Robert Garnham 2021 Bardic Manifesto 

My main impetus from the Bardic Oath is to encourage inspiration in creatives, and this is something I want to highlight during my time as Bard. I see art, and artistic creation, as something which transcends boundaries and labels, and I would love to encourage dialogue and working relationships between different art forms. Indeed, as someone who is wary to even label their own output as ‘poetry’ – (even though my pieces are all named ‘Poem’!) – I see it as essential that people look beyond narrow confines and become experimental, more audacious in their art. If you’re writing a poem and you feel it needs something sung in the middle, then sing! Or dance! Or stop everything and start to paint a picture halfway through a performance. The possibilities are endless!

As an LGBT performer, I want to continue the work that the Bardship has done in shining a light on those from diverse backgrounds.

As a comedy performer, I’d interested in seeing what role art can take in helping people address mental health issues. Comedy is all about enjoyment and helping people have a good time, but not everyone is having a good time. I would like to encourage people to talk more, and be honest and willing to help, or at least, to listen.

And finally, I want to have some fun, and help other people have fun, too! The world has been through a lot over the last five years. We are all in this together, and we’ve all had dark times. I want to use the Bardship to allow art to be an escape, a refuge, perhaps even a mirror, inverting everything.

And also, I promise solemnly, that I’ll try and get the toilets near the library sorted out.

Tim King 2019-2021 Bardic Manifesto

Due to taking up the Bardship on Melanie’s request for him to take the role over from her on National Poetry day 2019 (Oct 3rd), Tim is the first Bard not to present a Manifesto. He has taken it upon himself to support the Exeter Bardic scene through the Covid-19 Pandemic by migrating Taking The Mic, his monthly open mic, online. He has also introduced weekly drop-in sessions for poets, spoken word artists and all consider themselves part of the Bardic tradition, to provide a support network and peer writing group to create the space for our community to grow and flourish in these changing times. Find out what he’s up to on our What’s On page

Melanie’s 2019 Bardic Manifesto

Exeter Culture has recently appointed Literature Works to put together an application for

UNESCO City of Literature status, I already work with the agency and would like to extend this relationship in the role of Bard to help Exeter achieve and promote this.

I recently led a poetry session for people living with dementia and was impressed by the level of interaction from the group, I was even more impressed to discover that the gentleman who read aloud the most had not spoken in three years. The power of poetry is truly amazing. I already deliver workshops in community mental health settings so I would use the Bardic role to fully promote the healing benefits of creative writing and, hopefully, see it recognised and used as an excellent tool in the management of many health conditions.

Also, women are still underrepresented in the arts so I would like to use the role of Bard to focus on women’s groups and female artists. I recently ran an amazing event for International

Women’s Day and I believe that as Bard I could interact with and inspire other women to find their voices.


In the poem ‘Leisure’, William Henry Davies reminds us that ‘we have no time to stand and

stare’ and it’s true we live in a fast-paced world, so I would like to bring poetry to the pavements with performances, art installations and public exhibitions in the hope that people will just stop for a moment and enjoy the beauty of language.


In addition to the above my aims and objectives are:

  • to improve the Bard of Exeter’s online presence and further develop the idea of a Bardic Festival
  • to support Exeter’s cultural scene and encourage events with mixed performance mediums.
  • having previously been on the Torbay Poetry Festival committee, I feel equipped to helpExeter Poetry Festival grow and secure future funding.
  • to deliver at least three educational and two therapeutic workshops and be both visible andapproachable in the role of Bard.


Kimwei’s Manifesto Review, End of April 2019

This review shows what aspects of my manifesto I achieved and makes suggestions for the future. As well as supporting the Exeter Bardic scene, my personal push has been towards cross-pollination of the Bardic forms (poetry, storytelling, song). This may or may not be the new Bard’s mission. 


Personal Review

Being Bard has been a dream come true for me. I did not expect the power of the oath to the city to have such a deep impact on my life. For the first time, I felt I had a home in the City, and this came through my commitment to the Bardship.

Personal challenges that I would have otherwise found hard became easy to face. If I was asked to do something I had never done before, like write and perform a poem, lead a ritual, tell a story or even host a storytelling evening, I could do it without worrying. This is because, as Bard, I had made a commitment to respond to the city and its people, and that was more important than how good or bad I might be at trying something for the first time. If the Bardic role required a new skill, I learned it, and felt supported by the confidence my community had in me to do so. I wish the same to the new Bard.


Aims and Objectives Met:

  • Create a “What’s on” Facebook group.

    DONE, but not as useful as I thought – few people joined and posted. Next action: This could be reviewed with the next Bard. Would they take it over and continue to promote and expand it, or should it be closed and another method of making sure people know “What’s On” be tried out?

  • Create a Bardic website and post monthly in a Bardic Blog ( DONE but again not as useful as expected.  I stopped posting regularly on the website’s bardic blog after I realised I had no resources for promoting the site. Instead I moved over to posting news on social media, since it was more visible. In the coming year I would love it if the site could be better promoted, by someone with SEO skills or additional web-skills.
  • Organise at least 2 mixed discipline events during the year: HALF DONE Managed 1, but not 2. 
  • Provide at least 2 educational workshops during the year: DONE but not in the way I imagined – the Bardship informed two Narrative In Music Performance Workshops I gave. 
  • Be visible in local media, attend events and perform, plugging “what’s on” as a matter of course: DONE – Exceeded expectations, attending far more events and open mics than expected, announcing “What’s on” in the coming month at each one. These included:
    • Taking The Mic (Exeter Phoenix)
    • Uncut Poets (Exeter Phoenix)
    • Exeter Story Club (The Cowick Barton, Exeter) including hosting 3 times.
    • The Word Cafe (Totnes)
    • Big Poetry (The Blue Walnut, Torquay)
    • Exeter Pride
    • Exeter Arts Week
    • Exeter Respect Festival
    • Exeter Street Arts Festival
    • Exeter Poetry Festival
    • Exeter Literary Festival (attending only)
    • Come As You Are Festival (Exeter Phoenix)
    • Snake Tales with David Heathfield – A Storytelling show (Crediton Arts Centre)
    • Phonic FM Radio
    • BBC Radio Devon
    • Cauldron of Changes Exeter Meetups (Rougemont Gardens, Exeter) – which ran every Saturday at 7pm during late summer and autumn 2018.

Conclusions and Potential Action Points:

  • WEBSITE: is vital but needs a visibility boost to be more effective.
  • WHAT’S ON?: An online means of telling people “What’s on” in terms of Exeter specific Bardic events is still not in place. This needs some review/brainstorming.
  • BEING VISIBLE: My experience has been that a Bard can be most effective in bringing the Exeter scene together by being present at events, announcing upcoming events and being openly approachable. This leads to unexpected opportunities suggested by the community.
  • CROSS POLLINATION: Cross-pollination between the arts is hard to encourage. Neither audiences nor artists are used to the idea. Promoting my Dec 1st Event which showcased a musician (myself), Storyteller (David Heathfield) and poet (Fiona Benson), in an art gallery (Veronica Gosling) was difficult because people described being put off by the idea of three performance mediums in one night. Yet, punters and performers fed back on the night that they were delighted by the mix. My belief is that more events and more performers being willing to learn to mix mediums themselves will develop a culture of cross-pollination which can be very rich and rewarding. 


Exeter City Bardic Scene April 2018-April 2019 Review

Highlights of The Exeter Scene:

Exeter has a wonderful festival culture, particularly where festivals disperse themselves throughout the city (Street Arts, Respect, Arts Week). This can be strongly supported by the Bard in terms of attendance, performance and promotion. 

Exeter Poetry Festival’s finale of the Sunday night Poetry slam enjoyed record breaking attendance and exceptionally high quality competitors, thanks to the ongoing growth of Taking The Mic over the last few years. 

The city is also able to provide at least one spoken word event per week (or equivalent), which is about right for the size of the city and a good frequency to allow artistic communities to develop. Each night has become more and more open to mixed mediums with the occasional story at Taking The Mic and more and more songs and comedy appearing. Exeter Story Club has enjoyed some first timers who are usually poets, telling their first story, and more storytellers working with instrumental accompanists. 

The LGBTQ+ scene, bringing the Come As You Are Festival to Exeter, made way for a highly experimental Scratch Night, in which 5 performers tried out performance pieces which defied categorization. 

Spork has, for the first time, brought a regular performance poetry night to Exeter, which is growing fast and putting on great quality acts. 


Areas For Development:

The loss of the Bike Shed Theatre, a year ago, is still impacting the scene. Although some venues have come forward to host similar events (Exeter Phoenix Workshop, Little Drop of Poison, The City Gate), this is not as easy as a centralised venue. My expectation is that a new venue will not appear, but those that have come forward will continue to develop a reputation, and this is to be encouraged.

Exeter Poetry Festival has fewer resources than it used to, with a smaller core team in 2018 than ever before and for the first time, no Arts Council Funding. Someone with energy and skills to give to this Festival could help it to regrow its size and secure funding in the coming year.

Exeter Story Club is going strong and enjoys a wonderful and co-operative venue in the Cowick Barton Inn, but struggles to grow in numbers due to its location (2 miles from the centre of town). An equally welcoming but more central location could help it to gain audience. 


Development of The Bardic Scene

I suggest a 1 day Bardic Festival which encourages people to try out or develop their relationship with Bardic Arts could help to develop the scene in the coming year.



Daytime 10-4pm:

  • Opening Creative Intention Ritual / Introduction
  • Workshops for existing artists to try something new e.g – Poetry workshops for songwriters and storytellers.
  • Absolute beginners workshops in Bardship, encouraging people to tell their stories in spoken or sung words.
  • Walking workshops which connect people to the city, inviting them to respond creatively along the way. 
  • Closing meeting and sharing.

Evening 7-10pm:

  • Showcase performances from daytime workshops
  • Professional Performances


Original April 2018 to April 19 Manifesto

by Kimwei

The role of Bard does not come with any particular responsibilities or funding, but I would love to use it to support the spoken word and songwriting community in Exeter and the bringing together of the bardic arts (poetry, storytelling and songwriting).


To serve the city, as Bard, by:

  • Supporting the existing scene
  • Encouraging crosspollination and integration within the bardic arts
  • Outreach: seeking new artists and new audiences
  • Being visible and active as bard to achieve the above.

Main Objectives:

  • Create a “What’s on” Facebook group
  • Create a Bardic website and post monthly in a Bardic Blog (
  • Organise at least 2 mixed discipline events during the year.
  • Provide at least 2 educational workshops during the year.
  • Be visible in local media, attend events and perform, plugging “what’s on” as a matter of course.

As well this, I’ll be contacting key members of the current scene to ask what they need most from the new bard.

Finally, why I am I qualified?

I am an experience songwriter and performer, which has also trained me communicate effectively with press. I teach a Music Degree course including modules on event management and artist development. Two years running I was on the team for The Exeter Poetry Festival during the week itself. I have a passion for mixing music and spoken word, so have created live soundtracks for storytellers David Heathfield and Widsith & Deor. I ran Duckaroo a few years ago, the only Exeter open mic to consistently attract 50/50 poets and songwriters. These experiences leave me equipped with a wide skillset, so I can serve well as Bard.