Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Lost Poets of the Raincoat Shop

Don’t miss our BBC Radio 4 programme The Lost Poets of the Raincoat Shop.

Ian McMillan tells the story of a group of lost poets through the letters, diaries and scattered pages of poetry found in a derelict raincoat shop in Sheffield.  The papers were found by an engineer who saved them from the skip and took them home to read. Fascinated by the story they revealed, he donated them to the Sheffield Archives.  Ian McMillan looks through the dust covered pages that still, he says, give off a faint whiff of raincoat.  The letters document the friendship between the shop owner and an uneducated man who were brought together by a love of words and writing.  Ian says, 'It's an extraordinary tale of friendship, and what is left behind.'

He talks to John Gregory who devoted his lunchtimes to going through the derelict shop gathering together the pages before they were put in a skip, and to Tim Knebel, the archivist who has created order out of the scattered pages.  Ian also talks to historian Helen Smith about the uniqueness of Sheffield during the early years of the 1900s, when uneducated steelworkers yearned to better themselves by learning about philosophy and poetry.

Finally, Ian contributes to the amount of words generated by the two men by composing his own work based on the daily takings recorded in the cash book of the raincoat shop.
(Pictured top: L-R Ian McMillan, John Gregory and Tim Knebel at Dore Chuchyard; bottom: curtain advertisement at Abbeydale Picture House for the raincoat shop, c.1950s)