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Love Basingstoke chats to Rebecca Lyon

Tell us about yourself and your association with Basingstoke.

I’ve lived near Basingstoke for ten years now and having raised a family here, it’s home. As a playwright and poet my career started in London, but more recently I’ve been lucky enough to work across Hampshire and immerse myself in the area’s incredible stories, past and present. My work was featured in Ben Mills and Lydia Thompson’s audio trail ‘New Myths of Basingstoche’ in 2020 and last year I was one of the creatives on the ‘Streets Alive’ project, a fabulous collaboration between many local writers and artists bringing some colour and joy to benches, planters and other street furniture in the town centre – to see people using and enjoying art in ordinary places was really rewarding.

Rebecca Lyon

You’ve written a poetry audio trail for Basingstoke Festival 2023 with the Overhear app. Can you tell us more about it?

This project has been a real labour of love. There are twelve poems, all rooted in specific locations in the town which you can access on the Overhear app.  It’s a walkable, flexible trail so the poems can be accessed in whatever order is easiest for you. Some of the poems are inspired by historical figures – our wonderful Jane Austen, perhaps not-so-wonderful Oliver Cromwell, local boy made good Thomas Burberry, or the rectors (and their families) of Chute House. But they’re also inspired by people like us who use the parks and gardens today – families and model boaters in Eastrop Park, kids with their grannies up at Holy Ghost Chapel ruins and office workers taking a hard-earned rest at Festival Place Amphitheatre among them. I’m a big fan of audio trails, and I hope this succeeds in encouraging people to connect with their own memories and experiences of these places and that it provides new insights and ways of looking at our town too.

Holy Ghost Cemetary, credit Rebecca Lyon

What was your process?

Many of the locations, like the War Memorial Park and the Market Square, I knew and loved already, but to create these poems, I spent several days reconnecting with these spaces and being mindful in each place – using all my senses to connect with the location – seeing passers-by shopping or chatting, noticing historical details in the architecture or in nature such as the River Loddon in Glebe Gardens, or the sense of being on the cusp of the town and its possibilities outside the Village Hotel on Basing View. I wrote copious notes, then started the process of editing, revising and refining at the Discovery Centre and at home.

Do you have a favourite place on the trail?

Oh that’s really tricky! Possibly Glebe Gardens, because of the history and the sense of peace amongst the bustle of the town centre. Or perhaps the War Memorial Park as it was conceived with such good will – I love the Peace Garden there too, or maybe Eastrop Park – it’s such a joyful place… I keep changing my mind!

The lake at Eastrop Park, credit Rebecca Lyon

What inspires you about Basingstoke and Deane?

People, always people! Jane Austen was a genius at depicting (and understanding) people, and I love Adam Roud’s statue of her in the Market place – she wasn’t as grand and fancy as some of the places and people she portrays - more of an outsider looking in, sometimes struggling to make ends meet, like a lot of us today. And the beauty of Basingstoke is that its history is so near the surface – especially in places like London Street, Wote Street and Cross Street. Often, when you’re writing about places, you’re writing about people – people you remember – or someone you see, or a snatch of overheard conversation. Also, it’s easy to be inspired by the vibrancy and diversity of the current arts scene here in the borough – the festival being a brilliant example of that.

What advice would you give aspiring writers in the Basingstoke area?

Go for it! Write, and connect with other creatives – the Discovery Centre is a great place to start. Basingstoke is brilliant at inclusive and diverse forms of arts and culture – look around the town centre to be inspired by street art, take in a concert at the Anvil or a play at the Haymarket. The Basingstoke Festival with its wonderful array of outdoor theatre is a must. Whatever your writing interests, from poetry to plays, novels to biographies, there’s room for everyone and plenty of inspiration to be had via the Hampshire Cultural Trust venues and the Basingstoke Heritage Society. Get out there, be inspired and create!

The trail will be available on throughout the duration of Basingstoke Festival.

You can find out more about Rebecca and her work at

Follow her on social media Twitter: @Lyon_naise Insta: @rebeccalyon824

Our thanks to Rebecca Lyon. June 2023

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