Rowan McCabe is a poet and performer from Newcastle upon Tyne. Aware that poetry isn’t a proper job, he decided to create his own profession and is now the world’s first and only Door-to-Door Poet. Knocking on stranger’s houses, he asks them what is important to them. He then goes away and writes a poem about this, bringing it back and reading it out on their doorstep. Rowan also performs on stages as well as doorsteps and has appeared at Glastonbury Festival and the Royal Albert Hall. He was the winner of the 2015 Great Northern Slam and his work has been featured in the Guardian, on BBC Breakfast and was named ‘Best of Today’ on Radio 4.
“The most interesting contribution to cultural life from anyone in poetry recently” – Sophia Walker
“A technical perfect storm”- Gigglebeats.co.uk
“A must-see” – Tim Wells
Born in South Shields, Rowan was raised by a punks and hippies in a housing estate in Hebburn. Showing an interest in poetry from an early age, he went on to study English Literature at Newcastle University and graduated in 2011. In 2012 Rowan was part of the winning team in the Next Generation Poetry Slam at the Bristol Poetry Festival. He was also commissioned that year to write a piece in honour of Apples and Snakes’ 30th anniversary and to perform this at the Free Word Centre in London.
In 2014 Rowan made North East Rising, a show of performance poetry about his love/hate relationship with his home town. Produced by Rowan and Arts Centre Washington, it challenged the way the North East is represented in the media. The script and published poems were edited by Kirsten Luckins and Kate Fox was the director. Touring North East theatres in autumn 2014, North East Rising sold-out at Northern Stage and was reviewed well in the press, gaining 4 stars from the Journal.
At the start of 2015 Rowan became an Associate Artist for Live Theatre, along with poets Matt Miller and Matilda Niell. The three of them wrote Red is the New Blue. Based on the Mars One project, it followed three ordinary people who have chosen to live on the red planet for a reality TV show. The play had a sell-out run when it first appeared at Live in June 2015 and was shown again in January 2016, this time on Live’s main stage.
In 2015 Rowan also won the Great Northern Slam and in 2016 he appeared at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Hammer and Tongue slam finals, after winning the semi-finals at the Edinburgh Fringe.
In November 2015 Rowan became the world’s first Door-to-Door Poet. Knocking on stranger’s houses, he asks what is important to them; he then goes away and writes a poem about this, bringing it back and performing it on their doorstep. Through this bold and arguably stupid act he asks if anyone can enjoy poetry and if strangers are really as scary as the media would have us believe. 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 reputation for crime and violence. 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. In October of that year, he 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 this, BBC Breakfast broadcast a feature about the project. Rowan then appeared on Radio 5 live, Steve Wright in the Afternoon on Radio 2 and was named ‘Best of Today’ on BBC Radio 4. The Breakfast feature was also broadcast by NPR in the USA.
Rowan is currently writing a play about everything that has happened to him so far as a Door-to-Door Poet. This work-in-progress show was tested at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe as part of the PBH and played to sell-out audiences, receiving a must-see review from Tim Wells for the Morning Star.
Rowan is also making plans to take the concept national.