May 18, 2023 Edge

Q&A: Door-to-Door Poetry – Nationwide

Find out more about the funny and thought-provoking production that sees Rowan McCabe knock on strangers’ doors before writing poems for them.

So, first things first, what inspired the name of the production?

The name of the production comes from me being a Door-to-Door Poet. It’s a thing that I really do. I knock on strangers’ doors and write poems for them, for free, on any subject of their choosing. In 2019 I decided to take this to 12 places around England. I was trying to prove that anyone can enjoy poetry and find out if strangers are really as scary as they’re made out to be.

What are the biggest tropes audiences can look forward to from the show?

The idea of knocking on people in The South felt particularly frightening. I come from Newcastle upon Tyne and, frankly, everything that goes on down there seems weird and scary to me. I’d also had a lot of warnings beforehand, that it would never work ‘Down South’ because people aren’t very sociable. One thing that keeps coming up in the show is this idea of the stories we tell each other about strangers, where they come from and whether or not they are really true.

I was also surprised at some of the regular themes that kept coming out on the doorsteps. The only question I ever ask is: ‘What is important to you?’ It was interesting to see how much the same subjects kept resurfacing. Environmentalism and mental health for example. 

What was the most memorable moment from your trip across England?

Meeting the Anti-Fracking Nanas in Blackpool was really special. I went and joined one of their demonstrations outside a fracking site on Preston New Road.

Also, Boston in Lincolnshire, which was named ‘The UK’s Most Divided Town’. I went because it was the town that voted higher than any other to leave the EU. I didn’t want to ask any leading questions, but I wondered whether Brexit might come up and if it might shed a different light on things. What happened next was totally unexpected and very very shocking. I don’t want to write what happened here because it’s a massive plot twist in the show. Come and hear the story and I’ll tell you about it properly.

What was your favourite location to visit?

Lundy was very pretty. It’s an island in the Bristol Channel with a population of 28 people. The whole island is powered by an old diesel generator which they turn off at midnight. So there’s basically no light pollution at all. People come from all over the world to look at the stars there. It’s incredible.

How have you navigated the elements of truth amidst the more comical themes?

Oddly enough, the funny bits are all 100% true. I didn’t have to tweak anything to make them more funny. But I think the ‘elements of truth’ thing is an important point. The whole show is a true story, but one thing I’ve learned about trying to fit 12 months of your life into one hour is that, in the end, you always have to twist things a little. Life doesn’t fit into a neat narrative. I’m very interested in the way that some of the most famous ‘true’ stories have had to be tweaked in some way. Jack Kerouac’s On The Road springs to mind. In that case, it was actually lots of different journeys that were compiled into one.

I’ve tried to make sure that nothing in the show is an outright lie. It all really happened. But sometimes it happened in a slightly different order, or names have had to be changed to make it make sense and such.

This feels like a strange place to leave the interview though… my favourite biscuit is a penguin. 

Saturday 27th May 2023, 7:30 pm

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