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The Addison Oak’s 100th Birthday Vanessa Kisuule

Bristol City Poet
Vanessa Kisuule

Written by Vanessa Kisuule

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On 4 June 2019 the centenary of the Addison Oak was celebrated with a birthday party in Sea Mills and the planting of a oak sapling at the new housing development at Ashton Rise. Vanessa Kisuule (Bristol City Poet) wrote and performed this poem to mark the occasion.

Close your eyes
Picture the house of your dreams.
Is it nestled in the wooded ribs of a glade,
laced by the gentle sound of the sea?
Perhaps perched on a hill overlooking
The twinkling lights of the city
Looking down at those that
live side by side and top to toe.
When we imagine perfect homes
They’re tucked away on private acres
Unsullied by the bonds of social living
Yet we lament the rise of loneliness
the sickness making graveyards
of us long before our last breaths.
The underclass is frowned upon,
their livelihood a punchline, a
cautionary tale told with half
its chapters missing.

Their grievances are many, but
Too few of us listen.
So many facts too often forgotten:
the good faith that built these dwellings
The rich communities that flower here,
every family behind every window
With a story as unique as a fingerprint
These buildings once trembled
with the soft glow of utopia.
In the aftermath of war, a bold law was passed:
An act to build homes that would last.
Fertilised by green space and great hopes,
Owned and enjoyed by those in need.
A young man hollowed out by
The horrors of combat could return
To a home ‘fit for a hero’,
A low-earning mother could
raise her children in a house
with working lights and running

This was not a given.
It still isn’t. We have yet to make
good on this 100 year promise.
We’ve neither the space or
luxury to be islands, not whilst
Waiting lists for houses get longer
And the life span of the homeless
Gets shorter. Let idealism
Gleam on the horizon once again
as it did in 1919, bolstered
by the lessons we’ve learnt
Let’s meet the ever urgent
need for all of us to live
amongst and for each other
In a city where everyday living
Makes heroes of us all.

Film produced by 8th Sense Media for Homes for Heroes 100.
Header photo: Bristol City Poet Vanessa Kisuule reading her poem beneath the Addison Oak in Sea Mills at the event to mark the launch of Homes for Heroes 100 in 2019 (evan Dawson).

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