been published widely in journals including Poetry Review, The Rialto, Butcher’s Dog, Under the Radar, Coast to Coast to Coast, Envoi and Magma, in Bristol 247, and online.
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “I’m excited to see in what direction Caleb will take the third incarnation of the Bristol City Poet role, building on the strong foundations set by current City Poet Vanessa Kisuule. I have been impressed by the energy Vanessa has brought to the role and her willingness to challenge the city in her poetry. With his background in performance and education I am confident Caleb will approach the balancing act of accessibility and engagement which this role strongly demands with passion and creativity. I look forward to seeing the results during his time as City Poet to capture and distil the stories in our city.”
Traditionally – and in line with the national Poet Laureate objectives – the City Poet taps into public opinion and acts as a communicator of local views. They can become the conscience of the public and can also reflect on what makes the city tick. What they convey through their poetry and creative writing can provide important insights onto contemporary events and feelings, not all of which may make for comfortable reading. The role includes ten formal commissions to be written over the next two years, along with engaging local communities and young people with poetry.
Caleb Parkin, new City Poet, said: “I’m flabbergasted, fizzy and delighted to be taking up the role of Bristol City Poet. Vanessa Kisuule has done a magnificent job over the last couple of years, with poems which celebrate, commemorate and challenge – and I’m honoured to be inheriting the post from her. We’re living through a period of great uncertainty. As a writing for wellbeing practitioner, I know that poetry has a role to play in comforting those in need. It can also challenge us to imagine different futures and ask useful questions about our city. I hope to write delicious poems for the people of Bristol, which embrace the city’s playful spirit – and to create spaces which give voice to our kaleidoscope of experiences. Remember: especially on a sunny day, Bristol is already a poem.”
The role is a collaboration between Bristol City Office and Bristol Cultural Development Partnership, which founded and continues to run the Festival of Ideas.
Madhu Krishnan, Board Director of Bristol Cultural Development Partnership and Chair of the Judging Panel, said: “The field for the new City Poet was incredibly competitive, with 22 high-quality applications from some of Bristol’s most exciting writers. We were extremely pleased with the overall level of the applications, and the decision process was especially difficult with so many amazing candidates. Even in such a strong field, Caleb’s application distinguished itself. We were so impressed by the texture and thoughtfulness of his writing, which is matched by his enthusiasm and ability to speak to all of the diverse communities in our city. His work is especially timely in our present moment and we can’t wait to see what he does with the role over the next two years.”
Since her appointment in 2018 as City Poet, Vanessa Kisuule has written and performed poems for a wide range of organisations and occasions including the 100th birthday party of the Addison oak tree in Sea Mills; two State of the City lectures; St Paul’s Carnival; local charity Every Child Needs Christmas; and the University of Bristol. She has run workshops in libraries, worked with children in care and distributed handwritten extracts of her work around the city for residents to discover. A formal handover event from Vanessa to Caleb will take place in the autumn.
Image: Paul Samuel White