Pop Up Poetry, produced by Black Country Touring, shone a spotlight on the independent businesses that are a vital part of the town centre. It highlighted the stories of the local people; engaged the local community with the arts; and celebrated the history and heritage of the town.
During the first two weeks of December 2021, four poets – Bohdan Piasecki, R.M. Francis, Adaya Henry and Richard Grant (AKA Dreadlockalien) – took
up residency in two independent shops and two cafes in Wednesbury Town Centre. They spent time chatting to people and collecting local stories in Blue Sheep Books, Vintage Tea Room & Café, Boobielous and Junction 9 3⁄4. They then created new poems inspired by their interactions with the customers, the staff and the business owners. The project culminated in a day of performances on the 17th December, with the poets performing their poems in the same shops and cafes that they were resident in for intimate local audiences.
The poems told the stories of the town and of its community, and each reflected the unique identities of the businesses involved. Adaya’s poem
was a celebration of Boobielous and its iconic presence in Wednesbury town centre. She also attached several mini poems to items of clothing for shoppers to find while browsing through the racks. In his poem ‘Tea Break’, R.M. Francis explored the concepts of time and of the past. He performed his poem in a heavy Black Country dialect while standing on a wooden crate, fitting right in with the character of the Vintage Tea Room & Café. Bohdan’s touching poem ‘A Made Up Kind of Truth’ explored the theme of memory, and might have drawn a tear or two from some members of the audience that had gathered to watch him perform outside Blue Sheep Books. Finally, Dreadlockalien’s poems told the personal stories of the individual customers that he met at Junction 9 3/4, often involving their participation in both the writing and the performances.