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Terroir by Gregory Leadbetter

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Gregory Leadbetter is the prolific author of two poetry collections, a pamphlet, an award-winning book, poetry and radio dramas for the BBC and an extensive portfolio of essays on English Romantic, twentieth-century and contemporary poetry. It’s fair to say that it’s difficult to find a form of writing he hasn’t challenged himself with – but by asking him to compose a piece to be digitally pinned at Connolly’s Wines, we think we might have managed it. Join us for the tasting of a medium-bodied interview with hints of comic possibilities and a few notes on what wine and words have in common:

Like all our writers for this season of Overhear, Greg was connected with us through Writing West Midlands and Birmingham Literature Festival. He tells us: ‘I’ve appeared in many guises at the Birmingham Literature Festival over the last eight years; it’s a major part of the great work Writing West Midlands do. I was invited to get involved in Overhear – and very glad to contribute. I liked the whole idea of the project, anything that allows people to experience literature in different ways interests me.’

Greg’s chosen venue is Connolly’s Wines, a family-owned and -run Wine Merchants based in Birmingham since 1976. ‘I’m delighted that I could work with Connolly’s Wines as a venue, for a number of reasons: I’ve known Chris Connolly (one of the family) for some years through the Crescent Theatre in Birmingham, where we have both performed many times (hello Chris!) – but quite simply’ he adds, ‘I also like wine…’

Greg’s poem imagines the area in which Connolly’s Wines is situated as its titular Terroir, a word he defines for us as ‘that blend of soil, climate and other environmental conditions that contributes so much to the character of a wine.’

‘That threw up some mildly comic possibilities –’ in the poem, Greg describes tasting ‘exhaust, but not diesel, unleaded’ alongside more sophisticated flavours – ‘but at the same time allowed me to focus on the contribution that a wine outlet makes to human experience (for those that drink it) and to the character of Birmingham

as a city. It’s a brilliantly vivacious place to be. There are lots of things I find stimulating and pleasurably provocative about Birmingham, not least the fusion of local character and internationalism that it has in common with wine.’

‘I am very interested in place and the way “place” travels, he tells us, ‘Wine is inherently both local and internationalist – a way of bringing out distinctly local qualities and at the same time of travelling to other places, other worlds if you will.’

If you’re interested in finding out what worlds Greg’s distinctly local poetry could take you to, his poem is available to collect from Connolly’s Wines.

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