A new community arts project involving poets and playwrights was launched in Byker, Newcastle this afternoon (Wednesday, 7 August).

The national Places of Poetry project aims to engage people of all ages and abilities to write poems about place, heritage and identity and then ‘pin’ them onto a digital map, where everyone can read them.

So far, over 3,000 poems have been posted by budding poets from across the UK and organisers were on Tyneside this afternoon to officially launch the project alongside partner organisations Byker Community Trust (BCT) housing association, Northern Stage and Seven Stories.

The iconic Grade II* Listed Byker Wall Estate in Newcastle has been selected as one of twelve heritage sites across the UK to host Places of Poetry events where partners and the local community will come together to write and edit poems and learn from professionals.

Throughout August and September, workshops and activities have been organised for young people to help them write poems where they will work with poet in residence Rowan McCabe, playwright Lee Mattinson and staff from Northern Stage.

The digital map has been created to encourage people to think about the environment and history around them. People can pin their own poem onto the map, which consists of two layers: an artistic map, based on decorative seventeenth-century county maps, and a second layer of Ordnance Survey data, allowing users to zoom in to a high level of detail.

The project was launched at the Byker Community Centre in Byker to coincide with the Byker Best Summer Ever initiative, which is a comprehensive programme of activities and events for children and young people living in Byker throughout the school summer holidays. Young people and local residents attended the launch to listen to Rowan McCabe and were treated to a poetry, history and cultural workshop about the Byker Estate, led by local resident Steve Sheraton.

In July, staff from Seven Stories visited Byker Primary School and St. Lawrence’s RC Primary School to run poetry workshops with the pupils.

Places of Poetry is led by broadcaster and poet Paul Farley and University of Exeter academic Professor Andrew McRae. Professor McRae said: “We hope the map will inspire people to write, whatever their age or experience, and fill the map with thousands of new poems about places that mean something to them.

“The aim is to encourage people to think about heritage from different angles, such as environmental, industrial, religious, cultural or sporting. We want to celebrate the diversity, history and character of the places around us.”

Poet in Residence, Rowan McCabe who is delivering poetry sessions to the local community, said: “I am excited to be Poet in Residence at the Byker Wall as part of the Places of Poetry project. I think the Byker Wall is a unique and vibrant building which deserves to be celebrated. Having the chance to write poems and inspire people to write about this area will be a privilege and rewarding experience.”

Jill Adamson, Director of Participation at Northern Stage, said: “We’re so excited to be working with Rowan McCabe as part of the Places of Poetry project, alongside playwright Lee Mattinson who’ll be running workshops with us at Byker Community Centre as part of Byker Best Summer Ever. We love Rowan’s poetry and the way he works makes poetry really accessible so we hope the workshops and seeing Rowan out and about in Byker will inspire lots of residents to get involved.”

Jill Haley, Chief Executive of Byker Community Trust housing association which owns and manages 1,8000 homes on the Grade II* Listed Byker Wall Estate, said: “The highly acclaimed Byker Estate is internationally renowned and last year, won the Academy of Urbanism ‘Great Neighbourhood’ UK and Ireland award. Our ethos is all about engaging with the local community and we are delighted that organisers from Places of Poetry have selected Byker as one of twelve sites to hold events nationally. Poetry and reading are a relaxing and fun way to communicate and engage and we hope lots of people of all ages from around the North East, and not just here in Byker, will get behind this project and pin their poems onto the digital map. I look forward to reading them all.”

The Places of Poetry project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England, and is made possible by partnerships with the Ordnance Survey, The Poetry Society and National Poetry Day.

The site will be open for writers to pin their poems to places until 4 October 2019. To pin your poem onto the digital map or for more information on Places of Poetry, please visit www.placesofpoetry.org.uk