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2012 Olympics inspire love poetry across Britain

The traditional Olympics truce has inspired a 'peace camp' that will bring poetry readings to remote coastal sites across the UK

The islands will be full of noises this summer, when a series of "peace camps" inspired by the Olympics will be set up on some of the UK's remotest beaches, from Cornwall to the Outer Hebrides and from County Antrim to Sussex.

As the pageantry, athleticism and rampant commercialism of the games comes to London, a collaboration between the theatre director Deborah Warner, the actor Fiona Shaw and the creative events company Artichoke, will put up tent encampments in eight coastal areas of outstanding beauty, including Cemaes Bay in Anglesey, Mussenden Temple in County Londonderry, Dustanburgh Castle in Northumberland and Fort Fiddes in Aberdeenshire.

The tents are due to glow from within, accompanied by a soundtrack created by the composer Mel Mercier from the sounds of nature, and British love poetry in languages and dialects of the UK and Ireland.

According to Warner, the idea for Peace Camp was sparked by hearing of the Olympic truce, when all nations receive the call to "lay down your arms, and let the games commence".

"We're engirdling our shores in a symbolic call for peace," she said. The tents echo Aulis, the port from which the Greek fleet sailed to Troy, and offer an "ironic turn on the military encampments of the past. There are also echoes of Henry V walking through his camp before Agincourt, but visitors to Peace Camp will hear poems of love in all the languages of Britain and Ireland."

The project takes locations such as John of Gaunt's castle in Northumberland, destroyed during the wars of the Roses, and makes them into a "welcoming gesture" to visitors from around the world, she explained.

"In a way it's a very simple project, which can be crystallised in words such as 'peace', 'love', 'encampment', 'poetry', 'light' and 'dark' – because the tents will be lighting up at dusk," she added. "But these words mask the richness that the extraordinary locations and the very extraordinary texts – from Shakespeare, Donne and many more – will bring to it."

Shaw will be travelling around the country gathering recordings of poems in all the accents and languages of the UK. She is drawing inspiration from poetry since, she said, it was once part of the Olympics and love poetry is "the opposite of war".

"So much of the Olympics is about competition," she said, "this is absolutely the antidote to that. In a way it's a complement to the struggle down in London."

The bell-shaped tents, which have been specially designed for the project, are "amazing", she continued, recalling a visit to a mock-up of one of the sites. It was "very moving, being among them, because any shape like that you imagine what's going on inside them".

"None of the locations is hospitable," she said. "They're not the usual sort of beach that you might like to go to." The installations explore the boundary between sea and land, highlighting how the UK is surrounded by sea, she added. "The idea is to ring the island. You're making a circle, so that you hold the magic of these islands within."

A parallel installation is being created online at, where readers can nominate their favourite love poem, upload their own readings of love poetry and even write their own poems. "You might even get a reply from me, if I'm not too inundated," Shaw said.

The project, launched at a reading as part of the Guardian Open Weekend in London on Sunday, has already received a "huge" response, said Shaw, not least from poetry lovers who volunteered their favourites in response to blogs calling for readers' favourites.

"The event at the Guardian Open Weekend was amazing," she said. "What was wonderful was people turning up with poems they wanted read." Not only did the audience bring poems, but they came equipped with iPads and mobile phones, which they handed up to the stage so their choices could be read.

Shaw won't be reading many of the poems used as part of the installation, "but I am going around the country spouting any poem that comes out of my head". Readers who catch up with her as she travels the country can expect to hear lines from Shaw's favourite love poem, Adam's Curse by WB Yeats, who she saluted as "the ultimate poet", for the way he finds something wonderful in an ordinary scene.

Visitors who sit together as the poet imagines when "the last embers of daylight die" between 19 and 22 July, may find themselves drawn to "talk of poetry" and of the "old high way of love" as Yeats suggests.


• Cemaes Bay in Anglesey, Wales

• White Park Bay in County Antrim

• Mussenden Temple in Downhill Demesne, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland

• Valtos on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides

• Fort Fiddes in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

• Dunstanburgh Castel in Northumberland

• Cuckmere Haven near Seven Sisters in Sussex

• Godrevy Head, Cornwall © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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