Commuters in Hammersmith and Croydon entertained by poets on the tube


Poems were performed at tube stations across the capital.


By Hannah Pupkewitz

A team of humorous performance poets came together with Transport for London this week, using poetry to tackle tube etiquette in the city.

The light-hearted poems performed at tube stations all over London or written on station whiteboards remind commuters to be conscious of others when travelling.

Pop up poet and poet in residence at Hammersmith and Croydon, Richard Purnell, is South West London’s contribution to TFL’s travel Better London Campaign.

Mr Purnell, who had been floating around the London poetry scene, said: ‘‘The experience at Croydon and Hammersmith has been amazing.

‘’The number of people I have met who like poetry, it shows it’s not a niche activity. Poetry is for everyone.’’

The task nicknamed ‘poetiquette’ aimed to write and share poems which openly address public transport etiquette issues: people eating strong smelling food and shoving their way onto carriages before others have a chance to get off.

 ‘‘A lot of my poems are inspired by people and things I see on public transport, so to be involved in this project was ideal for me.

‘‘It’s just about getting people to be nicer to each other on the buses, tubes and trams.’’

The poems not only added a bit more excitement to traveller’s journeys but coincided with Thursday’s National Poetry Day to celebrate London’s thriving poetry community.

‘‘I asked people if they want to hear a poem and if they don’t I move on,” added Mr Purnell.

‘‘One woman said she didn’t want to hear a poem but the woman sat next to her on the tram did, the first woman ended up laughing. It’s been lovely.’’

The surprise performances all over the transport network focused on issues of patience, helpfulness, courtesy and awareness that TFL thinks will help make travelling around the capital better for everyone.

‘‘My influences are writers like Jerome K Jerome, P.G Wodehouse and Muriel Spark who spent much of her time in south and west London.

‘‘These writers wanted to cheer people up, and maybe make them think a little bit. That’s all I want to do.’’

The response from the public has been overwhelmingly positive.

Maureen Tuohy tweeted: ‘‘Love my city’s creativity – poet’s teaming up with Transport For London to brighten up journeys @TfLOfficial#TravelBetterLondon

Siobhan Curham tweeted: love the #poetry invasion on London Underground – making the commute a whole lot sweeter on #NationalPoetryDay

Photo of courtesy of Paolo Margari, with thanks.

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