Zones of Avoidance

The winner of the Ted Hughes award for new work in poetry will be announced in a few days’ time. Meanwhile on Saturday night last year’s winner, Maggie Sawkins, launched Zones of Avoidance, a collection of poetry based on her multimedia production that triumphed in 2014, at Portsmouth’s historic Square Tower, a former gunpowder store, from where you can watch a constant flow of ferries coming in and out, and see the Isle of Wight across the water.

Zones of Avoidance, however, with its story about a mother trying to deal with her daughter’s drug addiction, and the heartrending moment when a baby has to be given up for adoption, is no picture-postcard portrait of this old naval city.

Playwright and director Mark Hewitt, who worked with Sawkins on the award-winning project, welcomed members of the recovery community in Portsmouth who were at the launch, and who had collaborated with the film and the recording of their own words. He told how the project began in October 2012 with the recording of first-person testimonies of recovering addicts, and how much was put together in the basement bar of the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth – not that glamorous a location, we were led to understand. He said: “There were so many layers of text … we realised we had a significant piece of work.” The journey ended “at this posh club in London, where Maggie won the award, which was incredible”.

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