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Community / Fresh reading material for public toilet users

‘Bards in the Bog’ is back

SHETLAND Library is launching a new round of “Bards in the Bog”, the popular project displaying poetry in public toilets.

Bards was first devised and run by the library in 2009 in partnership with the Scottish Poetry Library and Shetland Arts, catching the public imagination and being run a further four rounds up to 2015.

Although it has been five years since the last round – in partnership with Shetland Amenity Trust – many of the poems are still displayed in toilets around the islands.

In 2009 the library published a booklet of the first 24 “Bards in the Bog” poems, which raised over £1,000 for the charity Water Aid. It was run in 2010 for the Hamefarin, in 2012 with poet-in-residence Jen Hadfield, in 2014 for the year of dialect and then as “Bards in the Bruck” in partnership with Shetland Amenity Trust in 2015.

Winners have included published poets from beyond Shetland such as Chrissie Gittens, Alison Brackenbury and Sheila Templeton as well as esteemed local writers such as James Sinclair and Jim Mainland.

Entry is open to everyone of any age, and people are invited to submit original, short poems to be installed on the back of toilet doors. The theme is entirely open, but the important rule is that poems must be short – a maximum of 16 lines that display comfortably in large font on an A4 poster so they can be read comfortably by readers seated a few feet away.

This round of Bards is being run for Book Week Scotland 2020, supported by the Scottish Book Trust. Winning poets will get £50 book tokens as well as publication of their poems online and in local toilets.

Shetland Library manager Karen Fraser said: “This has been one of our most enduringly popular projects and the standard of poetry we’ve attracted over the years has been really impressive.

“We quite often get folk contacting us about a poem they have seen and enjoyed. Because of the ongoing coronavirus restrictions it is difficult to plan physical events for Book Week Scotland, so we thought this was a perfect chance to bring back Bards.

“Despite restrictions we hope to have readings of the winning poems and find novel ways of celebrating them.”