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28 October 2014

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Lau Thiamkok
Lau Thiamkok

The writing is on the wall!

By Jo Loosemore
A local artist is literally building a future for public poetry in Plymouth.

Lau Thiamkok is a local artist supported by the BBC Radio Devon Breeze scheme.

His six poems – When I Am Old, A Hunch and A Dog, The Inhabitant, I Am A Poem, Humming and Shi De are now all on show in Plymouth's Old Town Street.

Lau decided to produce his poems for buildings in the changing city centre as a way of bringing poetry to local public attention.

Lau, originally from Malaysia, trained in graphic design and regards himself as neither an artist nor poet, but as someone interested in the relationship between people, poetry with architecture.

A shopper reads the poems
Lau wants to bring poetry to a wider public

"You can only hear poems in certain performing events at certain places.

"You find poems in the small corners of bookshops, or being encouraged by particular societies and you only see poems being all the rage in certain seasons of celebrations.

"This makes poetry almost invisible to our lives."

Thanks to the Breeze scheme and the assistance of construction partners P&O Developments, Drakes Circus and ROK, Lau has been able to give his work more attention.

All six poems are now on display in Plymouth city centre as part of the new Drakes Circus development.

"My idea was to publicise poetry in the same way that we see hundreds of products and services advertised in our daily lives; on advertising boards.

Lau Thiamkok
Lau's poems are about attitudes to age

"This will not be to make a direct profit, rather to nurture and cherish hearts, to make people feel good.

"It will make someone smile and say 'Oh! That's like me!' or 'This is nice'; a very simple idea, but it can help to make someone's day."

Lau's six poems all concentrate on changing attitudes to age. Here's one of them:


When you are eighty and dying,
What is left from your twenties?
Your skin is rotting you,
Your cosmetics are giving you away,
Your hairs are greying in silence,
Slipping away while you are sleeping.
What is left by then?
My heart never leaves you;
Even one day when you are lying
Under the green land,
If you return
With just a little,
A little tinge of whisper
You make with the wind
That sends you here,
Even though I am sleeping,
I will love you as in my twenties
As I do.

Lau is the first artist to exhibit at the new city centre development.

Breeze aims to seek out raw and emerging talent in the arts and media and to create a broad range of opportunities to help people on their creative journeys.

Jointly sponsored by BBC South West and the Arts Council, each project features artists working with media and arts professionals to realise their ambitions. Now construction industries have developed the partnership.

John Mellitt, regional leader of ROK, said: "As the nation's local builder, our focus is serving our local communities so we are delighted to be working with P&O on the development of Drake Circus Shopping Centre, which is such an important project for Plymouth.

"We thought that brightening up the site with these painted panels was a great idea and we hope shoppers and visitors to the city will enjoy the chance to view some fine original artwork while building work is under way to create fantastic new retail facilities."

The poems are on display at 27, Old Town Street until Saturday 15th July.

last updated: 20/06/06
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