Stopping Heathrow’s third runway – through poetry

A clever campaign to prevent the new runway from being built teams up with an evening of verse…

Written by Adam Bollard

003_1Rick the punk poet does his thing

Being a wee bit literary, I have a penchant for poetry, so it was with some expectation and enthusiasm I went along to the Poetry Night at Coffee And Corks coffee shop in Canterbury last night.

This poetry night is a weekly affair, held every Tuesday evening, but last night’s was different, in that it was being held in conjunction with the Airplot initiative. What’s Airplot, I hear you all clamour? Well, it’s a project that’s been dreamt up by Greenpeace to help stop the building of the third runway at Heathrow Airport – put simply, the NGO and a group of celebrities have bought a plot of land that is slap-bang in the middle of the proposed runway site. Members of the public can buy a share in the plot and therefore become a ‘beneficiary owner’ of the land.

002_1Coffee And Corks: it doesn’t just do coffee, there’s alcohol too – now that’s the stuff

As such, the evening was kicked off with an introduction from Greenpeace’s John Hallyday. “Climate change is having – and will continue to have – a massive effect on our species and every other species on the planet,” he said. “If we allow the third runway to be built at Heathrow, the UK won’t meet its greenhouse gas targets set last year. Plus, 500 people’s homes will be demolished in the village of Sipson, which stands in the way of the proposed site.”

After giving a plug to Canterbury’s upcoming Climate Fair, John’s final words were borrowed from the beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, as he read a poem written by the latter while aboard a Greenpeace ship chasing whalers on the high seas. It’s fair to say it set a good vibe for the night to come. And it was immediately followed by the handing out of cards that those in attendance (poet participants, listeners or those just enjoying a coffee; all were welcome) could fill in for a prize – three hours’ free recording time at Canterbury’s West Track Studios. Not missing a trick (and why should they?), the organisers also ensured that by filling in a card and entering the raffle you also signed up to the Airplot campaign.

And so to the evening’s poetry itself. To say that there was great variety in what the poets – many regulars, some new – performed would be an understatement; to say that some of it was risqué and rather personal would be a vast understatement. However, I must admit, the vast majority of the poems impressed me, as did the pluck many of their authors had to stand up in front of people (some of whom, like I said, had only come in to sip a late latte) and deliver their thoughts, feelings, wit and wisdom through verse. I must give special mention to the middle-aged Adrian, whose ‘The Web Of Life’ was a lyrical, eco-friendly missive, and Rick, a self-proclaimed coffee-shop-culture-punk resplendent in a Mr Happy t-shirt, whose delivery owed much to the beat poets of old and whose entertainment value was only equalled by the title of his final poem, ‘Don’t Eat Dodgy Food In Foreign Countries’.

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What a fine sentiment – especially in a coffee shop

All in all then, this was a great evening that hopefully drew attention to and created new converts to Airplot, as well as highlighting the good work of the Skillnet Group Community Interest Company in the Canterbury community, in conjunction with West Track Studios. I tip my hat – or rather my beat poet’s cap – then to the organisers, in particular Helen Long who it was that brought Greenpeace, West Track Studios and Skillnet all together on this chilly evening in a caffeine-fuelled fun-filled event.

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