Artistic Director of CRIPtic Arts and Writer Jamie Hale talks about being awarded a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship

The Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship awards poets funding to help support their creative practice for the year. Awarded to talented practitioners who have been recognised as being able to open up poetry to new audiences, making the form a lot more accessible to all, the award concludes its five year run with its third and final round of recipients. One of three to receive the final round of awards, which also follows their Evening Standard Future Theatre Fund Award win in Directing/Theatre-Making earlier on this year, scriptwriter/screenwriter and essayist Jamie Hale continues to inspire and trailblaze. Having just hosted CRIPtic Pit Party at the Barbican, a culmination of a year long programme run by his CRIPtic Arts organisation supporting d/Deaf artists and having published his pamphlet Shield about disability, treatment prioritisation and the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Jamie looks forward to continuing exploring various pertinent within his practice. Jamie tells us more about what it means to have won the award!

Hi Jamie, you’re the recipient of the prestigious Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship. How does it feel?

It feels both incredible and like a great responsibility. I am amazed to have been given this opportunity, and I feel that I very much have an obligation to really use it to focus on my creative work and on really pushing the boundaries of form and structure as a disabled writer. I am aware of how much this gives me the capacity to achieve, and I want to make sure I really use it to its fullest – both for myself and for the wider writing community.

The Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship recognises poets who are able to open poetry up to the widest possible audiences in new and innovative ways, as well as reminding us of the interconnectivity between art forms such as theatre and spoken word poetry. This round of awards marking the third and final round, making this a unique opportunity. Why is this important for the poetic art form?

There is a risk that poetry becomes, to people, a frustrating thing they had to study in English at school – but recently it’s really felt like it’s faced a refreshing, a resurgence, it’s moved into wider theatre, and finding and making these connections cross-form are so valuable. The freedom award-winners have to experiment with their work, with form and structure, and with the future of their writing is something the Jerwood Foundation actively supports and encourages, and is something I really look forward to growing from.

The prize will include a year of critical support and mentoring and will give poets awarded the time and space to focus on their craft and fulfil their potential with no expectation that they produce a particular work or outcome. What are your hopes for the next year?

There is work I want to do on performing my work,  I want to work with musicians, and I want to look at my first collection. These are, I suppose, my priorities. I want to understand what it means to be a performer and to really explore the way poets don’t engage thoroughly with the importance of the stage during a reading – meaning I want to work on expanding my solo poetry show into something bigger, broader, and more powerful. For a collection, I have so much work that I need to streamline, prioritise, and understand, and for myself – for myself I also just want the time to work slowly, without always feeling under pressure to produce outcomes.

You’re a poet, scriptwriter/screenwriter and essayist whose work explores the disabled body, nature and mortality. What have you taken away from the exploration of these topics?

I suppose what I’ve taken away from them is the universality of these experiences. Whilst disability is often framed or understood as an outsider experience, the more I’ve written about the intimacy of knowing your body, the more I’ve been able to connect to people far outside my own experiences.

Your pamphlet ‘Shield’ about disability, treatment prioritisation and the COVID-19 pandemic was published last year. You’ll be hosting ‘CRIPtic Party’ later on this month at the Barbican, produced by your theatre company ‘CRIPtic Arts’, an organisation showcasing and developing work by and for d/Deaf and disabled creatives. What can readers/viewers expect from both projects?

Shield was an intensely personal exploration written in the first few weeks of my isolation in the COVID-19 pandemic after my GP warned me that I would be unlikely to survive COVID-19. It is fast paced, motive, and desperate. It wasn’t a piece that wanted close editing and time – it aims to bring the reader through an experience as quickly and intensely as I could do so.

CRIPtic Pit Party, which will be available online from 26th Nov to 10th Dec was my directorial debut. I wanted to bring together a group of d/Deaf and disabled performers that could speak about our lives in depth, complexity and joy – and to be in a space working on this with them was everything I could have imagined. There are so many talented performers and it was a privilege to be working with them.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

To find out more about CRIPtic Pit Party which took place on Friday 19th and Saturday 20th November 2021 and now available to watch online, visit here…

For our CRIPtic Pit Party review, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop