Poetry and Text Art in the Tees Valley

I'll Tell You What documents Harry Man's work with the over 55s and those in care throughout the Tees Valley in the North East of England.

This was a project that began with the training of practitioners in the Tees Valley thanks to ARC Stockton [sic] and support from The Great Place Tees Valley scheme. When time is no longer linear, or subject confounds our focus, then many of the conventions of a poem – that it must be of a certain number of lines, or read or recited in a certain amount of time, or worse still that it must be 'about something' all dissolve away.

Instead, during this residency I want to explore how our often narrow expectations of what poem is and how it ought to be understood, can be widened to reflect the experiences and perceptions and creativity of those encountering poetry for the first time, whether in care, or simply encountering poetry as budding opsimaths.

Poetry is the ideal artform for this purpose – a place of both heightened and fractured language and it has the capacity to juxtapose the abstract with the memorable. Poetry can be both abstruse and immediate, arriving at a mode of artistic expression that shortens the divide between experience and how that experience can be articulated and be made to be understood.

Currently 18% of the UK population is over the age of 65. According to the ONS, this is set to rise to 25% by 2046. As we age, we must hold on to as broad an understanding of one another as we can. In that sense this is both a bit of an online artist's book, designed to document what work we have produced and to inspire others, as well as serving as a love letter to the future, reminding us of who we are all likely to become.

This project is generously supported by Creative Age, the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art and ARC, Stockton Arts Centre. It is part of the national Great Place Scheme.


Harry Man is a British poet and visual artist. ‘Lift’, his first pamphlet, won the UNESCO 2014 Bridges of Struga Award.

Harry was a 2016 Clarissa Luard Wordsworth Trust Poet in Residence and a 2016 Hawthornden Fellow. He was a 2016 TOAST Poet.

He also writes and performs for a children's theatre company that perform throughout the Tees Valley, nationally and internationally with Canadian contemporary dance choreographer Jennifer Essex.

His work has been featured on BBC Radio 4 and at festivals internationally including Poetry International, Rotterdam, T-Junction and Ars Poetica.

In 2018 his work was selected for Poem of North by the Northern Poetry Library.