Jo Bell: who?

jo bell
Image by Lee Allen Photography

Jo Bell is a poet and poetry coach, widely published and often award-winning (including the Charles Causley Award and the Manchester Poetry Prize). She was awarded an honorary doctorate for services to poetry in 2015, and won a Saboteur Award in the same year.

Jo supports poets  through real-world and virtual workshops; by building online communities; by posting hints and tips on her YouTube channel, from herself and other writers: and in best-selling books on the craft of poetry. UK readers may know her best from this advert, or others like it:

Jo writes commissions and builds projects for the National Trust, Canal and River Trust, Peak District National Park and Glastonbury Festival amongst others. She has worked Women’s Aid and in HMP Styal. Jo is a regular tutor for The Poetry School, Poetry Society and Arvon Foundation, and a host for poetry events at festivals like Verve and the Bradford Literature Festival. She is sometimes heard on BBC Radio, for instance with the long docupoem Slow Machine, or on 6 Music Live (Midweek, Poetry Please, Radcliffe & Maconie).

She has been a pioneer in building global online poetry communities like the 52 project, using social media to build virtual villages for writing. Her latest project, The Poetic Licence, is a subscription service delivering a productive poetry prompt for £3 per month; subscribe here.

What doesn’t Jo do? She doesn’t read unsolicited poetry or comment on it. She doesn’t work in schools, because large groups of children terrify her. She doesn’t work for free. If you want to talk to Jo about a new project – or you don’t quite know what you want, but it might possibly be a poet – drop her a line at

For a constant stream of poetry news, jobs and articles, find Jo Bell on Facebook or on Twitter.

98 thoughts on “Jo Bell: who?

  1. 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. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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


  7. 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

  8. 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 🙂

  9. 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!)

  10. 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

  11. 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…

  12. 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!

    1. 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!

  13. 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.


    1. 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?

  14. 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

    1. 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

  15. 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

  16. 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

    1. 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!

  17. 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

    1. 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.

  18. Hi.

    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

  19. 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

  20. 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)

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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

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

  30. 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!

  31. 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

    1. 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.” >

  32. 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.

  33. You quite simply “ Brilliant “
    A magnificent wordsmith
    Mr Stephen Fry is a hero
    That’s all folks .. ( yea I’m getting older )

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