Discover Norwich of the past, present and future through newly commissioned poems from five brilliant writers with ties to the city. Wandering Words is a literary walk, created to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Norwich becoming England’s first UNESCO City of Literature.
Location four: Queen St, Norwich NR1 4DR
Take the back route into Cathedral Close via Hook’s Walk and pass through Ethelbert Gate into Tombland, the very heart of Norwich.
Tombland means ‘open ground’ or ‘empty space’ and this was the centre of commercial activity for the city until the Norman invasion in England in 1066. They tore down the palace of the Earl of East Anglia and St Michael’s church and built Norwich’s Anglican Cathedral. Stay for a moment by the Obelisk Drinking Fountain.
On Tombland, or Empty Space is written and performed by poet, writer and artist Victoria Adukwei Bulley.
On Tombland, or Empty Space
Listen to the poem with the soundscape
Listen to the poem
Listen to the soundscape
Sound design and production by Access Creative College (Mia Rodwell).
Read ‘On Tombland, or Empty Space’
And since we pre-exist our names,
since land is land before it’s claimed
for use, it isn’t hard to stop amidst these streets
these houses & their timber frames & wonder
who lies here, beneath. Sleeping peacefully
or not. Or restlessly – taken by some older plague
more fatal than the ones we know now.
Whose spirits walk beside us, hungry
for glance or touch; a little laugh, a brief kiss,
a sympathy or a vengeance, unable to let go,
unwanting to step into the light until then.
What are the names of those who lie here?
Or rather, what are the ways that names lie –
tombland not as of graves or grave histories, but
something lighter than that, tombland simply
as empty space, or market place – free space to sell
& pitch a stall, years ago & still now. Time lasts,
or maybe doesn’t. We come & go about our days;
we pass through them as flicking through a book:
each brick a word, street lane a chapter, reading –
without knowing – the remains of centuries,
finding nothing empty about this place.
Victoria Adukwei Bulley is a poet, writer and artist based in London. She is the winner of a 2018 Eric Gregory Award, and has held residencies internationally in the US, Brazil, and the V&A Museum. Her debut poetry collection, Quiet, is forthcoming from Faber & Faber in 2022.
A Norfolk & Norwich Festival and National Centre for Writing presentation, programmed by the National Centre for Writing.
A special thank you to our sound production partners Access Creative College: Harry Love, Jamie Lovett, William Plane, Mia Rodwell and Bill Skipp, supported by Matt Munford, Jonny Cole and Dylan Barber.