Hello, Overhear is back from a few days in Riga here is an update on what we got up to.
Approx. 2.5hrs from Stansted Riga is Latvia's capitol city, home to just under 638,000 people on the edge of the Baltic Sea. Usually a little mild this time of year we arrived in a May heat wave...
On day one poet Anna Lawrence and I scouted out the city. Anna had written 5 pieces inspired from her previous trip in March and these were to be pinned around the city in places reflecting the poems content. We decided that some of the pins should be placed back from the specific points that they referenced to echo in someway the distance felt by the traveller to the significance of monuments like Riga's Freedom Monument. Bridges were also seen as an appropriate place to pin poems that we were to be translated from English into Latvian and Russian.
I met with Laura that evening, one of the Punctum Festival organisers busy hand making the festival programs in a Museum just north of the centre to record the two translators. As it was so hot we had all the windows open and so the recordings, like Anna's back in Birmingham, picked up the light sound of passing traffic, bird song and at one point a flute performance from somewhere else in the building.
Andris who recorded the translated poems in Russian will be working on this exchange project when it comes to Birmingham in October for the Birmingham Literature Festival.
During the first two days I was able to visit much of the city's turn of the century Art Nouveau architecture which it is well known for. I think this was my absolute favourite:
I then took the tram to historic Āgenskalns, a beautiful area of wooden panelled houses and parks typical of the Baltic style.
On the Wednesday evening we met with Laura and Villis from Punctum Festival to undertake our scheduled tour of the city collecting the poems we had placed along the way. We were joined by about 18 people and set off to each location to pick up poems and hear Anna's live reading of each piece. I found some of the Android phones weren't fully compatible with the app and so an update has now been released to accommodate more android devices. The poems will say up until the end of October when the second part of the project has taken place.
On the last day before our flight I decided to get up early and explore the markets housed in 4 huge aircraft hangers near the central station. They were moved there from another part of Latvia where they were used to construct Zeppelins! I then took the elevator to the top of The Academy of Sciences building for one last panoramic view of the city. The tower is nicknamed "Stalins Birthday Cake" as there were almost identical towers built in many soviet cities replicating Moscow's "Severn Sisters" in the Stalinist style.
A huge thank you to Punctum Festival and Birmingham Literature Festival for inviting me along!
On returning home to West Bromwich I couldn't help but feel a strange sense of familiarity while approaching the foot path that crosses over the A41 dual carriage way... not sure why...