Rowan McCabe is a poet and a professional waffler from Newcastle upon Tyne. Aware that poetry isn’t a proper job, he decided to create his own and became the world’s first Door-to-Door Poet. Knocking on strangers’ doors, he asks what is important to them. He then goes away and writes a poem about this, free of charge, before bringing it back and performing it on their doorstep. It’s sort of like the Avon lady… but with rhymes.
Rowan has also written for Channel 4, Radio 3’s ‘The Verb’ and his work has been featured in the Guardian and on BBC Breakfast. He has performed on stages around the UK, including Glastonbury Festival and the Royal Albert Hall. In 2022, the National Trust published a collection of his work in honor of William Wordsworth’s 250th birthday.
“His writing is beautifully crafted, funny and poignant. He genuinely cares about the stories he tells“– Jess Green
“Highly talented with verse”– Broadway Baby
“A must-see”– Morning Star
Born in South Shields, Rowan was raised by a punk and a hippy in a council estate in Hebburn. Showing an interest in poetry from an early age, he went on to study English Literature at Newcastle University and graduated with honours in 2011.
In 2014 Rowan made North East Rising, a show of performance poetry about his love/hate relationship with his home town. The show was directed by Kate Fox and the script and published poems were edited by Kirsten Luckins. Touring regional theatres, North East Rising sold-out at Northern Stage and was given a 4 star review from the Journal.
At the start of 2015 Rowan became an Associate Artist for Live Theatre, along with Matt Miller and Matilda Niell. Together they wrote Red is the New Blue, a spoken word play about space travel, which first appeared at Live in June. That same year, Rowan also won the Great Northern Slam at Northern Stage.
In 2016 Rowan co-devised and starred in a short film for Channel 4’s Random Acts. In 2017 he was invited to give a TEDx Talk on Door-to-Door Poetry in The Hague; he also wrote and starred in another short film for Roundhouse Pictures, which went on to win a One-Reeler Award for Best Documentary.
In 2018 Rowan was commissioned to write a poem by Radio 3’s ‘The Verb’, which was described by Ian McMillan as “A heartfelt plea for poetry.” In 2020, the National Trust invited him to be poet in residence at Wordsworth’s house.
Rowan became the world’s first Door-to-Door Poet in October 2015. Knocking on strangers’ doors, he asks what is important to them; he then goes away and writes a poem about this, free of charge, before bringing it back and performing it on their doorstep. Through this bold and arguably stupid act, he’s trying to prove anyone can enjoy poetry and that strangers aren’t as scary as they’re made out to be. Rowan blogs about everything that happens to him at www.doortodoorpoetry.com
Ignoring the advice of friends and a local police officer, Rowan took the project to the Byker Wall, a working class neighbourhood with a bad reputation. Based on the success of this visit, he was invited to become a Tent-to-Tent Poet at Glastonbury Festival in 2016, which was reviewed in the Guardian.
Later that year, Rowan started an Arts Council funded tour of the concept around the North East. During this time, he visited an imam at a mosque in Fenham and went to Kingston Road in Stockton-on-Tees, the location for Channel 4’s controversial show Benefits Street. Soon after, BBC Breakfast broadcast a feature about the project. It was then covered by Radio 5 live, Steve Wright in the Afternoon and was named ‘Best of Today’ on Radio 4. The Breakfast feature was also broadcast by NPR in the US.
In 2019-2020 Rowan took the project all around England. He visited a total of 12 locations, including Moss Side in Manchester, Buckingham Palace and the remote island of Lundy. As he was delivering his final poem in Jaywick, Essex, the UK went into lockdown. He performed this for local resident Bill from a 2 metre distance.
Rowan also wrote and toured a show about the beginnings of the project in 2019, with dates at Canada Water Theatre, York Literature Festival and the Tubingen Book Festival in Germany. A mixture of theatre and spoken word, Door-to-Door Poetry was directed by Peader Kirk. It was given 5 stars from Broadway Baby, received a must-see review from the Morning Star and was longlisted for a Saboteur Award.
Rowan is currently working on a book about his experiences. He is also writing a show about his trip around England.