On the No 8 bus this morning I peered anxiously out of the window as we passed St Andrew Square. Ever since I helped to plant poetry in the garden for the Lost World Read the weather seems to be doing its best to blow the whole lot to the kingdom of Fife. Or some dark corner of Harvey Nicks, maybe. Come to think of it, that would be a nice poetic irony.
The Lost World Read is this year’s big give away for Edinburgh City of Literature. Along with Glasgow and Bristol, they will be handing out thousands of copies of Conan Doyle’s adventure. All free of charge. Not only that but there are free exhibitions and flights of fancy in unexpected places.
While the Titian painting has been secured in the National Gallery for a mere £50 million, creative souls elsewhere in the capital city are achieving small miracles for next to nothing.
Looking out the bus I could see the poetry stakes were still there. Willow wands were doing what willow always does, bending to the wind, poetry labels were fluttering valiantly in the storm. It’s an unobtrusive kind of display, almost just a part of the garden. The idea is that people can find hidden messages, brief thoughts hanging in the air. and if they feel like it they can stop to read as they take a short cut through a public space. Amazingly people were stopping to read almost as soon as the poetry was planted.
Take the No 8 a few stops in the other direction and you will find more poetry hidden among the lost world plants in the Palm House at the Botanics. Along with extracts from the Conan Doyle book, and discreetly placed stories about plants from a world of nature that may soon be truly lost.
All this on a budget of next to nothing – unless of course you add up the time and imagination enthusiastically given by small but richly talented groups like City of Literature, the Scottish Poetry Library and the remarkable behind-the-scenes folk at the Botanics.
At the end of the journey I picked up my free copy of The Lost World. If there is a moral to this tale it is that, in the right creative hands, a little money can go a very long way. I just hope the willow stakes will stay where they are for at least a few more weeks.