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 and is now 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. Rowan also performs on stages and has appeared at Glastonbury Festival and the Royal Albert Hall. He is a Great Northern Slam winner, was nominated for a Saboteur Award and his work has been featured in the Guardian, on BBC Breakfast and was commissioned by Radio 3’s ‘The Verb’.
“Highly talented with verse”– Broadway Baby
“Moves seamlessly from hilarious anecdote to poignant poem”– The Journal
“A must-see”– Morning Star
Born in South Shields, Rowan was raised by a punk and a hippy in a rough housing estate in Hebburn, Tyne and Wear. 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 he 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 Arts Centre Washington, it challenged the way the North East is represented in the media. 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 poets Matt Miller and Matilda Niell. They wrote Red is the New Blue, a play which followed three reality TV stars on a spaceship destined for Mars. The play had a sell out run when it first appeared at Live in June 2015, and was shown again the next year, this time on Live’s main stage.
In 2015 Rowan also won the Great Northern Slam and in 2018 he was commissioned to write a new poem by Radio 3’s ‘The Verb’, which was described by Ian McMillan as “A heartfelt plea for poetry.”
In October 2015 Rowan 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. Through this bold and arguably stupid endeavour, he’s trying to prove that anyone can enjoy poetry and show 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. 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 Newcastle 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 and was named ‘Best of Today’ on Radio 4. The Breakfast feature was also broadcast by NPR in the US.
In 2017 Rowan was invited to The Hague to deliver a TEDx Talk about his experiences.
In August of that year, he also tested a work-in-progress show about the project at the Edinburgh Fringe. A mixture of theatre, storytelling and spoken word, ‘Door-to-Door Poetry’ played to sell out audiences, received a must-see review from the Morning Star and was longlisted for a Saboteur Award. In 2018 Rowan secured funding from Arts Council England to finish the show. Directed by Peader Kirk, it went on a regional tour of the North East before heading to the Edinburgh Fringe, where it was given a 5 star review from Broadway Baby. A national tour is booked for 2019 with a full schedule to be announced in the new year.
Rowan is also making plans to knock on doors all around England.