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Unearthed poetry gem adds sparkle to diamond anniversary of The Belgrade

The inspiration for the competition comes from the discovery of a poem written by Irish poet John Hewitt, then director of the Herbert Art Gallery, to mark the opening of the Belgrade in 1958.

Hewitt, below, right, was asked to write some words celebrating the opening of the Belgrade Theatre, a landmark moment in the city's cultural life.

As yet this Playhouse has no memories

but time must earn them, yielding us a share,

who tread this broad stage first, intent to please,

and you who first attend, expectant there.

So, sixty years from now, some lad grown old,

may tell with pride how he was here to see

the first bright scene within these walls unfold

like dawn athwart the spires of Coventry.

Some say this city breeds prosaic men,

without tradition, sceptic of the arts:

the wrench, the ratchet rather than the pen

relieve the coiled tensions of their hearts:

But in this Playhouse time can give the lie

to the rash judgment. Has there been an age

when hearts were chill to warm words' artistry

projected living from the peopled stage?

Here we now have this edifice designed

for all dramatice traffic, framed and lit

for any dance of language, limb or mind,

the clown, the lover or the man of wit.

This is no upstart town: in ancient days

the Corpus Christi guildsmen roared their lines;

from Gosford Street to Bishop Street their plays,

in vivid pageant, smote the Philistines;

and when the guilds went down, poor mummers came

in booth and shed, to dare the groundling's call,

or shod in stouter buskin, strode to fame

in old Saint Mary's multipurpose hall.

If you shopuld scan the annals, year by year,

you'd find no easy target set for scorn,

but proudly point the finger, saying, "Here

was Siddons married, Ellen Terry born."

Let these remembered burgeon in our thought

till drama fills its place within our lives.

As men of Athens, Shakespeare's London, wrought,

so nurtured, many a gesture that survives

the drive and drift of time, and still is part

of what, for good, man yet may claim as his -

the power and pathos of the playwright's art:

and may our city find its heart in this,

as loyally these walls safe home provide

for poet's craft, for actors' discipline:

and a great audience, generations wide,

achieve enhancement of their days therein.

The poem was discovered by BBC Coventry and Warwickshire presenter Vic Minett and panto legend Iain Lauchlan as they delved into the Belgrade archives, looking for anniversary material, earlier this year. Now the Belgrade is inviting entries that reflect its rich history over six decades, while looking forward to its future as an artistic hub for the city, particularly as City of Culture 2021 looms.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 3 September and the winning entry will be featured as part of the theatre's Diamond Anniversary Gala on Saturday 15 September.

Entries should be submitted by email to or via post to Press & PR Officer, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, CV1 1GS. Entrants must be 18 or over.

Tickets for the Diamond Anniversary Gala are available from the box office on 024 7655 3055 or online at

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