Hello from Robert Garnham, 14th Bard of Exeter

Hello. My name is Robert Garnham, and this week I was appointed the new Bard of Exeter at a ceremony at the Phoenix Arts Centre. If you don’t know much about me, then here’s a brief introduction.

I am a comedy LGBT performance poet with over twelve years experience on the national scene. As the ‘Professor of Whimsy’, I’ve taken comedy poetry shows to fringes and festivals up and down the UK and to exotic places like New York, Berlin and Guildford. In 2017 a line from my show ‘Juicy’ was acclaimed as one of the funniest of the Edinburgh Fringe, which led to a short burst of press interest which fizzled out very quickly. I’ve also made a couple of TV adverts, and had three collections of poetry published by Burning Eye Books. I write a humour column in the Herald Express newspaper, and I have had short stories published all over the place.

It is a huge honour to be elected Bard. During the ceremony, thoughts turned to my friend Melanie Crump, whose passing two years ago robbed Exeter of an amazing Bard. Melanie and I performed regularly around Torbay, and it is an honour to be featured on the same list.

During the next year I am aiming to begin one or two projects which will draw artists and poets together and encourage creativity and inspiration. I have also begun a Bardic Diary, which I will update every now and then, and this will be available at the end of my tenure, detailing what I’ve been up to. Kind of like Alan Bennett’s diaries, only with less emphasis on Cream Crackers.

And here’s my 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.