Joan Michelson
Whittington Hospital Radio Network

Joan Michelson is initiator, director and facilitator of Childrens's Stories for Children, a Haringey Arts Project; a W H Smith funded Poet-in-the-Schools and West Midlands Arts funded writer-in-the-schools; has read and broadcast her work on BBC Radio.


In an effort to improve the hospital environment for its patients and staff, the Whitting Hospital proposed a project which would:

  1. introduce, support and forward the reading of poetry drawn both from traditional and contemporary writing;
  2. support the writing of poems by members of the hospital population;
  3. encourage and support the oral presentation of poetry in broadcasts by the hospital radio service.

Participants would include hospital population from the elderly wards, children's ward, porters and hospital staff.




The project replied to its initial aim: to invite members of the hospital population to participate in selecting and reading poetry with a possible outcome of reading for broadcast on the hospital radio. The procedure evolved in response to the hospital environment. Because of high pressure and fast turnarounds, in otherwords, the flux of the patient population whose care and well-being is of paramount importance, poetry sessions were held on the spot and recordings made immediately after workshop/tutorial sessions.

I went around the wards with poems in hand and accompanied by a radio technician with a mini-disc recorder. We recorded everyone who read, gave each a chance to hear his reading, and then, in consultation with additional radio staff, selected those which we felt we could use for broadcast. Instead of a single half-hour programme, we devised The Poetry Pause, a programme of discrete drop ins, framed with a signature tune, the above title, and a mention of support from the Poetry Society. These can be used within and between programmes across the seven day broadcasting output which has potential reach of 3,000 patients per week.

The project was a tremendous learning experience for me and it stimulated interest in poetry programming for broadcast among a number of the 70 members of the hospital radio staff. Ward staff were encouraging. Some visitors, many of them relatives of patients, were eager to contribute their voices and we succeeded in including several of these. We have two group readings with children and parents, one of "The Owl and the Pussy Cat", one of "You are Old Father William". We have a double voice reading by adults of "Tullynoe: Tete-aTete in the Parish Priest's Parlour", by Paul Durcan. Other poems read and recorded include: an extract from "The Tempest" by William Shakespeare, "Stop All the Clocks" by W.H. Auden, "The Thought Fox" by Ted Hughes, "in just" by e.e. cummings, "The Pasture", by Robert Frost, and "Please Mrs. Butler" by Alan Ahlberg.

- Joan Michelson




Young Poets Network