Plymouth’s Tunnels, Plymouth’s Squid

photo by Georgie Kirrin. ARP shelter Plymouth

I’ve been doing some research for Part 1 of my performance in ‘Ferment’ at the Bristol Old Vic.

It’s one of those occasions where I wrote the description of the work before I’ve actually written it all. I wrote that Part 1 is about ‘Plymouth’s tunnels’.

I have a poem that’s the basis for this idea – I wrote it after visiting the Marine Biology Research Library at the Citadel. The woman who showed me around thought I might like to explore the books and drawings…and I would….but I was especially interested in the stories she told.

In the forties there was a director there who had a parrot. She explained he had to go and get his parrot from the library before going down to the tunnels when Plymouth was being bombed.

She also told us about the research students they used to get there, from Oxford…They wrote poetry every year, which was great. But the thing I found brilliant is that they used to dissect squid down in the basement of the Citadel. As they were cutting them up they’d throw the parts over their shoulders, and they’d land on the ceiling. Now, apparently, they’re still there – it’s a hazardous zone.

So that inspired a poem. Here’s an extract:

Years ago the squid from Plymouth Sound
were massive, brought back to the lab to be
examined then tossed over a shoulder landing
on the ceiling and staying there – stuck, suckers.

The parrot was left in the library
when they went down to the tunnels,
this is not the future we are talking about,
simple bombing, simply bang bangs.

So I’ve been researching Plymouth’s tunnels – apparently there are tunnels under the flat where I live… I’ve come across some great blogs on Plymouth history: This one: – and this about the tunnels:

& this hardy Plymouthian has done some exploring:

Better get back to it…

Hope to see you there. Ferment Festival. Bristol Old Vic, 20th Jan, 6:30pm