On Thursday 7th October, Mrs Millman Jones and I attended an afternoon reception at Number 10, Downing Street, to celebrate National Poetry Day. Following on from performing at the finals of Poetry By Heart at The Globe Theatre in the summer, I was invited to attend as part of a group of finalists. To say it was exciting would be an understatement!
We had an apt start to the day by visiting Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey before walking across to Downing Street. After negotiating security (which was slightly daunting), we found ourselves standing outside the iconic door of No.10. Having only ever seen it on TV before, I can confirm that the door is as shiny as it looks on camera – I’m sure that someone has the sole job of polishing it!
We were then invited inside and taken up the stairs past the photographs of all the previous Prime Ministers. As an unashamed Love Actually fan, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Hugh Grant’s memorable dance to Jump! It was surreal to sit at a Downing Street reception; the newly appointed education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, attended, as did the poets Lemn Sissay and Daljit Nagra (with whom we had a lovely conversation and photo opportunity.)
We heard a beautiful and moving array of recitations, and even heard the Secretary of State read the Imtiaz Dharker poem, ‘How to Cut a Pomegranate’ – a touching homage to his roots in Iraqi Kurdistan which is known for its cultivation of pomegranates.
It was an unforgettable day, and an affirmation that poetry is as relevant as ever and has the power to take you to some pretty cool places! Thank you to Mrs Millman Jones for helping to facilitate such an amazing experience.