‘Light verse’: a multimedia poetry show inspired by the Sun to hit theatres in 2015 to celebrate the International Year of Light

Blog | Published on July 28, 2015


Is the Sun a god, a man, a woman, or simply a giant ball of hydrogen? Why does it tell fibs about its favourite painters? Is the Sun afraid of dying? Does it get depressed? And what does it really think about us?

Sunspots is a poetic, musical, and visual journey from the birth of the Sun, through its long and eventful life, towards its ultimate death. Simon Barraclough (Poet in Residence at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory) is your guide to the Sun in this exciting new multimedia performance that fuses science and art. To celebrate the International Year of Light, Simon is taking the show on the road to theatres and festivals all over England from October.

Simon spent the last two years researching and thinking about the Sun. He has visited the National Solar Observatory in Sunspot, New Mexico, and taken a trip to Tromsø, Norway to experience the polar night. He has spoken with solar scientists, astronomers and astrophysicists in his quest to find out what makes our neighbourhood star tick. The result of his research was a poetry collection, also entitled Sunspots, launched in April in the Planetarium of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

This hour-long show inspired by the book uses words, film and songs that vary in style from the infectiously poppy to the broodingly intense. Simon (words, music, vocals, trumpet), Oliver Barrett (music, instruments and arrangements) and Jack Wake-Walker (film) have created an exciting and moving experience that reinvigorates and reimagines our neighbourhood star.

Sunspots premieres at the Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival on 2nd October before going on tour across England. Simon will be at Reading’s South Street Arts Centre on National Poetry Day on 8th October (this year’s theme is ‘light’).


Watch a music video from Sunspots


Tour dates

2 Oct 2015 LONDON Southbank Centre
8 Oct 2015 READING South Street
13 Oct 2015 BOURNEMOUTH Arts Festival
28 Oct 2015 YORK St John University
6 Nov 2015 HULL Humber Mouth Festival
23 Nov 2015 FOLKESTONE Book Festival
7 Dec 2015 LONDON Kings Place
11 Jan 2016 OXFORD Playhouse (BT Studio)
26 Jan 2016 NOTTINGHAM Lakeside
28 Jan 2016 HALIFAX Square Chapel



Writer/performer: Simon Barraclough
Music: Simon Barraclough & Oliver Barrett
Film: Jack Wake-Walker
Director/producer: Tom Chivers

Produced by Penned in the Margins
Supported using public funding by Arts Council England



Simon Barraclough is originally from Yorkshire and has lived in London since 1997. His debut collection, Los Alamos Mon Amour was a Forward Prize finalist in 2008. In 2010 he published a pamphlet of commissioned poems, Bonjour Tetris (Penned in the Margins) and his second full collection Neptune Blue (Salt Publishing) followed in 2011. Simon has collaborated with artists and writers on a number of events and publications including Psycho Poetica (Editor, Sidekick Books 2012) and The Debris Field (with Isobel Dixon and Chris McCabe, Sidekick Books 2013). He has contributed regularly to BBC Radio’s The Verb and The Film Programme, as well as to The Long View. In 2014, Simon was writer in residence at UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Surrey and edited the anthology of new science-poetry Laboratorio (Sidekick Books, 2015). His latest poetry collection is Sunspots (Penned in the Margins, 2015). He is very excited about our neighbourhood star.

Penned in the Margins creates publications and performances for people who are not afraid to take risks. We believe in the power of language to challenge how we think, test new ideas and explore alternative stories. We operate across the arts, collaborating with writers, artists and creative partners using new platforms and technologies.

The International Year of Light is a global initiative which will highlight to the citizens of the world the importance of light and optical technologies in their lives, for their futures, and for the development of society. It is a unique opportunity to inspire, educate, and connect on a global scale.

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