Tram line to feature poems and art

Plans could see artworks and poems posted at tram stops.  Picture: Neil Hanna
Plans could see artworks and poems posted at tram stops. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Poetry is to be used along the eight-mile long tram line to inspire new visitors and lift the weary hearts of residents weighed down by the troubles that have plagued the £776 million transport.

Poetry, posters and prints are likely to appear on platforms – and potentially trams themselves – stretching from Edinburgh Airport to York Place to help make journeys on the route a more enjoyable experience for passengers.

• What poem would you like to see on the tram line? Has it inspired you? Share your poem in the comments below.

The options are being explored by Edinburgh City Council ahead of the tram line going live.

Scottish Poetry Library communications manager Colin Waters labelled the move as a “fantastic idea”, adding: “It’s a tribute to the mobile nature of poetry. Poems work so well in so many different contexts. You can have it on a postcard, you can read it in a pamphlet or you can read it on the side of a tram or inside a tram.

“It’s worked all over the world. There’ve been similar schemes in 
Australia and famously in London, so why not the trams in Edinburgh? It’s the UNESCO City of Literature and it makes perfect sense to me.”

In London, Poems on the Underground first launched in 1986. During that time it has seen prose displayed on posters in 3000 advertising spaces and on Tube carriages across London. The poetry is usually changed three times a year. Mr Waters said of the London concept: “You’re stuck on a sweaty, people-filled carriage. You don’t feel like pulling your book out. You possibly can’t, there’s not enough space. You look up and there’s four lines of poetry. Suddenly you’re not in a horrible, sweaty carriage – you’re walking through a 
beautiful valley or a glen.”

Professor Peter Garside, secretary of the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club, was understandably biased about whose work he would like to see displayed.

He said: “If it’s going to be done, Scott would have to be there. There are some evocative passages in his poems about Edinburgh and Scotland.

“There’s also the 18th century poets like Robert Fergusson. That’s all in broad Scots. It’d be nice to have something in broad Scots, but whether the visitors from China would quite grasp it, I don’t know.

“They [the passages] would have to be fairly evocative and digested 
reasonably quickly.”

Saltire Society executive director Jim Tough said the organisation would be “delighted” to see the works of past and present Scottish poets “enlivening” the everyday journeys of tram commuters.

The tram proposals emerged after Edinburgh Airport revealed it is creating a “festival space” near the tram terminus in an added cultural offering for travellers.

City transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds believes the idea is poetry in motion.

“I’m very keen that there should be a cultural offer along the tram route and we’re currently in discussions about what can be done,” she said. “We’re also working very closely with the airport to ensure the passenger experience is as smooth and pleasant as possible.”