+3 Interview: Reading the Streets: An Old Town Poetry Tour

“I’ve been congratulated on my productivity, but in fact, both books were written very slowly over several years.”

WHO: Ken Cockburn, Producer/Writer/Performer

WHAT: “Weaving through courtyards, kirkyards and vennels, hear poems about Edinburgh past and present written by residents, tourists and those who visited only in imagination, including Robert Burns, Victor Hugo and the great Anon. The city has inspired tragic ballads and heartfelt love-songs, poems celebrating its dramatic beauty and poems attacking its grey narrow-mindedness. Ken Cockburn has led poetry walks on the Royal Mile since 2007. ‘An excellent tour for both the historian and the poetry lover: Ken is a brilliant guide… book yourself a tour – you won’t regret it!’ (ScotsGay.co.uk).”

WHERE: Scottish Poetry Library – Outside SPL (Venue 203) 

WHEN: 11:00 (90 min)

MORE: Click Here!


Is this your first time to Edinburgh?

I first experienced the Fringe many years ago as a member of a student theatre company, and loved the buzz of activity. Since I moved to Edinburgh I’ve been every year as an audience member, then since 2016 I’ve been presenting poetry walks on the Fringe, and immersing myself in the festival city again.

What’s the biggest thing to have happened to you since Festivals ’17?

I’ve had not one but two books published this year. Floating the Woods is a collection of poems, including some about Edinburgh; and Heroines from Abroad is a collection of translations from the German poet Christine Marendon. I’ve been congratulated on my productivity, but in fact, both books were written very slowly over several years.

Tell us about your show.

I’ve run poetry walks in Edinburgh since 2007, but more intensively over the past three years. I do pretty much everything myself, researching poems – most are extant, but I’ve written some new ones myself –connecting them to particular sites on and around the Royal Mile, and working out the overall route. Each year the Fringe walks start and end at the Scottish Poetry Library, but I vary the material and the reading locations. I’m just finalising this year’s script and itinerary at the moment. Edinburgh is a busy place at festival time, but there are quiet and attractive spaces off the Royal Mile still to be found. After the Fringe I’ve a couple of private tours booked… then I have a large folder full of poems that I want to turn into a book, so the aim is to work on that over the winter to have something ready for summer 2019.

What should your audience see at the festivals after they’ve seen your show?

I love Summerhall as a venue, especially the Anatomy Lecture Theatre, and the programme is always worth checking out. This year my eye has been caught by Darkfield’s Flight which, in total contrast to Reading the Streets, ’takes place in a shipping container in absolute darkness’! I’ll also look forward to ScotlandsFest 2018 run by Luath Press (who published Floating the Woods) at the Quaker Meeting House. In the Art Festival, I want to visit the new Collective Gallery on Calton Hill, and to see Shipla Gupta’s sound installations inspired by 100 Jailed Poets at the Art College and the Burns Monument on Regent Road.


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