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Transport for London is aiming to use poetry to teach the capital’s commuters “poetiquette” and think twice about dropping litter, obstructing doors and other anti-social behaviour that contributes to travel delays on the tube.
From Monday until Friday last week a collection of London poets, including rising star Amy Acre who appeared at this year’s Latitude festival, gave recitals at some of London’s busiest train and tube stations as part of a wider TfL Travel Better London marketing campaign encouraging commuters to be more considerate towards their fellow travellers.
(See some more videos of the performances embedded at the end of this story.)
Poets in residence performed at nine London stations, including Liverpool Street, Waterloo, London Bridge and Leicester Square, at lunchtime and during the early evening commute for the entire week, with further pop-up performances around the TfL network. TfL’s week of “poetiquette” recitals coincided with National Poetry Day on Thursday 3 October.
The London public transport authority, which has a long tradition of promoting poetry on its tube network, has also set up a Tumblr page which invites travellers to submit four-to-six-line poems inspired by their daily commute.
Acre said: “I think people when they’re on the tube are so in that zone of huddling in and just getting through it and getting to work. It’s nice to give people something a bit different and maybe inspire them and make them think in a different way, even if it’s just for a minute. This project is a great opportunity to get poetry out there to more people that maybe would never listen to it and it wouldn’t occur to them that they might like it.”
The nine poets wrote topical verses and giving recitals in busking spots at their local station, with Acre performing at London Bridge. The other poets that gave twice-daily recitals were Amy McAllister (performing at Angel), Jacqueline Saphra (Canary Wharf), Sarah Wardle (Embankment), Sophie Herxheimer (Knightsbridge), Richard Purnell (Hammersmith), Joolz Sparkes (Leicester Square), Deanna Rodger (Liverpool Street) and Dan Simpson (Waterloo).
Acre, McAllister, Simpson, Rodger and Purnell performed at other TfL locations, along with poets Emma Jones, Keith Jarrett, Raymond Antrobus and Richard Marsh.
The recitals kicked off a wider TfL marketing campaign that will also feature poster advertising across London public transport including tube, bus, rail, trams and the Docklands Light Railway.
Poster ads will feature drawings by graphic artists illustrating poetry urging commuters not to drop litter, obstruct train doors and if they are taken ill on the underground, not to push the alarm button but wait and get off at the next station. One of the ads features the lines: “It’s tempting to obstruct the doors, until you know what this can cause. It doesn’t just delay the train, but can cause damage, hurt and pain.”
TfL said it was launching the “poetiquette” campaign to cut down on 400 hours of tube train delays a year, which it said could be avoided by small changes to commuters’ habits. It added that in 2012 there were 469 incidents involving litter leading to delays, with 81% caused by litter caught in train doors, while more than 1,000 passengers fell ill while travelling on the tube network.
Other habits that delay tube trains, according to TfL, include holding doors open and not moving down inside carriages.
Mike Brown, managing director of London Underground, said: “Littering, pulling the passenger alarm, holding the doors open and not letting passengers off the train are small actions that cause larger effects on the transport network. The campaign used poetry as a way to advise our custumers ways to reduce incidents that delay services and impact upon everyone.”
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk