Next step – produce banner, apply hydrophilic nano-titania spray, and install.

We have authorised banner production, and are now putting plans in place for installation. There is still time to be part of this project, please contact us if you would like to join in :

The Bus Garage is such an important part of London life that we tend to take it for granted. The vital work done every day by the drivers and all the supporting staff goes on 'under the radar' so that we all get to the places we need to be and to the people we need to see without having to worry very much about the journey.

It is because it is such a vital part of our life that we only give it a thought when things go wrong. Like the air, like water, like the bees.

The Bus Garage making like a beehive on a hot summer's evening, 2017.

So we are really thrilled to announce that we are almost ready to lavish some more love on the big red building on Knight's Hill by posting a second poem on its large expanse of wall.

Before … surveying the site.

The Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has given us permission to use one of her beautiful poems for our second installation at the Norwood Bus Garage: 'A Rare Bee' from The Bees (published by Picador, 2011).

We plan to print the poem on a large banner (about 20'x10'), coat it with a fabulous magical spray that reduces pollution, and pin it to the wall overlooking the beautiful new planting in the bee-friendly Bzz Garage garden on the corner of Knight's Hill and Ernest Avenue.

After ... if all goes according to plan.
(This is a photoshopped image; the real thing will be printed on a specially treated banner and pinned to the wall).

The first catalytic poem ('In Praise of Air') was invented by two professors at Sheffield University: Tony Ryan (Professor of Physical Chemistry) and poet Simon Armitage (Professor of Poetry) and pinned to a large wall above a very busy road in Sheffield. A second poem, written by Hollie McNish, was installed at a roundabout in Cambridge. If we succeed, our catalytic poem will be the third one in the country. Exciting!

The idea gradually came together after we put our first poem up on the wall further up Knight's Hill in April last year (2016). Local artist Robert Dawson had helped us to write two lines from Tennyson's lovely poem, The Gardener's Daughter, and stick them to the wall further up the hill (see story below). Local residents Wayne Trevor and Kat Lochmann had opened up the way for us when we met them with their vegetables at a FEAST stall in October 2015. Their community-led gardening project had already made a strong link to the Bus Garage management who were in turn really open to our idea to put poetry on their garage wall. This second project sprang out of the first one, and we were thrilled to get permission from Carol Ann Duffy to put a full-length poem on another wall.

We got stuck, however, trying to figure out exactly how this could be achieved. But then, again, Wayne Trevor provided the spark of inspiration. He shared a link on FaceBook to the report about the catalytic poetry in Sheffield.


A banner bearing poetry that also deals with noxious nitrogen dioxide!

The nano-technology that coats the poster is invisible to the eye. The magic gets on with its work when the surface is activated by light. Any light. Not only sunlight, but street lights! The catalytic process transforms exhaust fumes into water which then sheets, streak free, across the surface of the poster and falls gently onto the plants in the bee garden below.

Local artist and technician Robin Thomson has prepared the poem for printing, and a specialist has inspected the wall in preparation for banner installation. The guy who sprays the nano-catalytic technology onto the banner is standing by. The people who print the giant banner are making themselves available. The Bus Garage management has promised to chip into the project, our friends and neighbours have forked over a few quid. We've told local businesses, book shops and community groups, we've told Lambeth Council and the London Mayor's office (both of whom are busy trying to reduce pollution in our streets), and we've told our local councillors and our MP (who thinks it's a really good idea). Now we're telling you! Would you like to be part of this catalytic change? We plan to print names on our website to thank everyone who helped us achieve this project. If you think that Catalytic Poetry on the Bus Garage wall is a good idea then please chip in a few quid and be part of the poetic revolution.

© Carol Ann Duffy. The Rare Bee is reproduced by permission of the author c/o Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd., 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN.


Links to more information and other Catalytic Poetry projects:

Information about the first project: "In Praise of Air"

Report by Joanna Gavins, Professor in English Language and Literature, University of Sheffield

Information from Sheffield University including time-lapse video of the installation – amazing!

BBC radio show about scientists proposals to reduce air pollution with Tony Ryan and others.

Holly McNish's catalytic poem was put up for Women of the World Festival, Cambridge, March 2015.

Simon Armitage's catalytic poem 'In Praise of Air' in position on a wall at Sheffield University (2014-2016)