Case study: Hannah Walker
From Escalator mentoring to international touring poet

Hannah is a poet from Cambridge and Essex. She has toured intensively both nationally and internationally doing shows, readings and running workshops. She is passionate about engaging people with poetry and using poetry to have conversations.

Poetry is for everyone, or at least it has the potential to be, and though it is a controversial opinion I reckon if the general masses don’t get or like poetry, then it is our responsibility as poets to make work that does, or tries to. My view of this certainly shapes the shows that I make, which are often interactive, and use poetry as a form of speaking.

I first encountered Writers’ Centre Norwich [now the National Centre for Writing] when they were called The New Writing Partnership and I volunteered to help run their Worlds Symposium. I ran the podcaster and was really nervous that I would mess it up. I really wanted to be a writer but was too scared to tell anyone, so I surrounded myself with as many writers as possible instead.

Then I applied to the Escalator Live Literature programme run by Laura Stimson and Luke Wright, thinking I didn’t have a chance in hell, but was thrilled and amazed to be accepted. Francesca Beard was my mentor and with the support of this programme, and assistance in obtaining my first Grants for the Arts Funding (GfTA), I left my full time job at Norfolk & Norwich Festival and made my first poetry show, a show about apology called ‘This is just to say’ which I toured around the country and beyond. When I was on this programme, I did not really believe in my abilities and sort of self -sabotaged by leaving things to the last minute and not turning up to things, and Chris Gribble, CEO at Writers’ Centre Norwich sent me a wonderful email saying something along the lines of, ‘don’t self sabotage, you can write, so do that instead’. So I did, and all credit to him.

Then I made two more shows, with a theatre maker called Chris Thorpe, ‘The Oh Fuck Moment’ and ‘I wish I was lonely’. The first won a Fringe First, and the second was a commission from Writers’ Centre Norwich. Both toured nationally to critical acclaim. Writers’ Centre Norwich allowed us to use the meeting space at their offices to try out the first ever performance of ‘The Oh Fuck Moment’, as the show takes place in an office.

I went to Australia, Melbourne Writers Festival with Laura Stimson, Luke Wright and Tim Clare in the autumn of 2011, as the result of Chris Gribble developing a relationship with the festival. The three of us toured and performed our shows.

Then I worked with the poet Martin Figura on the poetry in schools programme designed by Sam Ruddock, Programme Manager at Writers’ Centre Norwich. A programme which looked at how poetry is taught.

Then I got a job working for the writing development organisation Apples and Snakes as the East region coordinator and worked in partnership with Writers’ Centre Norwich to develop a programme of work to develop, engage and support East based live literature artists. We ran a residency, a symposium and commissioned work.

Then I ran some workshops as part of Writers’ Centre Norwich’s programme, such as a writing on trains workshop. And I facilitated a symposium for the national live literature sector as part of Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2014.

Writers’ Centre Norwich supported various applications that I have submitted to things such as GfTA, most recently supporting my application for development as a live literature producer. During this development period I produced Francesca Beard’s show ‘A Lie’, which Writers’ Centre Norwich premiered May 16 as part of Norfolk 16.

I went to University at UEA, and stayed for 3 years after, leaving to do a poetry MA at Newcastle University. As soon as the MA was over, I came straight back as I missed Norwich so much, and I got the job at NNF.  Norwich is in my opinion, the MOST creative city. I think if you walk through Norwich on an average night you might think, not much creativity here. But if you ask around, and learn the city even a little, you suddenly find people doing extraordinarily creative things in every corner, and I mean, everywhere.

‘I feel supported as a writer in Norwich in a way that feels extraordinary. It truly deserves the UNESCO City of Literature status’

It is a hive of talent. It is commonly said, Norwich is where ambition goes to die. That could not be further from the truth! I think because it is so far away from everywhere, it has an island mentality of sorts, and as such makes more things happen, in a more hub shire like way. I love it and crave to come back as soon as possible. I feel supported as an artist there in a way that feels extraordinary. It truly deserves the UNESCO City of Literature status.

I am in the process right this minute of dreaming up a shiny new show. It will be a solo show and I am absolutely terrified about it. It is called ‘The Knot’ and is about anxiety. I’m also writing and developing my first poetry collection with help from two mentors,  it is called ‘You interrupt my brain sweetheart’. We’re further working on  Francesca Beard’s new show, leading to a national tour which I will produce AND I am writing a kids book about children whose brains work differently.


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