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Ghost Light

As we navigate through these times of isolation, it has become more important than ever to stay connected and to stay positive. Ghost Light is a poetry competition aimed at nurturing our mental well-being, and an opportunity for our audiences to write about their own experiences. Every week, a literary guest will provide a theme or source of inspiration to kick things off. Whether in the form of haiku, sonnet, rhymed poetry or free verse send us your thoughts at this most unusual time. See below for details on how to enter.


Theme Ten: Family

It’s been ages since I’ve done this.
There was a time I’d do it every week
when I was married and had money.

And I remember my Dad when I was little
and up to the London for the day with Mum.
We’d meet him at his office after work

on our best behaviour in the lobby
under austere oil paintings of bewhiskered dukes.
And he’d step out of the lift, potent,

a politician, wrapped in this sense of what
I’d now call ‘agency’. He always
looked so pleased and proud of us.

He’d take us to Spaghetti House and afterwards
he stand on the kerb and hail a cab, one hand
thrust confidentially, casually in the air,

as now, beside my own limp boys in midday throng
outside the Science Museum, I do the same.
Right arm in the air, left around their shoulders

his magic trick to extinguish the orange light.
And as it’s snubbed out and the cab slows
to a stop, I let myself believe it might

yet have the same effect.

To Hail a Cab by Luke Wright, as chosen by Luke himself.


Theme Nine: Freedom

Be silent; don’t speak.
It is a shame; stop your voice;
Be silent already.
And if speech is made of silver
Silence is made of gold.

The first words I heard as a child
when I cried, laughed, played
“be silent!”

At school they told me half truths
they told me: “what do you care? Be silent”

When a girl first kissed me, they told me
“Shhh be silent; don’t say a word”

Stop your voice; and don’t speak; be silent.
This went on until I became 20 years old.

The words of the grown up; the silence of the child.

I saw blood in the streets
“what do you care” they told me “you gonna get in trouble, be silent”

Later on my bosses got angry
“don’t get involved; keep your nose clean; be silent”

I got married, had children; I taught them to be silent
My wife was loyal and industrious and knew how to be silent.
She had a prudent mother who told her: “be silent”

During leap years my parents, my neighbours advised me
“be silent; don’t get involved; pretend you did not see anything; be silent”
We might have not had an envied relationship with our neighbours
But we were connected to them by “be silent”

“Be silent” this person said and that one.
Those high up: “be silent”
Those below: “be silent.”
“Be silent” said our neighbourhood
“Be silent” our city.
We swallowed our tongue.
We have a mouth but no voice
We even formed an association:
“The silent ones”
And there were many of us: a whole country, a big power
But mute

We were successful; we reached high goals; we received medals and rewards
Only with “be silent”
This “be silent” a great art.

Teach it to your children, your wife, your mother in law
And when you feel the need to speak
Deracinate your tongue
Make it stop.
Cut it off completely
Throw it to the dogs
It is an unnecessary tool when you don’t use it correctly.

You will sleep well at night this way; no nightmares; no doubts; no guilt
You will not feel ashamed in front of your kids
You will save yourself from having to speak
To say “you are right; I am like you; one of you”
But ahhh!
-Wretched me-
How I wish I could speak

But you will not
You will become a salivating verbalist

Cut off your tongue
Cut it off now
Become a mute
Since you are not gonna speak;
you should dare that much.
Cut off your tongue.

This way you will be consistent with my plans
With my dreams
I retain my tongue amidst tears and cries
Because I fear that there will come a moment
Where I won’t be able to take it anymore
I will burst out
I won’t be afraid
I will hope
And every minute
I will fill my throat
With one syllable
One whisper
One stutter
One howl
Which will tell me:

Be Silent by Aziz Nezin, as chosen by Georgia Dimopoulou, a cast member from the community co-production Palm to Palm.

Poster for I Clowns by Federico Fellini

Theme Eight: Performance

As I stumble through this life,
help me to create more laughter than tears,
dispense more happiness than gloom,
spread more cheer than despair.

Never let me become so indifferent,
that I will fail to see the wonders in the eyes of a child,
or the twinkle in the eyes of the aged.

Never let me forget that my total effort is to cheer people,
make them happy,
and forget momentarily,
all the unpleasantness in their lives.

And in my final moment,
may I hear You whisper:
“When you made My people smile,
you made Me smile.”

The Clown’s Prayer by Anonymous, as chosen by Massimilliano Rosseti, Creative Director of Lost In Translation Circus. The image is the film poster for “I Clowns”, directed by Federico Fellini.

Theme Seven: Pride

Norwich is home to five gay clubs and bars so take my hand,
I’ll show you where they are.
On Seventy Seven Prince Of Wales Road
is Fetch night club but it was once called Flaunt.
There on Seventy One Riverside Road
is Lollard’s Pit, a gay owned public house.
The Catherine Wheel’s on Saint Augustine Street
ran by Bernice and Dawn: Mummy B, D.
Then at Eighty Rose Lane there is The Loft
that used to be called The Caribbean.
There on One Spitalfields is The Castle,
gay pub and club with bed and breakfast too.
Within these clubs I have got lost and found.
These pubs are my front room, classroom, playground.

Norwich Is Home by James McDermott, as chosen by James himself.
The original poem has been selected from James’ upcoming book MANATOMY,
released on Wednesday 26 August.

Laughter by Philip Malyavin

Theme Six: Laughter

Laughter is infectious.
It is a joyful sound that
Once it starts ringing,
Passes all around.

Laughter is infectious.
Some folks have no clue
As to what another’s laughter
Could do unto you.

Laughter is infectious.
You can get it on a whim,
But chances of it harming
Are very, very slim.

Laughter Is Infectious by Walterrean Salley as chosen by Karl Minns. The painting is called: “Laughter” by Phillip Malyavin.

Theme Five: Friendship

come to my garden and pretend to get along.
Please let me introduce the scientists. Yes,
he studies the behaviour of bees.
Friends from my childhood,
I do not think you stupid and boring.
Assistant editors, step away from the pond.
This man has written a dystopian
sci-fi novel; this man is an eco-carpenter.

I am on the roof, feeling so various,
astonished by my own width,
with water bombs in each hand.

All my friends regardless, as chosen by Molly Naylor.

Ghost Light - Gratitude

Theme Four: Gratitude

“Gratitude brings hope when we are hope-less, peace when we are despairing and healing when we are broken.”

The painting is called: “Bloom when Ready and Not a Moment Before” by Mary Blue Brady.

Chosen by Lady Anwen Hurt, Artistic Director of Holt Festival and trustee of the Sir John Hurt Film Trust.

A group of Norwich Theatre Volunteers

Theme Three: Togetherness

“I love this picture of our amazing team of volunteers and cannot wait for the day we can all be together again.”

Chosen by Norwich Theatre chief executive, Stephen Crocker.

Theme Two: Community

I can remember a time
when the neighbourhood bond was strong.
When you could chat to one another
over the fence about everything going on.
Resolving the problems that others had,
and helping them to get through.
Those days are in the past.
Oh, where have they gone?
The community spirit of long, long ago.

Community Spirit by David Harris as chosen by Our Lord Lieutenant, Lady Dannatt


Theme One: Kindness

‘We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead – you first,” “I like your hat.”‘

This excerpt is from Small Kindnesses by Danusha Laméris as chosen by Chris Gribble


Your submissions will be shared on social media and on our website, and will form part of a commemorative book that will be published at the end of the project. All submissions will be judged by local literary figures, and the three winning poems will be displayed across our three buildings when they re-open to the public.

The title Ghost Light is inspired by the stories and superstitions of the theatre world. A ghost light is a small, bare light that shines on the dark stage when the theatre is closed and unoccupied. Its primary reason is safety, a ghost light ensures that nobody accidentally trips up in the dark or falls off the stage. However, theatre people are a superstitious bunch and there are a number of stories surrounding the origin of this charming tradition… Maybe the ghost light is there to give theatre ghosts, former actors themselves, enough light to perform on stage… Or maybe is to keep those ghosts away so that they don’t get mischievous while everyone is gone!

To Enter:

– Email your submission to – using the subject heading: ‘Ghost Light’. Please include your name, age, address, and the title of the poem.

– Participants who wish to share supplementary drawings or illustrations, can include them as attachments in their email.


Terms & Conditions:

1. The Ghost Light competition by Norwich Theatre is open to anyone aged 10+.
2. The Closing date for the competition is 30 June 2020.
3. A single entrant can submit a maximum of three poems. All entries will be considered.
4. The poems can be written in any style. All poems must have a title and must not exceed 250 words in length (excluding title). Entrants will be provided with weekly themes and sources of inspiration by Norwich Theatre, via our website, social media platforms and weekly e-newsletters.
5. Entrants, if they so wish, can accompany their poem with a photograph, drawing or illustration.
6. Poems must be the entrant’s original work and written in English.
7. Copyright remains with the authors, but we reserve the right to publish the poems in any format.
8. Please include all of your poems on a single word document or PDF, in font size 11pt or larger. Your name and address must be included on the poem entries.
9. No alterations can be made to a poem once it has been submitted.
10. The three winners will be requested to provide a biography, headshot photograph and to take part in any subsequent publicity surrounding the poetry challenge.
11. All winning poems will be announced and published on our website and on Norwich Theatre social media platforms. The poems may also be used to decorate Norwich Theatre buildings, upon the re-opening of the organisation.
12. Employees of Norwich Theatre are not eligible to enter the competition for judged works, however, their submissions will be considered for inclusion in the commemorative book.