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A Poetic City

A Poetic City
Thomas Chatterton

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A Poetic City is a multi-partner, city-wide programme that explores the legacy of Thomas Chatterton.

2020 marked the 250th anniversary of death of the Bristol=born poet. A Poetic City builds on existing knowledge of Chatterton’s life and times; celebrates Bristol’s current vibrant and diverse poetry scene; and aims to inspire poets of the future.

Chatterton’s story also provides an opportunity to examine a range of contemporary themes such as: artistic credulity and credibility; fake news and fake art; young artists; arts and mental health; on-going barriers to accessing culture in the city; the nature of celebrity; the resurrection of the Gothic; and the nurturing of creativity.

Outline programme

The programme was launched in February 2020 with the announcement of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Key milestone dates at which most projects were due to converge were in March (Lyra poetry festival), September (Bristol Open Doors) and October-November (Bristol Poetry Institute Annual Reading, the University of Bristol Autumn Art Lectures and Chatterton’s birthday). The Covid 19 situation necessitated several changes to the timetable with some events moving online and the extension of the programme into 2021.

Highlights of the programme include:

  • Romantic Bristol: Writing the City – creating two new interpretation layers to this free smartphone app: one on Chatterton and one on contemporary poetic responses to his life and work.
  • The Poetic City Comic and A Poetic City Poetry Anthology – two new publications distributed free across the city.
  • Writers in residence at Royal West of England Academy, St Mary Redcliffe, Glenside Hospital Museum and Red Lodge.
  • Piloting of a new interpretation scheme for the Chatterton room at St Mary Redcliffe.
  • Gathering of ideas for a new Chatterton sculpture commission.
  • Development of new tourism content on the theme of Literary Bristol.
  • Suicide awareness programme at Glenside Hospital Museum.
  • Exhibition at the RWA centred on Henry Wallis’ painting ‘The Death of Chatterton‘.
  • Special themed events within the Festival of Ideas, including partnering with the Bristol Poetry Institute Annual Reading delivered by Claudia Rankine (an online event still available to view on Crowdcast).
  • A wide range of talks, workshops, panel discussions, walking tours, poetry readings, and symposiums.

News of events and other activity will be regularly posted on the Poetic City Facebook page and in the Read section of this website, along with links to background material (both historic and current-day).

Follow the project on Twitter using the hashtag #BristolPoeticCity

Image of Thomas Chatterton at top of page by Willem Hampson.

Funders and Partners of A Poetic City

The Poetic City programme is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, using money raised by National Lottery players.

The steering group includes representatives of organisations delivering key areas of activity. Among these are Bristol Culture (Bristol Archives, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, M Shed), Bristol LibrariesDestination Bristol, Glenside Hospital Museum, Literature Works, Lyra poetry festival, the Royal West of England Academy, St Mary Redcliffe and the University of Bristol (Bristol Poetry Institute, School of Art History).

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