Hollie McNish, Poet & Lyricist

I was approached by Cycle of Songs Producer, Helen Weinstein, about collaborating on the lyrics for the song called "Why We Ride". This developed from my work running a youth project about cycling, skating and skateboarding in Cambridge. The project took a group of young people to explain what they love about cycling and wheeling in general, what hinders them from doing this more and why they would encourage others to do this. I worked with rapper Inja to enable us to turn their experiences into a poem, working with the young people to pick out the most important phrases and ideas and really understand what they wanted to say. We wrote these down and from there constructed a poem. This was then recorded and a film of the young people made, directed by Inja and Skuff, two local artists. You can watch the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsKlWaIiI7w


This cycling/poetry project was one of many we work on through and organization called "Page to Performance", which tries to encourage young people to have a voice through poetry, to enjoy this artform and express their thoughts and ideas to a wider audience. The Cycle of Songs were really interested in using snapshots of this poem to recycle into choir lyrics, which was a big compliment, and we really embraced the collaboration and the idea of the song based on our lyrics.


I really love what Cycle of Songs composers, Kirsty Martin and Rowena Whitehead, have done with this poem. I am not precious about my poetry, I just like it being used, especially in such a practical and fun way. I think that’s the whole idea of making something. Not so it can sit in the same form forever, but that it can be chopped and changed and used and re-used by and for different people. I love the ways that the new song takes our young people’s ideas about cycling and skating, which are present in this poem, and then mixes these ideas up with naming the city centre locations so you really get a sense that we are cycling through the city of Cambridge.


More generally, I think Cycle of Songs is a really important project. Anything which can bring things to life, ideas about the past, historical stories and events, in a way that  many more people can enjoy and relate to is great. I’m impressed by how many people are involved, I didn’t quite realize the scale of community involvement, from community choirs to college choirs to primary school childrens' and youth group choirs,  - and that's what is also really great about the Cycle of Songs.  One of the reasons I love spoken word poetry (what I do) is because it really brings people together. People go to gigs and sit and watch people read their poems and share their own and there’s a real sense of community. I think choirs have exactly the same effect, so it’s a great combo!


Personally, it’s really exciting to hear my words being mixed up and reformed and sung. I’m doing an album at the moment where my poems are being scored by an Orchestra, as well as dance music producers and it’s just great watching them being taken and made into something much more exciting. Really taking poetry off the page, which is the whole idea of our organization "Page to Performance"!

Hollie will be touring her new album ‘Versus’ this October in Leeds, Manchester, Brighton, Bath, London, Leeds and Glasgow: http://www.kililive.com/artists/hollie-mcnish

Why We Ride: A Film by and for Cambridge's Young Riders

"I can't take my ears off her"
Benjamin Zephaniah

Hollie Poetry

First Collection, Papers, published by Greenwich Exchange Publishing, London 2012: http://www.greenex.co.uk/ge_record_detail.asp?ID=135

Hollie McNish, Poet & Lyricist


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