Since its largest collection Poems for…one world was launched , this project’s poem-posters have been downloaded by school-teachers, not just all over the UK, but all over the world. Mostly those teachers have read about the project beforehand on educational websites and bulletins, and come looking for it.
In the decade before that, when the project’s material was still in hard copy and most of the demand for the poems was coming from NHS Trusts within the UK, I found myself often driving considerable distances, delivering large numbers of boxes of the poems to distant NHS centres. I would then leave them there for NHS Trust staff to distribute them around their various waiting rooms. I have given some examples of those deliveries in the “story so far” section.
Where the poems have gone has depended quite largely on how, where and when they have been advertised and promoted.
This has varied over the years. Initially, the project was sometimes featured in the press. Whenever that happened, there was an upsurge of interest and requests for packs in hard copy or downloading of the poems from the website. Nowadays, of course, the project attracts people’s attention through the web. Often the project has been given publicity through communication systems within organisations, such as newsletters and bulletins.
Often I approach an organisation I know and ask for their help in promoting the project internally ; or I am approached by someone who has chanced on the publicity. Others were browsing the internet “with intent.”
Enquiries come from all walks and levels, and I have grown used to encountering and enjoying the enthusiasm of those who do, their pleaure in the idea and in the product. In fact, perhaps the least successful way of promoting this project has been the purely hierarchical. The flyer hits the desk of the Chief Executive, part of his or her daily storm of incoming mail, and is instantly “cascaded” down the hierarchy. Several weeks later one hears from a couple of ground level administrators of the organisation—whose instructions have often been garbled during the long journey down through the system, and they have little idea of what this is all about and, quite understandably, have little personal interest in it. Why should they ?
On the other hand one keeps hearing from individuals (including ground level administrators) who are acting on their own initiative and have seized on the poems with their own autonomous and genuine enthusiasm—and it is these people who have brought the poems to effective life in their places of work.
In the last two or three years, demand for the poems has slowed right down. Nowadays it seems that people who register on the project’s web-site have just been browsing as if casually and might even have come on the site by chance, rather than as a result of actively seeking it out in response to publicity. In no sense has the project’s material dated ; in fact, in some ways it has never more more urgently relevant. So has the mood changed ? As the walls go up, both literally and in the mind, as Trump flails about, and Brexit staggers on, does “diversity” lose its appeal ? (It certainly hasn’t lost its reality). Or are teachers and NHS workers just too busy, these days ? Or have the targets they must pursue and devote themselves to, shifted ?
In this year 2018, as I go over, check and update the writing on this site, I believe the project has more to say and do now than it ever has done. But the tide has turned, in some way.
Here below are some facts, figures and names.
In a sense there have been two main stages in the project’s development since it began in 1998. The first stage lasted almost exactly ten years, concluding with the launch of the website by Andrew Motion in 2008. During that first stage, the poems were in hard-copy and were delivered mostly to health and social care settings in the UK. At that stage, there were only a few non-English languages represented among the poems.
The second stage, following the launch, is still continuing. In this stage, the poems are almost invariably transmitted online and now go mostly to schools and libraries, both in the UK and round the world. Many of them are bilingual.
The first sections below trace the distribution of the poems during the first stage. The last covers the period since the project went online.
Stage One 1998-2008
Numbers of Poems Distributed
Well over 2,000 packs of poems were distributed to healthcare and similar centres between 1998 and 2008. This constitutes approximately 200,000 individual poem posters.
The healthcare centres ranged widely and included hospitals, health centres and hospices all over the UK (and occasionally beyond) ; also centres for social care such as mental health drop-in’s and mutual support groups and hostels for people with learning disabilities.
In 2007, the project was advertised in a Foreign Office newsletter and in consequence a significant number of UK embassies across various continents requested packs of “Poems for…one world.” They included the embassies in Tunis, Gabarone, Hanoi, Havana and Rangoon.
Later in 2007, the scheme was promoted on education and libary websites and the response was immense. Much of the reason was the issue of diversity. The “poems for… one world” selection points the diversity lesson as vividly, simply and beautifully as anyone could want. Soon, schools and libraries all over the country and beyond were in receipt of these poems.
But this was before reaction set in, and people everywhere began talking walls and hate and fear. This project is no longer saying what large numbers of people want to hear. Yet what it is saying is truer and more urgent now, than ever.
Numbers of Sites in receipt of the poems
Overall, well over a hundred hospitals made direct requests for the poems, from across the UK. Some hospitals such as the Central Middlesex asked for several packs – one pack for each interested department.
Over 300 health centres requested the poems, from across the UK. But the poems belong outside healthcare boundaries too. There have been a large number of requests from different kinds of site in which there is waiting or similar open space. For details, see below.
Following a mail-out in 2003 to NHS “Modernisation Leads”, (a role now sadly defunct) over 600 packs of poems were delivered to NHS Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts across the UK, for distribution among their local hospitals and health centres.
Following publicity on education and library websites in 2007, there were many further requests from this new source. Most have come from people whose job it was to progress awareness of, and teaching in, diversity issues across an area, covering a number of schools or libraries ; or else from people working in a main library, which relates to various library branches round about. So it is impossible to say precisely how many schools, or how many libraries began displaying the poems, following their delivery. But again, here was another potentially huge readership for this project. I can say this with certainty : that up and down the country between Autumn 2007 and the end of 2008, nearly 200 schools and 50 libraries requested and received a pack each of the poems. What then happened in those places, how the poems were used, how long displayed for, I do not know.
Possible Audience Numbers
Hospitals : we have estimated that 730 people sit in the average urban hospital’s assortment of waiting rooms each week. Over the year this works out at 37, 960 people per hospital. Is that possible ?
Health Centres : we have estimated that 1,096 people sit each week in the average urban health centre. Over the year this works out at 56,992 people per health centre.
Schools : many secondary schools cater for over 1,000 pupils.
The EU Enlargement poem collection : on a single day April 29th 2004 (the Foreign Office Open Day) nearly 10,000 people scanned or studied the EU poems.
Health Centre outside London :
The poem packs were requested by large numbers of Health Centres in London. Health centres outside London include sites based in Exeter, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, Litchfield, Swindon, Oxford, Malvern, Edgbaston, Hull, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Hastings, Dollar Clackmannanshire, Cambridge, Horsham, Yoeville, Ayr, Esher, Ross-on-Wye, Sheffield, the Outer Hebrides.
Hospitals in London in receipt of the poems
Large numbers of London hospitals requested these poems. They include : Guys ; The Royal Free ; Royal London Hospital ; Chelsea and Westminster ; St Charles, North Kensington (psychiatric) ; Mount Royal Outpatients (psychiatric Out-patients) ; Gordon Hospital, Pimlico (psychiatric, Psychology and OT Depts) ; Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton ; The Royal Marsden, Chelsea ; Middlesex Hospital, Mortimer St (Radiotherapy) ; Great Ormond Street, VCB Recovery Unit ; West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth ; Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich ; Hammersmith, (Dept of Paedriatrics) ; Tavistock Hospital ; the Maudesley (psychiatric) Southwark SE1 ; The Royal Homeopathic ; the Central Middlesex Hospital ; St George’s Hospital, Tooting.
Hospitals outside London in receipt of the poems
Alexandra Hospital, Reddich, Worcs ; Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust ; Chesterfield Royal Hospital, Derbyshire (Day Services) ; Cherry Knowle Hospital Sunderland (mental health) ; Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham ; University Hospital, Birmingham ; Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham ; George Eliot Hospital, Nuneaton ; Frenchay Hospital, Bristol ; Dumfries General Hospital ; Medway Maritime Hospital (5 packs sent on request) ; The Royal Hospitals, Belfast ; Queen Mary’s Hospital Sidcup, Kent ; the Royal Bolton Hospital ; Mayday University Hospital, Croydon ; St Mary’s Hospital, Isle of Wight ; St Mary’s Hospital, Hathersage Road, Manchester ; Ipswich Hospital (8 packs sent on request) ; Royal Sussex County Hospital ; West Suffolk Hospital ; Seaton Hospital, Devon ; Cromer Hospital, Norfolk ; Royal United Hospital, Bath ; Warminster Community Hospital ; Hull Royal Infirmary, Oncology Dept ; the Royal Shrewsbury, Accident and Emergency, Taunton and Somerset ; Whitchurch Hospital, Cardiff (Day Hospital) ; St George’s Hospital, Morpeth, Northumberland.
Other Sites in receipt of the poems
Bexley College (student Counselling service) ; Welfare Rights office, Social Services, Sunderland ; Clinic of Natural Medicine, Bristol ; Mental Health Crisis Night Shelter, Islington, London ; Clinical Psychology Dept, Crumlin Road, Belfast ; Bolton Hospice, Trinity Hospice Clapham ; Age Concern, Hereford and Worcester branch ; Relate, Kidderminster branch (Marriage Guidance) ; Surgery, Cardinal Hume Centre, SW1 ; LB of Merton, Town Hall ; Newcastle City Health Sensory / Community Garden ; Sevenoaks Citizens Advice Bureau ; Drama Centre, Prince of Wales Road, London NW5 ; Yarrow Housing Ltd (for people with Learning Difficulties) ; MIND Centres in : Camden, Brent, Orpington, Brentwood, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea ; Harrow Association of Disabled People ; Galway Arts Centre ; Health Centre, Maitland, Australia ; various prisons : the British Embassy in Macedonia ; the British High Commission, Windhoek ; a school in the West Indies for children who have learning difficulties and/or who are deaf ; a police diversity unit in Cumbria ; the Mayor of London’s Equalities Report, 2007.
Stage Two 2008 onwards
What happened when Poems for…the wall went online ?
Quite soon after we launched the Poems for…the wall site in 2008, requests for packs of poems in hard copy began to dry up. Within a few months there were barely any. Instead people began downloading the poems direct from the site.
Further, when we began to concentrate on bilingual poems and to build up the One World collection, demand had already shifted radically from healthcare settings to schools and libraries. The launch of the website made that shift irrecoverable and even more pronounced ; it also made the project an international one. Thus, where once “Poems for…for the wall” was a national project aimed at ameliorating the experience of waiting in health or social care settings, it now became an international one being used largely as an educational tool, in addition to its original purpose.
And as the digital revolution has taken its course, the sources of publicity and promotion of the project have accordingly moved on. These days, word is spread mostly by other websites recommending and linking to ours, as well as individuals finding our site through browsing and then sharing their discovery with others in their network. Most of the websites are educational ones.
I shall link below to the site’s record of the people who have downloaded the poems since they went online in 2008. The record tells us what they wanted to do with the poems and where where they were located.
Before doing so, I should say that people have to register before they can view or download any poems. Once registered, they can download as often as they like and we have no record of how often that may be. We only know about that first time. But we can be confident that the first registration signifies an intention to view or download at least some of the selected poems, since there can be no reason for registering otherwise. Registering offers nothing else besides access to the poems. Thus we can conclude that each registration means at least one download. Further, insofar as many of the registrations are by schoolteachers and librarians planning to use the poems as part of their work, we can also safely conclude that each download will result in a reading of the poems by more than the person who registered, in some cases many more. In other words, one teacher almost certainly leads to at least one class room of students, at least once.
Here is a list of user names of people who downloaded poems after the Poems for…the wall website went live. It extends over several years (The website addresses also supplied have of course been withheld). There are nearly 2,000 names on the list and they go over 47 pages of the pdf. I have highlighted in yellow the very significant number of people located outside the UK.
To emphasise the international theme, here is a link to my record of nine days in the Summer of 2010 when suddenly poems were being downloaded by schoolteachers all over Nepal, among other locations world-wide. The teachers in Nepal must have been in touch with each other and passed round news of this resource. Maybe they were all engaged in the same project. That week was not a typical one, of course, and the rate of registrations varies, tailing off when publicity tails off (and perhaps when working conditions and morale in schools and libraries worsen, and when short-staffing becomes a norm, etc). But it illustrates the enthusiasm this project can generate and the distances it can reach.
Finally in this section, I shall state what in a sense is the obvious, but it is a pleasing obvious. So often projects of this kind have to keep applying for funding in order to survive. And when the funding stops, they stop and a lot of what they gave stops with them. This project, in contrast, has used its funding to make its material freely and permanently available, self-sustaining and indelible. The poems here will not now go away just because funding sometimes goes away ; neither will they go away during times when less people visit than usual. Whatever happens to funding or – from time to time – to audience numbers, here the poems stand and here they speak. No one can silence them and they will not date. They will not go out of print. They will remain free and speaking so long as cyberspace allows and we keep them live there. Yes, we need to continue to seek funding from time to time, but not in order to survive – only to increase our range and extend our work.
And in the meantime, in summary and conclusion, where do the poems go ? Answer : they go all over the world. No walls can block them. They go to all worlds. They go wherever there is time and space for them. Demand for them much relies on people getting to hear of them. When they do hear of them, large numbers of people call for them.