Feature on Hope Radio 87.9FM

 

Thank you David Moore for the film work and feature on Hope Radio 87.9FM.

Click here to view the recording of Ian.

 

Birmingham Poem (COVID-19)

If the pandemic begins to worsen
Keep it together but 6 feet apart;
Social distancing – length of a tall person,
Communication by voice, eyes and heart.

We need poetry now more than ever,
It’s limited social interaction;
Social distancing – let’s stay together
On digital platforms, an attraction.

Our hands are cracked, we’ve used up all the soap,
A virus savages us without pity;
Social distancing – poetry is hope
And we need that in Birmingham city.

Poems for Walsall For All

Taken from Walsall for All click here to view

In times of challenge, art, in all its many forms, often helps to clarify our feelings and provide hope. We asked former Mayor of Walsall’s Poet Laureate, Ian Henery, to write a series of poems on the theme of social distancing.

Ian has since shared these poems on a global platform called Speak Your Peace, a five week global expressive arts series based entirely online and hosted by iLikeZach in New York in partnership with the Stafford Space Station.

Today, as we begin the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions, social distancing is as important as ever. We would like to thank Ian for his moving contributions.

If you’d like to find out more about Ian and his work then please visit his website.

 

 

Stay Alert, Control The Virus & Save Lives (Rondeau)

Six feet apart and wash your hands

A virus sweeps across our land.

Stay alert, save lives, wear a mask;

Control the virus, all we ask

This our credo and our command.

We can beat this but not in bands

On sea-side shores, on sunny sands

Removed from where day-trippers basked

Six feet apart.

COVID-19 we can withstand:

Stay alert, save lives, understand?

Controlling the virus, our task,

Released from its demonic cask

And – together- we’ll make a stand

Six feet apart.

 

The Language of Social Distancing – COVID-19 (Sonnet)

Six feet apart and not six feet under,

Grieving families with hands on window panes

Quarantined, masked grandchildren in the rain.

Coronavirus has torn asunder,

Waves with the rush of tsunami thunder

Engulfing constellations of sorrow;

The curl of surf, trembling foam of woe –

Pandemic, the news-drunk virus plundered.

Unite! Come together – but stay apart,

Social distancing – wash hands and wear masks,

It’s the language of love, it’s all we ask

As the coronavirus scales ramparts.

Communicate by voice, eyes and heart,

Life can’t be measured by inches and feet

But love and respect, kind deeds, words so sweet

Let’s begin again and our lives restart.

 

I Love You – From 15 Million Miles & 6 Feet Away (Villanelle)

My love is in social isolation,

Six feet apart, masked, gloved hands, forced to hide

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

Virtual hugs are no consolation,

Our gloved hands reach outside, never inside;

My love is in social isolation.

A galaxy away, aberration:

Screen time, blue light of phone, tears that have cried,

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

Language of love is in devastation:

Two worlds and computer screens, love denied,

My love is in social isolation.

Gloved hands hold love, viral incubation,

Daily statistics of those who have died,

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

The stars go out in our constellation,

Love cannot cross over the great divide:

My love is in social isolation,

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

 

Walsall Poem (COVID-19)

If the pandemic begins to worsen

Keep it together – but six feet apart;

Social distancing – length of a tall person,

Communication by eyes, voice and heart.

We need poetry now more than ever,

It’s limited social interaction;

Social distancing – let’s stay together

On digital platforms, an attraction.

Our hands are cracked, we’ve used up all the soap

Walsall behind bars, quarantine, lockdown;

Social distancing – poetry is hope

We need lots of that in our Walsall town.

Former Walsall Poet Laureate on social distancing

A former Poet Laureate from Walsall has been commissioned to write a series of poems for Walsall for All about social distancing and COVID-19.

Ian Henery was appointed Walsall’s first-ever Mayor of Walsall’s Poet Laureate by Councillor Garry Perry on National Poetry Day in 2011 and served under Councillors Dennis Anson and Mohammad Nazir until 2014.

Ian is the author of 5 collections of poetry, all of which have sold out, a playwright under commission with a trilogy for  China West Midlands 2020 and a workshop facilitator.  He performs on stage with the poetry collective Poets Against Racism and last year performed around the region at 5 music and arts festivals.

“These poems were written at a time when Ramadan was under way” explained Ian “and set to be observed by millions of Muslim people.  The coronavirus pandemic greatly affected the rituals which were modified to fit physical distancing measures in place all over the globe.  I was greatly  inspired by what Muslim people were doing at this difficult time.”

Matt Hancock praised the Muslim community for making changes in how they marked Ramadan during the lockdown.

“The world needs to come together to keep safe” said Ian “but, ironically, coming together means staying apart to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by social distancing.  In a time of limited social interaction we can see the power of words.  It’s a difficult time for everyone and we need poetry more than ever quite simply to bring people together – but six feet apart and not six feet under”.

Ian shared these poems on a global platform called Speak Your Peace.  It was a 5 week global expressive arts series based entirely online.  The event was hosted by iLikeZach in New York in partnership with the Stafford Space Station.

“For 1 hour each week expressive individuals were invited to join a Zoom session online curated by Zach to share their poems, art and music” said Ian.  “The core purpose was simple – to demonstrate that amidst the fear, uncertainty and separation that we are all currently processing – the human capacity to express experience through art forms will always prevail over the limits of our circumstance.”

Ian was joined by the Staffordshire Poet Laureate and the former Worcestershire Poet Laureate.  The poems for Walsall for All were well received.  Ian also read the poems at other virtual open mic performances in Birmingham, the Black Country and Brighton.   Hope Radio, which broadcasts on 87.9FM, wants to do a feature on these poems for Walsall for All and the general relaxing of lockdown routines in Walsall.

The vision of Walsall for All is to create an integrated and inclusive community where people from all backgrounds come together and celebrate what they have in common.

 

The Language of Social Distancing – COVID-19 (Sonnet)

Six feet apart and not six feet under,

Grieving families with hands on window panes

Quarantined, masked grandchildren in the rain.

Coronavirus has torn asunder,

Waves with the rush of tsunami thunder

Engulfing constellations of sorrow;

The curl of surf, trembling foam of woe –

Pandemic, the news-drunk virus plundered.

Unite! Come together – but stay apart,

Social distancing – wash hands and wear masks,

It’s the language of love, it’s all we ask

As the coronavirus scales ramparts.

Communicate by voice, eyes and heart,

Life can’t be measured by inches and feet

But love and respect, kind deeds, words so sweet

Let’s begin again and our lives restart.

 

I Love You – From 15 Million Miles & 6 Feet Away (Villanelle)

My love is in social isolation,

Six feet apart, masked, gloved hands, forced to hide

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

Virtual hugs are no consolation,

Our gloved hands reach outside, never inside;

My love is in social isolation.

A galaxy away, aberration:

Screen time, blue light of phone, tears that have cried,

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

Language of love is in devastation:

Two worlds and computer screens, love denied,

My love is in social isolation.

Gloved hands hold love, viral incubation,

Daily statistics of those who have died,

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

The stars go out in our constellation,

Love cannot cross over the great divide:

My love is in social isolation,

COVID-19’s viral decimation.

 

Walsall Poem (COVID-19)

If the pandemic begins to worsen

Keep it together – but six feet apart;

Social distancing – length of a tall person,

Communication by eyes, voice and heart.

We need poetry now more than ever,

It’s limited social interaction;

Social distancing – let’s stay together

On digital platforms, an attraction.

Our hands are cracked, we’ve used up all the soap

Walsall behind bars, quarantine, lockdown;

Social distancing – poetry is hope

We need lots of that in our Walsall town.

– Poems By Ian Henery.

From solicitor to the stage in Southside

Ian Henery with his wife Irene Yoong-Henery, and Chair of Southside, and the Chinese Community Association, Managing Director of Chung Ying, James Wong

 

By day, Ian Henery operates two eponymously named legal firms in the area and is a prominent figure in the district. But outside of working hours, Ian’s passion lies in poetry and play-writing, and it’s the latter that has earnt him a place on Southside’s famous Hippodrome stage.

Ian has recently received a grant from Arts Council England to develop a trilogy of plays cataloguing Chinese family life and sacrifice during significant periods throughout history, beginning with the stories of Chinese Labour Corps in the first World War. The plays will continue into the 1940s, with the final iterance being set in contemporary Britain.

It’s not just the Arts Council backing Ian’s anthology of performances, West Midlands mayor Andy Street has spoken of his support for the project, and the importance of bridging gaps between different communities – something that is very close to Ian’s heart.

As well as his businesses being based in the heart of Chinatown, half of Ian’s family is Chinese with one of his daughters being born in China, giving him a deeper insight in both British and Chinese cultures.

Commenting on the grant, Ian said: “We premiered the first play to 100 invited guests recently and it was fantastically received, but we didn’t have a grant to take it any further – getting funding has always been an issue.

“With the backing of Andy Street, we applied for a grant from Arts Council England. We had to endure a nerve-wracking period of filling out forms and waiting for the result, but when the news came in that we had been successful, I was buzzing!”

Ian is now in the process of making his dreams a reality as he converts his manuscripts into Hippodrome-ready performances.


To keep up to date with the progress of the debut play, keep checking www.enjoysouthside.co.uk where all updates and ticket details will be shared.

‘In The Arena’ by Ian Henery

Extract taken from Overhear Poetry.

In this week’s blog post we celebrate community and creativity with poets Ian Henery and Leanne Cooper as they tell us about their work for The Arena Theatre and Newhampton Arts Centre. Not only that but, in the spirit of collaboration, we are also joined by Sam Fleming, Education and Outreach Manager at The Arena, who gives us a fascinating insight into what it’s like to be part of a venue working with an Overhear poet. We begin, sat with Sam and Ian around a table in the café of The Arena Theatre…

‘I applied for the position of Wolverhampton’s first ever poet laureate,’ Ian tells us, ‘and while I wasn’t successful (congratulations, Emma Purshouse) I did get shortlisted. Penelope Thomas – of Wolverhampton Literature Festival – got in touch and told me there was an opportunity to work with the Overhear project and I said what in God’s name is that?’ He laughs. ‘I’d never heard of the project before. So I had a Google and read about the excellent work Overhear had done with Birmingham Literature Festival and Verve and I was immediately intrigued. I replied to the email Penelope had sent and the rest, as they say, is history.’

‘I’ve done a lot of commission work in the past,’ he says, ‘I’ve done a lot of workshops, been a poet in residence; writing to a brief is something that’s very familiar to me. The guidance from Overhear was to work collaboratively, make contacts in your chosen venue and talk to them. Find out ways you can work with them to create a piece that’s useful to them as well as a creative output for you.’

Ian already had some connections with The Arena and the connected University of Wolverhampton, as he explains: ‘I was a student here, I was poetry editor for the student union publication, I was commissioned by the university for the 2012 commonwealth games and Neil Reading – Artistic Director for Arena – has seen some of my work. Last year, I was very grateful to The Arena for providing a venue for an event with an organisation I head up here in the Midlands called Poets Against Racism. We performed during the second day of Wolverhampton Literature Festival and it was absolutely rammed with people from all sectors of the community – which was brilliant.’

‘To do this project right, it seemed clear to me that I needed to visit The Arena, get in touch with the people who work here and have a conversation. I had a meeting with Sam, who is part of the outreach team at the theatre, had a chat with her about the work she does and her view of the place and that was when I started to get to the heart of what The Arena is.’

We asked Ian to elaborate.

‘In simple terms The Arena is a building,’ he says, ‘but it’s more than bricks and mortar. To say a bit more, The Arena is a former gymnasium which has become a multi-million pound state-of-the-art community hub that deals in all sorts of things,’ he holds up a printed brochure of the Arena’s Programme, ‘from films to theatre to dance to poetry – but it’s more than that too. For me, The Arena is a philosophy, an ethos, a way of doing things. It’s a set of values that Neil and Sam and the team all hold dear. It’s a mission statement, to provide a platform and an opportunity for the whole community here in Wolverhampton to have a chance to come together and celebrate the culture that is here.’

Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton

Uniquely, we have the chance to ask Education and Outreach Manager Sam first-hand about how she would define the venue:

‘The Arena is really important to the community,’ she says. ‘We’re the community theatre of Wolverhampton, I think. We do a lot of great work with so many different groups – disabled communities, refugees, the local LGBT and BAME communities – as well as putting ourselves at the heart of the university. All of that is reflected really well in the poem Ian has written, I think.’

We ask her to tell us more about what her job at The Arena entails and the outreach work that the venue does.

‘Most of what I do is community engagement and schools engagement. I work quite a lot with primary and secondary schools as well as colleges and students at the university,’ Sam explains. ‘We’ve got quite a few local companies that come along as well. There’s a local artist group that meets up every second Tuesday, where people can present and get notes on scripts that they might have been sitting on for six weeks, six months or six years and a local poetry night run by Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists.’ Emma Purshouse, Steve Pottinger and Dave Pitt, who make up that collective also have Overhear poems pinned to venues in Wolverhampton, which you can read more about here. ‘Their night, PASTA (Poets And Storytellers Assemble), is for local writers to share their work and get some feedback too. It’s all about setting up those safe spaces for local artists and communities.’

Sam continues: ‘At the moment we’re doing quite a lot of work with the refugee and migrant centre. The centre itself is very well hidden for the obvious reasons of protecting people from hate crimes and such but we’re now on a touring map that marks us a safe place for those folks to come when they first come to Wolverhampton,’ she says. ‘We want people to see our theatre and café as somewhere safe that they can come to with their families and embed themselves into the culture. The Light House Cinema down the road are doing something very similar too – which is a real testament to the kind of community we are.’

Ian tells us what this community means to him: ‘I owe so much to Wolverhampton. I was conceived here, my first married home was here – and not very far away from my parents’ corner shop. When I was a student at the University of Wolverhampton, I used to look out of the window and think I haven’t travelled very far. I’m nothing more than a well-developed embryo.’ He laughs before continuing. ‘I was able to convert my (next to useless) philosophy degree into a law degree here; I met my wife here… Wolverhampton means a lot to me. I wanted to give something back through poetry – the only way I know how – and Overhear was a perfect way to do that. I’m very grateful and humbled that I’ve been able to contribute to the amazing work The Arena is doing.’

He goes on to tell us more about the poem itself.

‘To write the piece, I needed a frame into which I could place all these wonderful ideas we’ve been talking about,’ Ian says. ‘The form I chose was a rondeaux, which consists of fourteen lines across three stanzas with a repeating refrain. Probably the most famous rondeaux is the WWI poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ by John McCrae but the problem with it (if there can be a problem with it) is that it’s a bit of a dirge. If you go back to the rondeaux’s origins in the 15th Century, it should be a piece of celebration, a piece of joy. I wanted to reclaim that for Sam and for everyone else at The Arena.’

“The Arena host’s first class shows: Performing arts, seats row on row. Champion of community, A venue where theatre grows…”

‘I was the first person to see the finished piece, which was quite an honour.’ Sam tells us, ‘I’m really happy with it. I think it reflects what The Arena does and what we’re all about really well. I believe that first meeting we had, hearing each other’s opinions, was something that really helped. It was clear pretty quickly that we valued the same things – diversity, equality, accessibility, inclusion – and that we were both keen for that to come through in the final piece.’

Ian agrees, saying ‘I think it’s important, with all the challenges that face us now, to find good people to support, good people to collaborate with, good people to stand by. There’s a lot of negative spirituality going around and it’s important for us to come together with a common cause. If this new decade is going to be defined by damaging populist politicians, we need to form an equal and opposite force for good. Creative collaboration is vital.’

Read more


To listen to the result of Ian’s creative collaboration with The Arena Theatre and Overhear, collect his poem from the venue from 25th January using the Overhear app, available to download here.

To find out more about The Arena and their work visit their website http://arena.wlv.ac.uk

Written by Kibriya Mehrban.

Van Gogh Inspired Poetry Set to Music

Inspired by van Gogh’s drawing Sorrow, 1882 Ian wrote a series of three poems; his triptych portrays the strained love story between van Gogh and his muse. In this drawing, shown left, van Gogh depicts Sien (Clasina Maria Hoornik).

SorrowIan’s first poem I Miss You is written from Sien’s point of view, while the second poem titled Missing You is written from van Gogh’s point of view. The third poem Missing Siena is written from van Gogh’s view point as he contemplates moving to a new town. Ian’s entire collection of van Gogh inspired poetry is available on the Van Gogh Gallery website: https://www.vangoghgallery.com/misc/ian-henery-poetry.html

 

I Miss You

As the grass awaits the wind
Or the morning sky awaits the sun.
Although I look for you
In every doorway,
I find only darkness
In my heart.

I miss you
As the flowers await the rain
Or the evening sky the stars.
Although I look for you
In every cafe,
I find only emptiness
In my soul.

I miss you
As lungs miss oxygen,
A beating heart blood
And tired eyes sleep.
I miss you, I miss you
And loneliness lingers on:
I miss you.

 

Nina Crecia, a composer from California State University Fullerton came across Ian’s poetry whilst working as an international host on a river cruise in France. She had read ‘The Little Prince’ to guests to give them a cultural education as they docked in Lyon which was so well received that her boss asked her to create a cultural reading hour for each city they docked in.

Crecia writes

“For Arles, of course, van Gogh was the most prominent artist, but writings of him were scarce. Which is how I found your poetry for his painting “Sorrow.” And that became my reading presentation for Arles. Having actually been in Arles and having experienced the special light that it has, which painters have mentioned throughout all ages, I used that as inspiration for the harmonic language of the piece I wrote with your poem.”

 

Crecia set Ian’s poem I Miss You to music for an accompanied choir. In the video below is the performance of the vocal ensemble she put together for her senior composition recital in December.

 

 

About the composer: 

Nina Crecia
B.M. Composition, California State University Fullerton
Lead Student Assistant | Department of Modern Languages & Literatures, CSUF
Prospective Student Coordinator Assistant | School of Music, CSUF

To see more from Nina Crecia, she can be found on her youtube channel and instagram account (@ncrecia).

 

Poets Against Racism: Saturday 2nd February 2019

poets against racism

Arena Theatre

Sat 2nd Feb 2019

5pm  – 7pM

Free Entry

 

Poets Against Racism (PAR) are a collective bringing together Midlands-based poets, spoken word artists and rappers to perform under one banner in response to the recent rise in street level racism and hate crime. Explore the role poetry as a performance art can play in challenging racism and spreading positive words from diverse communities in the Midlands.

The event will open with a short discussion open to the floor followed by live poetry performances by PAR founder Manjit Sahota and local poetry guests.

Amongst these, I will be previewing my work for China West Midlands 2020 based on the sacrifices and experiences of Chinese people in the U.K.  The trilogy is entitled ‘Home’ starting with the Chinese Labour Corps in the First World War, then the 1950s and the third story set in contemporary Britain.  The trilogy explores ideas of family, sacrifices, place and time from Chinese & British perspectives in the socio-economic context of three significant periods in recent history.

 

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