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My Bristol: Kat Lyons

Meet the new Bristol City Poet, Kat Lyons.

I first moved to Bristol in March 2013 and I lived in a pop-up tent in my mate’s concrete yard in Easton until I got myself sorted out. I love how easily you can escape out of the city to green places, and how the city feels like lots of little towns with separate personalities all squashed together. I’ve just moved house to Montpelier/St Pauls and am really enjoying exploring all the little side streets and shops in my new area.

I’ve written poetry since I was little but only attended my first spoken word night in 2017 – I was hooked immediately! I started going to nights regularly and then I started performing and it just snowballed from there. I’ve been freelance for a few years now doing various sorts of performance and hosting events and workshops. I’m a strong believer that poetry should be accessible for anyone to write or enjoy or use to share their experiences. It always feels like such a gift to have the opportunity to create something that reaches other people and changes the world for them – even if just briefly. It’s quite a magical feeling, and as close to being a wizard as I can imagine.

Being the next Bristol City Poet feels amazing, but also slightly intimidating – Miles, Vanessa and Caleb left me some big shoes to fill! I’m looking forward to making the role my own though, and asking questions about the city in my own particular way.

I’d really like to explore experiences of mutual aid and community solidarity. Bristol is a beautiful city in many ways, but the things that make it so attractive can also contribute to gentrification and make it difficult for people to live here. The harbourside might draw someone for a visit, but it’s the conversations in their local corner shop or at the school gates that make up the fabric of their everyday lives, and all the little stories that make up the soul of a city.

I wrote Dry Season after being diagnosed with premature menopause at 37. This experience was pretty intense and stressful, but the show ended up being quite funny, in the way that tough experiences often make good stories to tell later. It’s been amazing touring it – so many women have come up afterwards and shared their stories with me, and it felt like a real step up for my career. It will be touring again in the autumn.

Having worked in hospitality for years, I think every bar and café worker should get a gold medal for dealing with drunk short-tempered summer crowds: I’d like to give them a shout-out this month.

What with moving house and this intense heatwave I’ve been pretty tired and stressed recently, and when that happens I tend to decompress by re-reading fairytales and books I loved as a child. I’m also reading The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, which is an incredible speculative fiction novel set in a post-apocalyptic world that feels far too close to ours for comfort in places. I’m also addicted to the podcast Ologies – I love learning weird facts about science and the natural world, and sometimes little pieces of them resurface in poems later on.

Eat Your Greens do the best (and hugest) vegan breakfast. The Hillgrove is my new local and is perfect for a quiet afternoon pint in the garden. And I always love going out to the Old Market Assembly to watch a show in the Wardrobe theatre or have cocktails with friends on their roof terrace.

My mum died a few years ago – she always cooked loads for me so I’d love to be able to return the favour one last time. If I could invite the film star Mae West to the party too that would be great, as she seems like she’d be loads of fun to hang out with and could share lots of scandalous stories of old Hollywood stars.

My philosophy in life is: be kind and remember to appreciate the small things.

The role of the City Poet runs for two years and is managed by Bristol Ideas in association with the Mayor’s Office; bristolideas.co.uk; katlyons.co.uk