Dinosaurs, riots and avocados – poems from Forest Hill

I'll Dress One Night As You

I'll Dress One Night As You

Local writer Chrissie Gittins’ new poetry collection, I’ll Dress One Night As You, is published tomorrow. She talked to DOV about her inspirations, writing in different formats, and living in south London.

Q: Your range of work is interesting, with short stories, plays, children’s and adult’s poems. Do you have a favourite form, and do topics suggest their appropriate forms?
A: I don’t have a favourite form and it’s usually the subject matter which dictates the form. You get a feel for it. A longer narrative will be a short story, an even longer one with dramatic potential – a play. A poem often begins with a sense of something or an interesting piece of language.
Sometimes I’ll be commissioned to write a poem or short story, so then of course the form is determined. It’s usually obvious which is an idea for a children’s poem, though sometimes a children’s poem can also be a poem for adults. ‘I’ll Dress One Night As You’ contains five poems which were in my last children’s collection ‘I Don’t Want an Avocado for an Uncle’.

Chrissie Gittins

Chrissie Gittins

Also a poem can be the start of a radio play. My poem ‘Dinner in the Iguanodon Mould’ became the play ‘Dinner in the Iguanodon’ about the life-sized prehistoric monsters in Crystal Palace Park. I’m working now on another play idea which began as a poem.
Q: The new book contains a sequence of poems called ‘Cloth’, about a woman involved in the machine breakers riots in East Lancashire in 1826. Tell us a bit about the Cloth poems – how did you learn about the textile workers’ uprising? Is it a part of history you’ve studied or are particularly interested in?
A: I was bought a book called ‘Further Rossendale Rambles’ a few Christmases ago. Rossendale is a valley in Lancashire where my parents lived. The book tells of one of the riots which took place in the village next to theirs. I started to research from there.
Q: How do you think your background has shaped your writing, in terms of cultural influences?
A: My mother was a great raconteur and my local library was well-stocked. I had a fantastic English teacher at school who would read out any piece of writing we did which she liked; she also engendered a love of poetry and its possibilies. At the same time as beginning to write seriously I attended courses at the Arvon Foundation and City Lit. I’m happy to say I now tutor for the Arvon Foundation.
Q: Do you have a favourite poet, living or dead, that you think everyone should read?
A: Carol Ann Duffy – both her adult and children’s poems.
Q: What’s the best thing about living in south London?
A: The green spaces – Dulwich Park, Greenwich Park, Sydenham Wells and Crystal Palace Park in particular. Dulwich College Farmer’s Market, the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Horniman’s Museum and the Blackbird Bakery. The guy who drives up from Hastings each week and sells fish outside Forest Hill station, and plethora of independent bookshops!

Chrissie Gittins’ story Just One of the Girls is being read on Radio 4 on May 6 at 3.30pm. Chrissie says it includes mention of lots of local places, including Hilly Fields, Ladywell and Honor Oak, so tune in if you can. 


Chrissie will be launching the book at The Rose (020-7735-3723), 35 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7LT on Wednesday 29th April from 7pm. Chrissie will read at about 8pm and at about 9pm Philip Davis’s indie pop group the Tinpots (www.tinpots.com) will play a set. The local launch will be at Manor House library on 9 May. Details on www.chrissiegittins.co.uk.

About this article

Anna S

About Anna S

Founding Editor and Writer. Anna is a journalist working for the BMJ publishing group. She has worked as a news reporter and arts editor for local newspapers and as science editor for medical magazines. She likes eating, writing nonsense and playing the ukelele.
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