How a little poetic justice from a Hackney woman can foodbank a little extra for the needy this Christmas

Nicola©DA18: Nicola Hilliard, author of poetry collection pictured, in Dudley’s, Dalston, London E8 © david.altheer@gmail.com 091218
Poems from a poverty frontline: Nicola Hilliard and her collection of verse
hollySnow©DA18: Christmas in a Dalston, Hackney, London E8 garden © david,altheer@gmail,com
The season of selfish consumerism… isn’t it better to give than to receive?

Nicola©DA18bk: Nicola Hilliard poetry collection, Dalston, London E8 © david.altheer@gmail.com 091218POETRY… as a Christmas present? In a small book? It’s a hard sell. Add that the poems are about food banks and the product might sound unsaleable. 

Far from it: Nicola Hilliard’s first collection of poetry will make you laugh, perhaps even cry, as you zip through her neat little stories from the food banks in Hackney for which she has volunteered. 

The Dalstoner started writing poetry late in life. She took a creative-writing adult-education course at the City Literary Institute in Holborn after having retired from her job as a librarian in Islington. 

While helping to care for homeless people using the night shelter at St Mark’s church hall in Dalston before the vicar told the operation one Christmas to find other premises, a colleague mentioned volunteering at a food bank. Now she works once a week — for example, unloading food and goods ordered from the central bank.

Hilliard told Loving Dalston: “We used to see 15 to 22 clients (users) in Stoke Newington; now it’s almost 30. 

“People ask me, ‘Are all the clients foreign?’ Shocking, eh? They’re not — you even get clients born here and who are in jobs.

“They may have trouble with universal credit or for some reason their benefits have been stopped. Some clients have drug or alcohol problems… oh, there are many reasons they need help. 

Nicola©DA18sketch: Nicola Hilliard poetry collection, Dalston, London E8 © david.altheer@gmail.com 091218
Ground-feeder: one of Salvatore Rubbino’s accompaniments for the poetry

“Most of the clients, I’d say 80% of them, don’t want to be there.”  From her perspective, she finds it “very rewarding, both being with the team and the clients”.

And they indirectly inspired her to write her bijou poems and give the  profits to Hackney food banks. Local friends helped to ease the poems into publication: one neighbour persuaded a professional illustrator to do some drawings for the book, another printed it. 

What can you do? You can buy it, at £6, from Pages Of Hackney, 70 Lower Clapton Road E5 0RN (020 8525 1452), and other bookshops will order it for you.

Nicola©DA18: Nicola Hilliard poetry collection, Dalston, London E8 © david.altheer@gmail.com 091218

David Altheer 111218

* Have you ever seen a cow eat eggs?, written and published by Nicola Hilliard, ISBN 9781789264883, £6 

* If you want to help with, or donate to, a Hackney food bank, press the link for information.

* Backstory: Unholy doubts about Dalston charity choiceCare home puts musical joy into the lives of residents

* All pictures on this page © DavidAltheer [at] gmail.com, and all for sale for reproduction. Most photographs are available in bigger formats. Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained. A link in no way expresses support for any site.

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