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The Poets’ Nook: An Interview with Anna Woodford

So you’ve seen her name on the buses in York and read her words on your ride to class. But who is she and what’s she about? At The Yorker, we caught up with poet and writer Anna Woodford to find out.

Hey Anna, we’ve been hearing a lot about you at The Yorker lately! Who are you and what do you do?

Hi there! I’m a poet and make my living by doing residencies, commissions and creative writing teaching – I’ve worked everywhere from prisons, fire stations to universities. I live in Newcastle upon Tyne.

At the moment you’re writing for the University’s CoMotion Project. Can you tell us about that?

Yes, I’ve been working as Writer in Residence at the CoMotion project which is a major three year study looking at the link between well-being and mobility among a group of older people living in York, Leeds and Newcastle.

One of CoMotion’s most interesting findings I think is that it is not simply your physical mobility that determines your well-being but also your attitude to it; and how you process other people’s responses to you. So there could be two people with the same levels of physical capacity who have very different experiences.

My role was to write a series of poems exploring some of the findings which have been displayed on 100 First York buses. I got inspiration for the poems by sitting in on research meetings and attending feedback days where some of the older people who took part in the project were present. As part of the project I also worked with the artist Julie Ballands who made a film of one of my poems. You can see the poems at www.annawoodford.co.uk (as well as on the buses!)

What drew you towards exploring the relationship between older people and mobility?

I think it is fascinating the extent to which we can control our emotional responses to our own mobility and potentially increase our wellbeing. I also thought it was interesting that although the project looks at older people; we all have a mobility and we all have times in our life when for whatever reason we don’t feel like going out or feel vulnerable – having had a baby perhaps, or a break-up or bereavement or simply a bad day. All of these things affect our everyday journeys. More of us than ever – if we are lucky – are going to be older people one day and facing the same issues that some of the people in the research project deal with.

Are you planning to expand the project?

Yes. We’re hoping to have an exhibition of the poetry at York Explore library and at Newcastle City library in Autumn 2017. We’re also wanting to expand the project to look at people living with mental health issues.

We’ve seen your poems on buses around the city. Do you pop up anywhere else?

I’ve got three poetry collections including a book Birdhouse. I publish my work in literary magazines and there is quite a lot of poems online. My website is annawoodford.co.uk.