Tom is well versed in East End history
PUBLISHED: 11:55 20 May 2008 | UPDATED: 13:18 05 October 2010
CARRYING on an East End tradition for learning and research, card-carrying south Londoner’ Tom Chivers puts his south-of-the-river roots behind him to become the Bishopsgate Institute’s first poet in residence. The writer, editor and promoter has spent the last few weeks digging around in the library and archives of one of the City’s best-loved institutions. Tom admits the task of writing a series of poems inspired by the noted establishment in Bishopsgate is a daunting one
Tom Chivers in conversation with Victoria Huntley
CARRYING on an East End tradition for learning and research, 'card-carrying south Londoner' Tom Chivers puts his south-of-the-river roots behind him to become the Bishopsgate Institute's first poet in residence.
The writer, editor and promoter has spent the last few weeks digging around in the library and archives of one of the City's best-loved institutions.
Tom admits the task of writing a series of poems inspired by the noted establishment in Bishopsgate is a daunting one.
"I've been getting stuck into the archives, he explains, "digging up strange stories about the social and political history of East London, as well as chatting to staff and visitors, and exploring the building.
"It's a rabbit warren beyond the grand facade.
"I've got six or seven poems done so far, covering a variety of styles and themes, some set in the library, the archives and the surrounding area.
"One poem is based on talking to an elderly user of the Institute who's lived in the East End all his life."
Tom, originally from the other side of the Thames, has spent the past few years since leaving university living in London's East End.
"I was born and raised in Herne Hill," says the 25-year-old. "Being a card-carrying south Londoner, crossing the river to live in the East End was a big thing!
"But I've been living above Petticoat Lane market for three years and love it."
The collaboration with the institute is a fitting partnership for a young writer with an organisation which has been central to the cultural life of the City Square Mile and the East End for over a century.
Tom, who read Medieval English at Oxford, has been exploring the nooks and crannies of the 19th century building in Bishopsgate, just down from Liverpool Street station, speaking to staff and visitors to find out what it means to them.
He has been commissioned to write a series of poems which he hopes will interrogate the personal and social histories that have shaped the institute and the East End it serves.
"It's a very different way of working from what I'm used to," he says.
"Whereas before I might have scribbled something down on the train or in a spare half hour, now I'm sitting down and thinking, 'right, I've got to write two poems about the institute within this period of time'.
"I'm used to working much more spontaneously. But it's good to work in different ways to challenge yourself."
Tom's poetry has been published in magazines, broadcast on radio and even translated into Serbian. He is also director of Penned in the Margins, a 'live' literature organisation which arranges readings across London.
A prose piece about Liverpool Street station called How to Build a City has also been published in The Edgeless Shape literary magazine.
Tom's new poems are being premiered at Visions of the City, a mini-series of literary events at the Bishopsgate Institute, where he also introduces readings by some of his favourite London poets.
The first is Thursday, June 5, featuring readings from Tim Wells, Simon Barraclough and Jay Bernard.
The second is July 3 with poetry from Iain Sinclair, Chris McCabe and Hannah Silva.
Tickets for both events: £5-£7. Call 020-7392 9220.
Tom also keeps a blog:
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the East London Advertiser. Click the link in the orange box above for details.