THE DIARY: Poetry in motion at the Lane

Poet Jackie Kay
Poet Jackie Kay
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JACKIE Kay is one very brave woman.

Jackie is an award-winning poet who’s composed a poem about Arthur Wharton, Britain’s first black footballer who played for Sheffield United and Rotherham Town in the late 19th century.

But Jackie won’t be reading the poem to a group of like-minded souls in the comfort of a classroom, lounge or lecture theatre.

She’s going to read it to the crowd at Bramall Lane tonight before the game against Portsmouth.

That takes guts.

The Diary is sure that with the issues around racism and football as raw as they are at the moment the Bramall Lane crowd will give her a good reception and a patient hearing.

But, football crowds being what they are, her words might get drowned out by over-enthusiastic fans at one or both ends of the ground.

This year Sheffield United decided to link the One Game, One Community anti-racism campaign with Off the Shelf’s Text in the City initiative by launching a poetry competition for schoolchildren.

Jackie was asked to compose a poem about football and she chose Arthur as her subject.

“I’ve worked with Off the Shelf a lot over the years,” she said.

“I admire the way they get poets off the shelf and into surprising places – it’s a literary festival that truly leads the way and shines light on the city of blades and steel.

“I’ve loved the challenge of trying to write a poem in two halves for the game of two halves on the thorny subject of racism, and although the prospect of reading it out in front of the whole stadium is daunting, it is a challenge I couldn’t say no to.

“I will probably never have the chance to read a single poem to such a huge audience again.”

Last night the film The Arthur Wharton Story premiered in Sheffield on the 147th anniversary of his birth.