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Poetry Landmarks

Poems in the Waiting Room


(Public Art)


Poems in the Waiting Room (PitWR) is a registered charity (1099033) which supplies poetry pamphlets for patients waiting to see their doctor. The patient is invited to keep the pamphlet. There is no charge whatsoever for the supply of the poetry pamphlets.
The aim is to promote poetry and to show appreciation to health service staff for their care. PitWR has published in its current format since 1998, after a trial run in 1996.

At first, pamphlets were circulated each quarter locally to some thirty surgeries in South West London. Growth became demand led, fuelled mainly by word of mouth. To meet demand, distribution was extended nation-wide at the end of 2000.

From late 2003, a major expansion programme was launched: the total waiting rooms served grew from some three hundred at the end of 2003 to over one thousand for Autumn 2004. The Autumn 2004 distribution of poetry pamphlets throughout Britain and Ireland amounted to over 30,000. A programme is underway to expand the scheme to two thousand waiting rooms with a distribution of some 60,000 poetry pamphlets each quarter: it will then be serving about one in five of NHS General Practices.

Requests from Primary Health Care Waiting Rooms to be added to the mailing list for quarterly supplies of the poetry pamphlets are welcome. All that is required is to contact PitWR with a note of name and full postal address, and the surgery will be added to the list. The sole obligation is to make sure that the poetry pamphlets are well displayed for the benefit of patients.

PitWR has stimulated a range of associated activities.

It is working with the National Needlework Archive (NNA) on a truly delightful project - Poetry in Stitches. The NNA documents, curates and promotes textiles in the community. Each year a theme is adopted; the theme for the forthcoming year will be Poems in the Waiting Room. This joint project aims to combine two distinct cultural media and present them in a format that will allow a new perception of each in relation to the other.

The objective is for stitchers to produce textile art pieces inspired by poems, principally those published by PitWR. The embroidery pieces will be displayed with the poem, as public artworks together in a single frame. They will be exhibited at national shows and then hung in health service and other waiting rooms where people will have the opportunity to study them side by side. It is planned that the display items will be available for autumn 2005.

PitWR are working jointly with the Arts Council on a research study into the impact of the project. The work involves study of the distribution of the poetry pamphlets according to the socio-economic classification of neighbourhoods served, as well as a full scale cost-benefit analysis of the scheme.

Some six or seven hospices are included in PitWR mailing lists. The poetry pamphlets are reported by hospice staff to have been well received in these care units. A specialist booklet of poems is under prepartion for use in hospices. This compilation has involved extensive study of the artistic needs of the dying.

PitWR has also helped to establish small writing groups in Doctor's surgeries. The groups have become known as Poets in the Waiting Room. It does appear however that the poetry likely to be produced differs significantly and widely from that appropriate for the main run of PitWR poetry pamphlets. The potential expansion of this arm of PitWR entails extensive research and development including appropriate training of group leaders.

Submission of poems to be published in the pamphlets are sought. Submissions should match the PitWR's submission guidelines. A small royalty is paid for each poem published. Fuller details of the guide lines and the project may be found in its web site www.pitwr.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk.

The entire project is financed by The Beatrice Trust, established by the Editor's family, with matching support from Arts Council England Lottery Funds.

Contact Information

name: Michael Lee
phone: 020 8876 4379
email: pitwr@blueyonder.co.uk

POBox 488



Poetry Society 2003
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