Door-to-Door Poetry: Nationwide (The Tour)

Door-to-Door Poetry: Nationwide is going on tour! This spring/summer I’m going to be heading to 16 venues around the country, with shows at The Edge Manchester, Exeter Phoenix and Rich Mix in London.

If you missed my last post, Door-to-Door Poetry: Nationwide is mixture of theatre and spoken word. It charts the story of my adventures around England as I knocked on strangers’ doors and wrote poems for them in the build-up to the pandemic. It’s about class and community and I’m hoping it’s going to start some conversations about our relationship with the people around us.

This has been a long time in the making. I started working on the show in summer 2020, so I’m incredibly pleased to be getting it out and about and to have the chance to share it with more people.

If you want to find out about upcoming dates click here. Or to find out more about the show itself go here.

Door-to-Door Poetry: Nationwide @ The Edinburgh Fringe (7th-28th August)

It’s the hottest week on record and I’ve spent most of it in my flat with the curtains drawn, running over a script I finished in February. But I’m going to make up for it next month. I’m taking my new show Door-to-Door Poetry: Nationwide up to Edinburgh as part of the PBH’s Free Fringe.

For those of you not familiar, Door-to-Door Poetry involved me knocking on doors and writing bespoke poems for strangers, for free, on any subject of their choosing. In March 2019, I took the project all around England. I decided to visit one location every month for 12 months. Through this bold and arguably stupid act, I was trying to explore the idea of nationhood and find out if strangers are really as scary as they’re made out to be. But as March 2020 approached, world events pushed the project in a very different direction…

Door-to-Door Poetry: Nationwide is a mixture of poetry and theatre that tells the story of what happened to me on my travels. Directed by Peader Kirk, it’s a show about class and community. It also involves not one, but two extendable camping stools! If you’ve never seen one of those before you’re in for a treat I tell you.

The show is free to attend and you can catch it at The Street Bar (Venue 239) at 19:45 every day from the 7th-28th August (except Saturday the 20th).

Here’s a little trailer put together by Ian Paine.

Book Launch- April 21st @ The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle

As promised, I’m going to be doing a launch for my new book Hopeless Romantic. It’s at the Cumberland Arms, Newcastle on the 21st April and I’m really looking forward to it!

Incase you missed it, Hopeless Romantic is a collection of 12 poems commissioned by the National Trust. You can expect musings on inept knights, liberated motorcycle couriers and overcrowded mountains. I’ve also got a powerpoint with some daft pictures on.

The night is being run by Born Lippy, Newcastle’s premier spoken word event. We’ve got the stellar Megan Mckie-Smith on as support (check out the clip below, you’re in for a treat) and Donald Jenkins is going to host and DJ the afterparty.

I’ll be having a few pints afterwards. Do come and say hello.

New Book For Sale

Yes, after much wrangling with the gremlins of the internet, I’ve now set up my own online shop. It’s quite a small shop, there’s just one item in it. But I like it.

The book is called Hopeless Romantic. It’s a collection of 12 poems commissioned by the National Trust and it costs £6 + P&P. You can find out more and buy one by clicking ‘Buy a Book’ in the menu above, or by following this link.

If you missed it, here’s a video of one of the poems about climbing a mountain and then regretting it:

New Book: Hopeless Romantic

Produced by Morgan Studios
Cover Image by Rose Spittles

Good news! I’m really pleased to say that my new book, Hopeless Romantic, will be released on the 18th of March.

It’s a collection of poems commissioned by the National Trust and written during 2020-2021. It marks the end of my residency at William Wordsworth’s childhood house, which is now a museum called Wordsworth House and Garden in Cockermouth (I have just about managed to stop laughing at the word Cockermouth).

I was originally asked to take up this residency in February 2020. I’m still not entirely sure why they thought of me to be honest. I know little to nothing about nature. I grew up on an estate in a post industrial northern town. Once, in a pub quiz, someone asked me to guess a type of bird beginning with the letter N and I said ‘A Noo Noo?’ Which it turns out is actually a sort of vacuum cleaner thing from the Teletubbies. Do you remember that? Anyway, the point is, I was asked to do it and I was very flattered.

The invitation coincided with the 250th anniversary of Wordsworth’s birth and this was meant to be an opportunity to celebrate the ongoing influence of his work. However, come March 2020, there seemed to be some other stuff going on, so the project moved in a direction none of us had really expected.

Instead, the writing became my way of trying to mark some of the surreal and bizarre moments we went through during the pandemic and its aftermath, while also tipping my hat to Wordsworth’s style. I’m particularly interested in his celebration of natural speech and the lives of ordinary people, although I can’t guarantee my results are anywhere near as impressive. Expect poems about liberated motorcycle couriers, inept knights and overcrowded mountains. I’m hoping that some of the poems will make you laugh, but that other ones won’t.

I’ve also been busy over the past few weeks dragging myself into the 21st century and setting up my own online shop. So I’m pleased to say that the book will be available to purchase right here from this site. There’ll be a link added to the menu. I’m also planning a book launch in Newcastle in April, so keep an eye out for updates if you’re around that way.

In the meantime, I just want to say a big thanks to Zoe Gilbert and all of the staff at Wordsworth House. It’s been an absolute pleasure working on this over the past 2 years and having a chance to process the many complicated experiences we’ve been going through. Take care and stay tuned.

Words on the Terrace- Changes to Complaints Procedure

To who it may concern,

In light of a complaint that was made towards one of the performers I booked for Words on the Terrace in June, namely that they had behaved in a way which was transphobic and trans exclusionary, I’ve decided to make some changes to the way I will respond to complaints towards events I run in the future.

Since dealing with this, I’ve been doing a lot of listening and a lot of thinking and it’s clear the way I handled the complaint was wrong. Because of this, I’m going to be making the following changes.

  1. No more neutral language

I now know that by using neutral language in the statements I made, I left people in doubt about my standing on trans rights. I understand that this has made members of the trans community feel even more unsafe than they already did and I want to say that I am deeply, genuinely sorry for this. It was never my intention to create fear or leave my standing on this issue in any doubt.

In the interests of clearing that up right now, I would like to make the following statement:

I believe that trans people and non-binary people should be treated with the exact same amount of respect, tolerance and protection as any other person in our society. It therefore follows that trans people and non-binary people should have access to all the same facilities as any other person in this country. This includes, but is not limited to, trans women having access to women’s only bathrooms, women’s only hospitals and any other single gender public facilities.

If any performer I have booked for one of my events ever expresses a belief that goes against the above, they will be immediately removed from the line-up. Any performer who expresses views which go against this while on stage will have their performance stopped immediately, and will be removed from the stage.

This isn’t a conclusion I’ve come to recently. It has been a part of my beliefs and has informed particular decisions in my professional career for the best part of a decade. That said, this is the first time I have ever put this down in writing, which has been a real oversight. I am sorry for leaving the above out of my original statement and for creating doubt on the matter.

  1. I will contact a neutral third party in the trans community

It has been mentioned many times by people since I made the decision to take no further action that I should have contacted a third party from the trans community as soon as the complaint was raised. I understand now how vital this was to fully resolving the issue. At the time, I saw this as a dispute between one individual and another. It felt like it was my place to try and mediate between the two sides, to hear what both had to say and to then make a decision on whether or not to remove the performer from the bill.

What I did not fully consider at the time was the fact that, without consulting with someone from the trans community, I was only ever going to be making this decision from a position of privilege. I do not understand what it is like to be transgender or to suffer the persecution that trans people can and do suffer on a daily basis. Therefore, I am not best placed to decide the way to ensure safety for trans people at my events.

The responsibility for this mistake lies with me and me alone, and I am really, truly sorry for that. At the time, it seemed there was only one choice here, to either leave the performer on the bill or to take them off. It has been rightly pointed out to me since then that there were a great many other considerations to make to ensure trans people would feel safe at this event. I feel really disappointed in myself for not understanding this, and I will not let it happen again.

[N.B It also follows that if a complaint is made regarding prejudice towards another marginalised group, I will consult with a third party who is part of that group also i.e. an ethnic minority, a member of a certain religion etc.]

I hope this has gone some way to explaining how I will be making improvements to the way I run events in the future. On a personal level, I am aware that the mistakes I’ve made have led to people I have known and respected for a long time no longer trusting me or feeling safe working with me. This was never my intention and it saddens me greatly that it’s come to this.

I understand that the damage is now done. But I want to say that I am listening and working to address mistakes and make any necessary changes. I have recently attended a webinar on the subject of becoming a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community. I have started to build links with poetry networks specifically set up for helping promoters in situations such as this. Also, I will be drafting a more general policy that outlines what I expect from any performer who I book in the future. This includes but is not limited to, making it clear to performers that any material shared which is transphobic, homophobic, racist etc will not be tolerated.

My hope is that this will be the first step in a process towards building some bridges and trying to make a positive change.

If anybody would like to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me, either on social media or by emailing

Yours sincerely,

Rowan McCabe

Words on the Terrace feat. Scott Tyrrell @ The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle 22.06.21

We’re back! There’ll be another Words on the Terrace outdoors at The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle on the 22nd of June, 7pm. Our headline poets will be Scott Tyrell (BBC Slam Champion, Radio 3’s The Verb) and Lisette Auton, whose novel The Secret of Haven Point is upcoming with Puffin. We also have sets from Dominic JP Nelson-Ashley, Leks T and music from Wilf Stone and Haythem Mohamed. All hosted by the wonderful Jessica Johnson.

The whole thing is being paid for with Cultural Recovery Funding, which means it’s ABSOLUTELY FREE TO ATTEND! Just email to book a ticket. When you book you will be allocated a table. If you want to sit with some mates, you can sit together in a table of up to 6 people. Or, if you’d like to sit in a one or two person table that’s also fine. Just let us know when you email.

Oh and there’s only a handful of tickets left, so don’t say I didn’t warn you, yeah?


Scott has been a poet and performer since the turn of the century. An award-winning comedian, creative director and multiple slam-winning poet (including the BBC Slam and UK Anti- Slam), he has performed his work at many national and international festivals including Glastonbury, the Edinburgh Fringe, the Prague Fringe, WOMAD, and the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

He has written for TV, radio and performed for Radio 4, Radio 3’s the Verb, Sky Atlantic, ITV, BBC4 and BBC Arts. He’s also one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met and his driving playlists are impeccable.


Lisette Auton does stuff with words: disabled writer, activist, poet, spoken-word artist, actor, film & theatre-maker and creative practitioner. She is an award-winning poet who is widely published and is known for her energised performances on the spoken word scene. Her debut middle grade novel THE SECRET OF HAVEN POINT is forthcoming from Puffin in February 2022, with a second in 2023. She was the 2019 Early Careers Fellow for Literature at Cove Park, and is on the TSS Publishing list of Best British & Irish Flash Fiction.

Lisette works with many creative collaborators to create unique and innovative cross artform works. She is a founding member & director of the Disconsortia collective of North East disabled artists. Her current work is focused on ‘Writing the Missing’.


Dominic JP Nelson-Ashley is a firmly established spoken-word artist who delivers consistently electrifying performances.

His 12 poetry books tackle the issues of fatherhood, chat-up lines, role models, celebrity culture, mental health and spending his teenage years in a Middle England Town.

‘Poetry to remember, full of the rhythms of living music and lived experience, all in a genuine voice with images and words that resonate long after the page is turned or the performance over. Dominic JP Nelson-Ashley has something to say and he does it with both exuberant verve and studied craft’- Andy Willoughby.

‘Brilliant – witty, wonderful poems’- Francesca Beard


Leks is a poet from Newcastle who began performing in 2016. She’s gone on to win the Born Lippy slam on two occasions and in 2019 she performed at the inaugural Words Weekend at the Sage Gateshead as a member of the Born Lippy Collective.
Her style ranges from dynamic, rap-influenced rhythms to quiet, plainly-spoken readings. Expect a combination of power and vulnerability with a fresh perspective on themes personal and political.


Wolfred are a new 4 piece band hailing from Newcastle Upon Tyne led by Southampton born singer/songwriter Wilf Stone. In a rare solo outing Wilf will be playing songs from the bands upcoming 5 track debut EP amongst other musical offerings. Watch this space.


Haythem mohamed is a music producer, beat maker, music teacher and professional guitar player. He made a name for himself in the mid 2010’s as a wildly explosive acoustic guitar player, becoming signed to an American record label and appearing on Sky Arts’ Guitar Star series, alongside Tony Visconti and George Benson.

Recently, he has been focusing on beat making and jazz-influenced electric guitar playing, stating that “it’s really nice to finally be making music I am passionate about. I fell out of interest with the world of guitar virtuosity. For me, the open world of music production and beat making feels like a truly limitless place, and a place where I feel more at home.”

Words on the Terrace feat. Kate Fox @ The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle 08.06.21


After a long and tedious winter, I’m absolutely chuffed to say that me and the good people of The Cumberland Arms are putting on some outdoor poetry and music events next month.

The first gig will be at 7pm on the 8th of June and will feature Kate Fox (Radio 3, Glastonbury Festival Poet in Residence), Tahmina Ali, Donald Jenkins and Rowan McCabe (i.e me), with music from Rob Heron and Alix Alixandra. Our host will be Jessica Johnson.

The whole thing is being paid for with Cultural Recovery Funding, which means it’s ABSOLUTELY FREE TO ATTEND! Just email to book a ticket.

When you book you will be allocated a table. If you want to sit with some mates, you can sit together in a table of up to 6. Or, if you’d like to sit in a one or two person table that’s also fine. Just let us know when you email.

Oh and tickets are limited so don’t hang about yeah?

Here’s some more info about who’s on:


Kate Fox is a stand up poet who is a regular on Radio 4 & Radio 3’s The Verb. She’s been Poet in Residence for the Great North Run, Glastonbury Festival and Tour de Yorkshire. You may have also caught her on Christmas University Challenge, when she captained Loughborough University’s team in December 2020.

She’s toured and performed shows about Northern English women, Doctor Who’s connection to autism, being in-between social classes and not wanting children. Her books include The Oscillations (Nine Arches, 2021) and Chronotopia (Burning Eye, 2017).


Tahmina Ali is a British Bangladeshi, Newcastle based spoken word poet. She has performed at various events, poetry nights across the country and selected for the prestigious BBC Words First programme. Also presented her poetry radio show on Fast FM for two years running, hosts her own Open Mic poetry night called Strictly Spoken and has been awarded the ‘ABC Arts and Culture Award’ for 2018 and 2019. Tahmina uses her poetry as a means to encourage positive change, her writing is generally influenced by identity, culture, social events and life as a young mother.


Donald Jenkins is a performance poet, writer and spoken word promoter from Newcastle upon Tyne. He won the Great Gateshead Slam 2018 and has performed at Glastonbury Festival and The Royal Albert Hall.

Donalds’s poems have been published in – ‘New Word Order’ anthology- ‘The Writer’s Cafe’ magazine and ‘Riggwelter’ journal and upcoming- ‘Best New British Poets 2020/21 Anthology’ from Eyewear Publishing. He produces and hosts ‘Born Lippy’- a celebration of things wordy, showcasing the finest spoken word poets, rappers and comedians.


Rowan McCabe is a poet and performer. 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 poems 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 2020, the National Trust invited him to be poet in residence at Wordsworth House.


Newcastle based Rob Heron has spent the past decade touring and recording with the six-piece rag-time, honky-tonk, swing band Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra. With four albums of original material under his belt, and an international following, his solo show consists of Tea Pad classics, new material, and the odd country and blues standards.

Rob takes inspiration from artists of the golden age such as Cab Calloway, Merle Tarvis, George Jones and Hank Williams, and delivers his performances with wit, humour and panache. This is no dressing-up box, no lazy pastiche; Rob Heron lives and breathes this music.


Newcastle Upon Tyne based singer-songwriter, playing mainly original compositions on guitar and ukulele. With poetic lyrics and stripped back instrumentals, she sings about love, life, politics, and cardboard boxes.

Her debut album ‘Hope is an Animal’ was released in April and a review in Tits Upon Tyne magazine read “Hope Is An Animal is a raucous and poetic display of love, self-reflection and hope. Definitely a recent highlight in the folk singer/songwriter sphere”

Places of Poetry- The Book

I’m really pleased to announce that my poem ‘An Ode to a Wall’ is featured in this brand new anthology. Places of Poetry was a project that ran last year and collected submissions from all over the country. It was inspired by a 17th century epic poem called the Poly-Olbion by Michael Drayon, which set out to describe the makeup of England and Wales via 15,000 lines of frilly Elizabethan verse.

On the Places of Poetry website, people were encouraged to ‘pin’ their poems onto a digital map to create a living, poetical account of 21st century Britain. As well as this, poets in residence were commissioned to visit 13 locations around the country, to run workshops with locals and write poems in response to the area. The chosen locations included Stonehenge, Ely Cathedral and a scenic little housing estate called the Byker Wall in Newcastle, where I was asked to take up a residency.

I felt in exceptionally good company here. Other poets in residence included Jo Bell, Daljit Nagra and Gillian Clarke. And it was a treat to be able to work in Byker again. The Wall will always hold a special place in my heart, it being the spot where my Door-to-Door Poetry project really took off.

The book itself is a collection of poems created by poets in residence and the general public, selected from 7,500 entries. It’s available from the 1st of October from all good book shops, including this one, and I’m really looking forward to having a read of it.

Mid-Year Roundup in the ‘New Normal’

Second post edit 3

Hello there!

I hope you’re keeping well and adjusting to the episode of Black Mirror we now live in.

To say this year has been a bit weird doesn’t really cut it, does it? When the lockdown kicked in, I was in London, finishing my Door-to-Door Poetry project. It was the end of an adventure that started in 2015 and the fact the lockdown happened at exactly the same time was surreal.

Since getting back to Newcastle, I’m pleased to say I’ve been able to carry on working. The first thing I did was make a film for the BBC as part of their Make A Difference project, which involved taking stories about local acts of kindness and turning them into verse. It was a pleasure to be a part of it alongside cracking poets like Steve Larkin, Gemma Baker and Ben Norris. You can find my contribution here. 

Me and Peader

I’m also really grateful to the Arts Council for offering me a grant to write a show about Door-to-Door Poetry and my trip around England. I’ve started working on this with director Peader Kirk over Zoom, who is an absolute wizard.

It’s hard to say for sure when I’ll be able to perform this, but I’m planning a national tour for next year, so do stay tuned.

Second post edit 2

Lastly, I’m really pleased to say my residency for the National Trust at Wordsworth House is still going ahead. Unable to get to the Lakes, I’ve been doing a spot of Post-to-Post Poetry from home: I sent off some letters to random addresses in Cockermouth, Wordsworth’s home town, inviting residents to write back with suggestions for poems. So far I’ve had 4 responses and have wrote 2 poems. You can read the first one I sent to a woman called Ruth here. 


Stuff that’s been keeping me sane in my spare time has included reading Danny Wallace’s Join Me, catching up on some Nymphs & Thugs Zoom gigs and going on some very long bike rides.

I’m really missing live poetry. I’m looking forward to a time when I can stand up in a crowded room and talk at a very high volume.

Till then, look after yourself and stay safe.