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AccessAbility Arts interview (Freddie Barker)

Welcome to another AccessAbility Arts interview! I am truly delighted to shine a light on the remarkable work being done by inspiring women, multicultural groups, LGBTQIA+ community members, and individuals with disabilities in the world of art and accessibility. In this edition, I had the pleasure of speaking with Freddie Barker. Freddie, who currently holds the title of Worcestershire Poet Laureate (2024-25), is a dynamic multimedia artist. Throughout their time pursuing a film degree at Worcester, they have passionately devoted themselves to hosting poetry workshops, organising fundraisers, coordinating arts events, and creating new opportunities for their fellow students. Furthermore, as the founder of Worcester’s very own Speak Volumes! Festival, Freddie dreams of crafting poems that are as vivid as their uniquely colourful hair.

If you're on social media, give them a follow. Instagram: Facebook:

Here is the interview

DK: Can you tell us about your journey to becoming the Worcestershire Poet Laureate for 2024-25?

FB: Yes! It’s quite bizarre, as my journey can only be described as a transformation from “poetry hater” to “Poet Laureate”!

When school-aged, I had little tolerance for poetry. I found it was boring, outdated, and used exclusively by historic white men to talk about war, death, and daffodils. (Sorry, Wordsworth!) I found the pre-GCSE syllabus uninspiring to say the least.

This all changed when I came to university - specifically the student-run Poetry Society. Amidst hardcore assignment cramming, hardcore team sports, and hardcore drinking on a Wednesday: I found an oasis of likeminded people at poetry. It was a judgement-free zone to be creative, emotional, and social: without breaking the bank (or any bones!) And more importantly, it proved that you can write poetry about ANYTHING: using contemporary language and relatable urban themes to say how we really feel. War poetry still has its place: but for me, poetry became fresh, bold, and exciting.

I applied to join the committee, and soon put in the hours to organise poetry events; run weekly writing workshops; raise over £1,000 for various charities, collaborate with local arts venues, and of course an end-of-year celebration…

Pouring in buckets of love led to phenomenal growth: from Society of the Year to landing the society’s first ever BOOK DEAL! - I had been working on connections inside AND beyond University from the start.

Applying for the laureateship was an exciting next step - and when Worcestershire LitFest told me I was a competition finalist, I couldn’t believe my eyes!

DK: How did your experiences during your film degree at Worcester influence your passion for hosting poetry workshops and arts events?

FB: Yep, I’m a film student! I chose my joint honours degree for the Screenwriting half - as this has always been my passion. Left to pick between the option of Film Production or Creative Writing - I chose film (despite knowing next to nothing) because I didn’t want to do poetry! Oh, the irony…

That being said - I’ve learned so many industry-specific AND transferable skills. Being offered the chance to go to higher education has been such a privilege - and opened doors I never thought could open for me. Worcester has changed my life entirely - new confidence, new skills, new contacts - I’ll never forget the joy of student life.

I also have a new-found respect and passion for the creativity in the world around me. Understanding the creative process means I now see art EVERYWHERE - and I love it.

So, while film hasn’t directly powered my poetry, I’d argue my confidence and perspective wouldn’t exist without it. I hope to merge the two forms more frequently going forward…

DK: We all know how important it is to look after our mental health, so tell us, do you have any strategies you use to maintain positive mental health in your daily life?

FB: Well, I was removed from mainstream education aged 14, due to mental illness. I never went back. Sat 5 GCSEs at home, and have zero A-levels to this day.

I still can’t decide if I’m under-qualified to talk about mental health, as someone who still struggles with everyday coping, or overqualified as someone who has relied on therapy, medication, and/or psychatric intervention since the age of 8!

What I will say is this: the most powerful thing you can do for yourself is say “NO”. Being your own advocate, and having the bravery to speak up when you’re unwell is a must.

I’m bubbling over with enthusiasm for community projects, creative arts, and new projects - but I simply can’t juggle them all. I wish I could! But as with every other human on earth, I only have 24 hours each day, and a limited amount of energy.

It’s not possible to do everything - and though saying “no” to opportunities I’d love is so painful, disappointing people by not following through hurts a thousand times more.

Burnout sucks. Exhaustion sucks. Be your own advocate and maintain those boundaries! It’s not rude - it’s self-preservation.

DK: What inspired you to create the Speak Volumes! Festival in Worcester?

FB: Honestly? A desperate dive to find joy during hard times. I feel happiest when I’m inspired, helping others, and creating. Volunteering at Worcester’s Light Night is one of my annual highlights - I get to be submerged in community, excitement, and vivid installations.

As a disabled person, I’ve learned to manufacture as much sunshine into my life as possible. By creating a space composed of visual arts, performances, and likeminded people, I can invent joy for myself and others.

We can never have enough art, sunshine, or happiness in our lifetimes. The festival is built upon the premise of supplying joy & celebrating each other as much as we can.

With a focus on the millennial and gen-z demographics, I arrived to create something I’d choose to attend - something tailored to my generation.

From free workshops, to a vibrant community exhibition, and a spotlight on zines & zine-making; I wanted Speak Volumes Festival to empower local, first-time, young & grassroots creatives.

I hope to bring it back for 2025. The first year was brilliant - but I’ve learned so much about the events industry, and there’s endless room for more art!

DK: How do you balance your role as a poet with your other creative endeavours, such as multimedia projects?

FB: Poorly... my juggling skills need improvement!

DK: Poetry and art can be a great tool for society and looking back at history. What do you think is the power of poetry - or any art - and what role do you believe artists have in modern society?

FB: Poetry is for EVERYONE! Its shapeshifting, multi-format nature makes it accessible for all my homies with disabilities - spoken word can be accessible for blind/VI and d/Deaf people; writing in itself can be done typed; by hand or by dictation, and can be done from any corner of the world. Its affordable, so also financially accessible. And you can write about ANYTHING! Poetry was never made to be a ‘high art’; exclusive; or class-bound. That’s ridiculous. It’s only pretentious if you design it to be.

DK: What are your aspirations as a poet, and how do you strive to make your poems as vibrant as your hair?

FB: During my laureateship, I want to cover as much ground as possible. Turn up to events and festivals to spread the poetry joy!

I’ve always prided myself on being never the best; most articulate; most impressive; or most knowledgeable person - but rather, the most enthusiastic! I’m always open for discussion, feedback, a little chit-chat or actual collaboration. I always want to dress bright; act bright; and hopefully use this energy to appear approachable. It’s difficult to be intimidated by a rainbow-wearing jester, right? 😅

DK: What has been the most rewarding part of your journey?

FB: Meeting new people! Seeing people at any age or walk of life take the plunge into poetry and giving it a go. It’s bittersweet when I hear “I never thought I’d be a poet” because I’m SO glad they’ve found it - but gutted so many people don’t have the self-belief to try. The best thing I’ve been told was “you gave me the confidence to try poetry for myself.” I mean, wow. You can’t get a compliment higher than that!

DK: And lastly. We all need to relax, chill, and switch off sometimes. So how do you relax?

FB: I work hard and play hard. And by that I mean I hardly work and am in a perpetual state of panic. I can’t stay still for long!

I’m constantly jumping between different creative hobbies - I want to sew, paint, and craft more.

But in reality, the only hobbies I’ve stuck to over the years are building Pinterest boards, writing poems with no ends, and dreaming big… oh, and I learn Spanish on Duolingo. ¡Es muy relajante, Mis Amigos!

If you have liked this interview and would like to see more interviews, please feel free to contact and share your thoughts. Also, if you know anyone who fits the category, and you think they'd be interested, let me know 🏳️‍🌈

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