POETRY… 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.
“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.
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.
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