Our community engagement programme aims to expand poetry beyond the "usual places" and "usual suspects", making it a fun and inspiring element of people’s everyday lives. To do this in 2021, we built on existing professional relationships and connections, supporting and facilitating our partner organisations in achieving their aims through our collaboration. We worked with three community partner organisations: WHALE Arts, Open Book, and Murrayburn Primary School. It was so exciting to share poetry with everyone who was a part of PTBO 2021 and we're looking forward to more poet-y shenanigans in future! Read on to learn a bit more about our engagement programs. 


WHALE Arts is a community-led arts charity and social enterprise in Wester Hailes. With funding from Creative Scotland, PTBO produced a special festival edition of 'Sentinel', Wester Hailes’ community newsletter, distributed by WHALE Arts to around 7,000 households, bringing PTBO festival content and feeling into people’s homes.

We’ve also been happy to support a poetry group at WHALE Arts which has fostered beauty and togetherness despite pandemic conditions. Dr Alice Tarbuck put it beautifully: “For a couple of hours, we are able to come away from our busy lives and focus on the vital importance of words and how they can communicate our experience of the world”.

The group’s poems were made into art during a riso printer workshop, supported by PTBO and run by artist Morvern Odling using the riso printer at WHALE Arts. The prints were then displayed at Summerhall during PTBO festival.


“We are delighted to have made a connection with the team Push the Boat Out in its first year, linking our creative programmes and the many creative local people we work alongside in Wester Hailes to this beautiful new festival. Our adult poetry group is enjoying writing together again after some time and we are all very excited about enjoying the festival in October and hopefully continuing a longer term partnership with Push The Boat Out.”

- Leah Black, CEO at WHALE Arts

Open Book


Open Book Reading runs weekly shared creative writing sessions all across Scotland for a diverse range of participants. March 2021 was “Morgan Month” for all Open Book groups, an occasion to celebrate the poetry of Edwin Morgan and create new work in response to his wonderful poem “At Eighty”. With support from PTBO, named after a line in “At Eighty”, Open Book prepared a performance for the festival in Summerhall featuring some of the Open Book participants presenting work from groups all across Scotland, as well as by the poetry of John Glenday and sea photography by Mike Guest. The event was free, family-friendly, and a sold-out success! One of the participants said, “This is my first time on a stage - I am very proud of me now”.

The performance was followed by complementary food and drinks, providing a chance for people from different community groups to get to know each other and experience the PTBO festival at Summerhall in a relaxed way. There were also two free parallel creative poetry workshops afterward, specifically for community members from Open Book and WHALE Arts, so that people could engage creatively with poetry in a fun setting. Some people stayed on after the workshops and took part in the evening festival events, meeting new people and saying “this is not how I thought poetry festivals would be: this is amazing!” – exactly what we hoped for.

Murrayburn Primary School

Thanks to funding from Parabola / Edinburgh Park, we were also able to work with youth through a great partnership with Murrayburn Primary School. PTBO contracted poet Colin McGuire to run four poetry workshops with P5 children at the school - these resulted in “Here”, a beautiful group poem which was then made printed onto a banner for the school to keep and a banner for PTBO to display outside Summerhall during the festival. 


Colin then ran three more workshops after the summer holidays with the same kids, now P6, to make the poem into a brilliant poem-film, filmed by Gracie Beswick. This was shown to the children at a special screening at Summerhall: both classes arrived, 50 children in all, full of excitement at what was their first outing since early 2019. One of the children said, “I feel like a film star!”. Another said, “I am a VIP now”, and another asked a question we loved to answer: “Who knew poems could become fun?”. The kids also made their first fieldtrip in 20 months, visiting Push the Boat Out to watch their poem be screened at the festival and get up to some more poetry shenanigans with Colin. 


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