The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

Jo Bell: who?

jo bell

Image by Lee Allen Photography

Kind of you to ask.  You may have arrived here because of this advert:

I do other things too. I write commissions and build events for organisations like the National Trust, Canal and River Trust, Stratford Poetry Festival and Glastonbury Festival. I work with Women’s Aid. I teach courses of my own, and am a tutor for The Poetry School, Poetry Society and Arvon Foundation, helping poets to develop their work at any stage. I do private mentoring for poets who have already been writing for a while, and want to push themselves further.

I write about poetry, canals and heritage for publications like Heritage magazine and Country Walking. I sometimes appear on BBC Radio 4, for instance with my long docupoem Slow Machine, or on 6 Music Live (Midweek, Poetry Please, Radcliffe & Maconie). I build global projects like Bugged and 52, using social media to build virtual villages for writing.

What don’t I do? I don’t read unsolicited poetry and comment on it. I don’t work in schools, because large groups of children terrify me. I don’t work for free (do you?) But if you want to talk to me about a new project – or you don’t quite know what you want, but it might possibly be a poet – drop me a line

I was awarded an honorary doctorate for services to poetry in autumn 2015, and won a Saboteur Award for the 52 project in the same year. For a constant stream of poetry news, jobs and articles, find me on Facebook  or on Twitter @Jo_Bell.


94 comments on “Jo Bell: who?

  1. Biff
    January 9, 2008

    Hello Jo!
    And a Happy New Year to you.
    Through work I had a meeting with a splendid chap called Dougald Hine in Bethnal Green. He and colleagues are building something called
    I saw it and thought of you!
    See you soon…


  2. Big-Little Bruv
    February 3, 2009

    Hello sis.

    For my upcoming Empire Film Awards project, I have spent the last 3 weeks searching the internet, till my eyeballs bled, for a transparent dome of just the right size and shape; an essential prop in the making of this film. After searching for “clock domes”, “clear globes”, “diplay domes”, and even “Goldfish bowls”, (don’t laugh) what does it turn out I need?

    A Bell Jar… correct!

    Just though that would amuse you.

    Love, bruv

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  4. Ashley
    February 9, 2012

    What brought me here? I read your recent article in a walking magazine & thought how wonderful it is to be out in the landscape, to look at the world, write about it & those who pass through it & be touched by it all. Thank you Jo. I think I might follow you.

    • Jo Bell
      February 10, 2012

      Thanks Ashley, nice to know you enjoyed it and hope to see you here again.

  5. Ashley
    March 4, 2012

    This morning I looked out from my kitchen window to see a very grey sky. Silhouetted against the sky were 6 dark & sombre oak trees. I look north. In an explosion of light the sun broke through the clouds behind me & the trees were suddenly bathed in colour. It’s a time of transition, from winter to spring & I have been touched by a moment of wonder. I put my coat(s) on & went for a walk along the old canal.

  6. Torill Stokkan
    March 5, 2012

    Hello Jo!
    I heard you in Strømstad – and it was wonderfull! A poet I can “understand”! Unforgettable! Thank you.

    • Jo Bell
      March 5, 2012

      Torill – thanks so much for taking the time to say so! I wasn’t sure how well my poems would be received, but I have had so many kind comments. Maybe Swedes are just very generous 🙂 Thanks again.

    • Jo Bell
      April 1, 2012

      Thanks so much Torill!

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  10. Peter Fellows
    October 30, 2012

    Jo, Is it OK with you if we put a couple of your poems in a piece about Canal Laureate in NABO News?
    Peter Fellows

  11. Suzanne MacLeod
    November 10, 2012

    Hello Jo. I was kindly pointed in your direction by Dru Marland* of Bristol. I look forward to getting to know about your writings, and perhaps chancing across you on the cut one of these days.

    I’ve just got a canal novice’s blog going, exploring identity mainly, in a roundabout way. Am I now a canal person, or else a person who happens to live on the canal, or what?

    Stay warm,dry and poetic.

    Ciao for nao


  12. John Burman
    November 12, 2012

    I have been writing verse on waterways matters for years and have three vanity publications available. I do not ask for money for my books. If you would like to see them please let me know. Best wishes John Burman

  13. Martin Shone
    December 30, 2012

    Hi Jo, I found your site through twitter. I may be interested in your Avebury walkshop, it’s about time I got out more; I love walking, I love writing, perfect 🙂

    • Jo Bell
      December 30, 2012

      Hi Martin – we would love to see you! If you’re definitely coming do drop us a line at so that we know how many biscuits to buy!

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  15. Kevin (warden Caen Hill)
    May 11, 2013

    Please send us back our ‘old Ken”
    for he’s the only fit ‘old un’ we got
    feed him, water him, and work his old bones well
    (Just a reminder….. in case you forgot!)

  16. cloudsforthoughts
    June 5, 2013

    Thank you for the like. And thank you for the prompts. Really looking forward to working through them 🙂

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  18. Jayne
    September 24, 2013

    Hi Jo,
    Told you I would have a look at you. Very impressed We are proud to know such a talented lady. It was lovely to see you at Stone .We are moored at the lake tonight ready for the tunnel tomorrow.
    Take care Jo
    love Jayne n Mike nb Dawn Owl. x

    • Jo Bell
      September 24, 2013

      Good luck in the big tunnel. Lovely to see you both!

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  20. giovannaiozzi
    March 13, 2014

    Hi Jo, great blog. I am going to try and emulate you by writing one piece of something a week, whether it’s a short story or something else…

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  24. Teresa Young
    May 31, 2014

    Hi, Jo, your site is beautiful. I wonder if you have a few minutes to review my book of poems on Amazon. I’ll send you a PDF, and I’ll also gladly return the favor. Just let me know. I’m at and http:\\ And write on!

    • Jo Bell
      May 31, 2014

      Hi Teresa – I wish you all the luck in the world with the book but would rather not write reviews on request, so will decline with all good wishes!

  25. Teresa Young
    June 1, 2014

    Thanks very much for your reply and your good wishes, Jo. I appreciate both!

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  30. abigailh2014
    November 13, 2014

    Hi there

    I was given your name by a local artist to me, James Dodds from Wivenhoe.

    He told me to look at some of your poems in particular regard to houseboats. He said you lived on one and would have useful material for my degree as I’m taking particular interest in the world of house boats.

    Would you kindly consider sending me one or 2 of your favourite poems that you feel may be able to help me please?

    Thank you so much for your time.


    • Jo Bell
      December 13, 2014

      Abi, please forgive this late reply, I only just saw your comment. James is a brilliant artist whose work adorns my first book, so his recommendation means a lot 🙂 It’s not house boats but narrow boats I write about, but I suspect that’s what you mean. Can you email me to give me an idea of what you’re looking for?

  31. Paul Kleiman
    November 16, 2014

    Great letter, and my own response, which has gone bit ‘viral’

    Kind regards from a fellow narrowboater !

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  34. jude shields (Ashworth)
    March 16, 2015

    a lovely surprise seeing you on TV last night with Timothy and Prunnela. it was great to hear your poetry spoken by your good self. cheers Jude x

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  39. jayne1provost'
    May 14, 2015

    Hi Jo, just to let you know we are moored near the The Star again and here till Saturday lunch if you have time to see us and catch up..
    Jayne n Mike nb Dawn Owl.xx

    • Jo Bell
      May 14, 2015

      Oh you naughty people – I’m just packing! Away tomorrow morning, not back for a few days. Damn. See you again soon I hope, I need to talk to you about new boats…. X

  40. jayne1provost'
    May 14, 2015

    Hi Jo, sorry to have to miss you,but have a good trip and hope to see you soon. Maybe in Macclesfield. We hope to be going back in the marina for November December,January and probably February. We spotted your boat on the Macc on our way back from Marple after you had been in the marina but you weren’t home then.!!!!!! “New Boat” eh? How Exciting! Email any questions you have. We are off to Birmingham to meet up with some members of the cruising club we joined last year, just for a few days in June then to Liverpool, Salthouse Dock for 2 weeks them maybe Llangollen, before we have a slooooowwww cruise back to Macc for winter. Take Care Jo and keep up the good work Love Jayne n Mike x

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  45. Tim Binder
    October 23, 2015

    Hi Jo
    Just want to thank you for a superb workshop yesterday in Stratford upon Avon. It was a real privilege to benefit from your knowledge, insights and skills. I loved every second of it. Thanks again. Tim B

    • Jo Bell
      October 30, 2015

      Thanks so much Tim – it was a really lovely, lively mix of people and it was the conversational/ discursive moments that made it so interesting for me. Thanks for taking part!

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  50. David Wardrop
    October 22, 2016

    The Friends of the Alexandria Library meet annually in Alexandria and meetings include a poetry reading session. In 2015, the subject was water in all its forms, to mark the opening a new section of the Suez Canal which we visited. My contribution was ‘The Icicle Garden’. I have just returned from the 2016 meeting and would like to send you our 10th anthology of poems from last year which includes your poem. If you send me your address, I can mail it. Kind regards, David

    • Jo Bell
      October 22, 2016

      Thanks David. I’m flattered of course but also surprised to hear that the poem has been included in an anthology without asking me or the publisher? Forgive me if I’m mistaken.

  51. Loobieloo
    February 13, 2017


    I absolutely love the nationwide advert. The very first time I heard your voice I sat up and took notice. There is so much feeling in your voice and the poem on there. People need to see/hear more of your stuff

    Kind regards

  52. national trust archaeology sw
    February 14, 2017

    I thought I know that voice as I walked into the front room, and there you were 🙂 Wonderful words x blast from the past Nance

  53. Samantha Williams
    February 15, 2017

    Hi Jo

    Was a really lovely surprise to hear and see you on the TV! Next time you’re near Avebury, you must visit as we’re only about 5 mins away (have spare room if you need it too!)

    Love Sam (Jonnie’s lil sister)

    • Jo Bell
      February 24, 2017

      Oh, lovely to hear from you ma’am! Glad you liked it. Will let you know if I’m nearby! Much love XXX

  54. Mr Gerry McCormack
    February 18, 2017

    Hi Jo , love listening to your voice, it’s so natural, soothing, but grabs you in to get the message , good luck to you.

  55. Frances Harper
    February 18, 2017

    so moved by the words in the advertisement

  56. Michael P ODonnell
    February 24, 2017

    I think you are a insperation to anyone who listens to you.

  57. Dorian
    March 5, 2017

    Come to portland and do a few poems

  58. Jen
    March 7, 2017

    I fell in complete love with your poem & I need to hear more ❤

  59. David
    March 8, 2017

    Hello Jo, much cheer, and best wishes to you.I enjoyed your recital for the Nationwide, I myself have been an admirer of Russion poetry most of my life,Tsvetaeva,Akhmatova,Pushkin.I also lived on a narrow boat many moons ago,and intend to repeat the experience in the not to distant future.

  60. Shane Healey
    March 8, 2017

    Hi jo,are you planning on coming north I’e north of Newcastle? ,thanks.

    • Jo Bell
      March 11, 2017

      Afraid not in the foreseeable future but if someone books me I’d be delighted. Lived in Newcastle for twelve years!

  61. Muriel
    March 12, 2017

    Hi jo I did undead get here via the ad and I’m not really a poetry fan but I think a lot of it is the way you deliver the poem it just very mesmerising to watch , so thank you.

  62. Edd Rayner
    March 13, 2017

    Passion, belief and a deep sense of social justice: I love the Nationwide advert and your poem: but more, your delivery of it. I have never heard someone so deeply, affectingly eloquent and believable. I feel sure that I don’t share your politics, but I’d definitely vote for you: stand for parliament; you’d change the world!

  63. Nigel Girling
    March 17, 2017

    I’m not a big fan of TV; particularly not of adverts. How many cars does one person need to insure? I certainly wasn’t expecting to be moved to tears by an advert for a building society, and for that I thank you. I’d forgotten how much I miss poetry in my life. I’ll be rectifying that now. Thanks again.

  64. Charlie Burgess
    March 21, 2017

    Hello Jo. And yes it was the Nationwide ad that made me look up who had written it and whether the performer was the author too. A proper ad and beautifully told. I hope your Nationwide account is healthy too.
    Best wishes
    Charlie Burgess

  65. Dr Simon Cotgreave
    April 11, 2018

    Guilty as charged. I arrived here via your Nationwide advert. Couldn’t decide whether to congratulate you or it. Credit is due to both, probably. I hate adverts. And I’m no fan of poetry (sorry). But your performance has challenged my prejudices. There is something unusually genuine about that poem, and its delivery. I might even take a look at your other work. Meantime, thank you for helping to create an advert that grows on me each time I am forced to watch it … as opposed to those that grate more and more as time goes on.

  66. Terry
    April 17, 2018

    Great work on Nationwide advert!

  67. Linda
    April 20, 2018

    I don’t want anything from you!! Just to say I admire you. The Nationwide advert combines striking poetry, a great voice and your onscreen presence.
    I wish you would do more TV work!
    Thank you; it is the only advert I stop everything and listen, every time.

  68. Like many others I came across you through the TV advert, and I was moved by your advert because, like you very possibly, I am a great believer in the currency of kindness.

  69. Steffanie Procter
    May 9, 2018

    Love your poems for Nationwide.

  70. cannycruiser
    May 14, 2018

    Your Nationwide adverts made me sit up and take notice. I love your poetry and your delivery.

  71. Roy Howells
    May 17, 2018

    Hello jo I have been inspired to send you a message in am just mesmerised by your nationwide adverts your voice is could listen to all day long I do hope I can hear more x

  72. Stuart mcleod
    June 15, 2018

    Your voice is mesmerising. I could listen to you all day… comforting and natural……well done….

  73. Helen Wilson
    June 17, 2018

    Hi Jo,
    I don’t know if you still monitor this, as the other posts seem quite old, but I just want to say that I find your Natiowide poetry incredibly moving. You have an enchanting and evocative voice and, of course, the words are so very clever – Wonderful!

  74. John Mason
    June 17, 2018

    I know absolutely nothing about poetry but I’ve been so taken with the content of the advert i will definitely try to find out more of your poetry. Thank you for the enjoyment you’ve given me

  75. Bernard Cairns
    June 21, 2018

    Looked you up because your delivery and punctuation in the tv advert is refreshing and cool.

    • Jayne Provost
      June 23, 2018

      Hi Jo it’s Jayne off Dawn Owl. Just want to add I also think your voice is refreshing and soothing. X 😁😎. Enjoy the sun

      On Thu, 21 Jun 2018, 20:26 The Bell Jar: Jo Bell’s blog, wrote:

      > Bernard Cairns commented: “Looked you up because your delivery and > punctuation in the tv advert is refreshing and cool.” >

      • Jo Bell
        June 23, 2018

        You make me larf you do. See you soon!

  76. Jan
    August 1, 2018

    I first heard and watched Jo Bell in her first TV advert for Nationwide and she absolutely captivated me. The quality of her performance was way beyond the usual run if the mill adverts. The poetry and the way in which she conveyed it was just superb and I am totally hooked.

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