"Poetry and protest go well together. In some situations the art of writing is itself a protest. Poetry is by nature subversive. By its style and form it challenges our preconceptions of language, and in turn, our thinking and understanding. It is an ideal medium for confronting injustice, inequality and indifference".

From The Poetry of Protest, edited by Simon Fuller.

Poetry will be playing an important part in the Boot Out Austerity walk. Peter Unwin will be writing a daily poem based on things that have happened that day, his fellow "official Boot Out Austerity poet", Angi Naylor, who is walking all seven days, will be busy writing too, and other walkers will be chipping in. We will be reciting our poems at our morning rallies and each evening, and we'd love to read your poems too, and include them on the Boot Out Austerity website. On austerity and its impact, on what you think should be done about it, or what you are doing about it. Please send them to us - walk@basw.co.uk - or link them to a tweet with the #BootOutAusterity hashtag. 

The Deathly Suck of Austerity

The Deathly Suck of Austerity
Sucked the Social Work out of me
But that’s not how it’s s’posed to be
I started back in ’83, striving for equality
But now all that has gone for me
The Deathly Suck of Austerity
But will I moan and weep and stare?
Stand by, forgetting I once cared?
Or will I get myself out there?
And fight against Austerity
For change in Social Work and me
The Deathly Suck of Austerity
The writing’s on the wall, we say
Austerity has had its day
So speak up for the Oppressed Many
Do something extraordinary
Get yourself a Campaign Pack
Get that monkey off our back
Join us, Join us, banners high
Austerity, the end is nigh…

Peter Unwin, Poet Austeriate
2 November 2017

Going down to Liverpool (to do something)

From Runcorn then the Leeson Centre
Their desperate stories told
Under threat in desperate times
More desperate than of old

On through Speke to Liverpool
The sleet came slashing down
The Socialist Singers sang their songs
And Glory shone around

The sun came out though it was cold
As Mersey ferries plied
Rousing speeches with our friends
About governmental lies

Yes, from Birmingham to Liverpool in 2017
We had our ups,
We had our downs
But, Oh what sights we’ve seen!

All in all 200 walked,
At our heart a core
Modest folk from Social Work
But here is their name call

Honest Jon, he led us on
With a chap called Guy
Donna asked the core question
Food Banks – tell us why?

Christine was a trooper
She’s upright and she’s strong
Allison, The Jewel of Wales
And Angi’s quite good song

Nigel never made a fuss
Steve was always there for us
Not forgetting back-up crew
Box Car Willie, Malcolm too

Yes, we went down to Liverpool
Banners in our hands
To Boot Out Austerity
And drive it from our land.

Peter Unwin, Poet Austeriate
25 April 2017

After Pastor Niemoller

Austerity In The UK

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they halved the tax paid by the rich, and I did not speak out-
Because they said wealth trickles down.

Then they doubled the rate of VAT, and I did not speak out-
Because they said they were the party of low taxation.

Then they came for our health service, as they could pay to skip the queues, and I did not speak out-
Because they said the market is better.

Then they came for our schools as theirs were private, and I did not speak out –
Because they said we all had choice.

Then they came for our social services, to pay for their tax cuts, and I did not speak out -
Because they said we are all in this together.

Then I got ill and old, and there was no one left to care and speak out for me.

Darius Evans
22 April 2017

The Cash Dispensers Give out Fivers

Cash dispensers give out fivers
Down in Northwich square
Worn out places, worn out faces
The Trent and Mersey’s there

Many a mile of sylvan towpath
Bluebell woods abound
Even rain don’t damp their beauty
Then we hit the Tata town

Nearly made it to the food bank
Shutters had come down
Benefit sanctions hit the poorest
Compassion can’t be found

And how did we accept the modern workplace
No laughter and no song
Fighting for our hot-desk work-space
Something’s really wrong

We felt it for our Halton workmates
And Rachel our student new
They want a world that’s so much better
BASW wants that too

And so we spoke of manifestos
So easy to find the words
But it’s the actions that are needed
Austerity’s absurd

So now we’re marching, doing something
Not just standing by
"Politicians, hear us coming
We’re going to ask you why."

Peter Unwin, Poet Austeriate
24 April 2017

Part of the Union

Will Mrs. May call today?
Who knows what this day brings
St George’s day and Shakespeare’s birth
Heralds of great things

London Marathon today as well
A city of blistered feet
There’s a few up here in Northwich town
Although we’re still smelling sweet

Northwich, once the town of salt
When a different oppression reigned
Bosses these days still hold sway
Zero hours and minimum pay

“You can’t touch me I‘m part of the Union”
Was our rallying cry
But they have touched us, and beat us down
While many just stood by

We’re standing up now, and marching on
Tired but welcomed all along
Churches that heal before they preach
With rest and food, respect to each

Peter Unwin, Poet Austeriate
23 April 2017

Jeremy Calling (to the faraway towns)

This morn we bade goodbye to Stoke
Fortified by curry
A growing band of windy folk
For Sandbach in no hurry

Fellowship and stops for ale
Along that fine canal
Thinking of Austerity
A silent cancer’s knell

Grinning cats, WAGs and us
Cheshire’s split in two
Like most of Britain is these days
Small towns have food banks too

Tired now as we pass half-way
Some stumble, nearly falling
Spirits lift, the mobile rings
Jeremy is calling

Expressing his solidarity
A foe of all austerity
Yes, Jeremy calling after many a mile
After all this, won’t you give us a smile?

Peter Unwin, Poet Austeriate
22 April 2017

Where Do the Children Play?

There is a church in Stafford town
They call the Rising Brook
They bake bread for many a poor soul
And children down on their  luck

Peter Crouch he serves Stoke well
Government plays a lesser role  
They brought on Austerity
A jobs-and-hope own goal

But Stoke lies far from Whitehall
Playground of the gilded elite
No playgrounds left on our beaten track
The rent or shall we eat?

Where indeed do the children play
In any town these days?
The downside of technology, the ceaseless image game
Child abuse on mobile phones, Corporates take no blame

But housing's cheap so why not send
Children to those bedsits?
Uproot them and if they resist
Just cut their Benefits

Austerity hurts our children's core
More children 'mentally ill'
Solutions lie in the government's grasp
But cuts continue still

'Big Society' left behind, a broken Tory scheme
And now the 'Shared Society' - Mrs. May, in your dreams
Few children dream of living here - Disabled, Poor and Worse
Cross length and breadth of this hard land, Austerity’s cast its curse

Peter Unwin, Poet Austeriate
21 April 2017

In the Footsteps of Orwell

St Peter looked out on our band of brave walkers
As they gathered their strength, those singers and talkers
The trumpeter’s note brought a tear to the eye
Tales from the heart– Austerity why?

A protest in a garden centre, perennials an’ all
The Poor Law has just changed its shape, Austerity has called
The Road to Wigan Pier is still a long and tiresome road
It’s a different kind of poverty, but still a heavy load

And following the footsteps that Orwell took of yore
We headed north, heads held high, Stafford next for sure
Littleton Arms where George had stopped eighty full years back
The barmaid reading from his book, joining in the craic

Come on Walkers, our support’s been surprising
It’s what they do best, right here at The Rising
Daniel Blake told it straight for thousands of peers
We’ve suffered Austerity too many years.

Pete Unwin, Poet Austeriate
20 April 2017


Rasp of the sweeper’s brush
Another day
My blanket smells of frost and smoke.

Quick march of passers-by
The steps directed –

My eyes knee level
With the sag of jeans
The crease of trousers.

I wipe the night away
Sit up, hold out my hand –
Wind up- a clockwork toy.

I am not bothered
By the turn of heads
The sideways swerve –

Disgust or pity
I am past all that –
Most of the time, that is.

At least the sweeper speaks
“Shift your feet , lad”
He’ll say

Obedient I move,
Find tears
Not at brusque command

But that he speaks at all
As though I still am real
Here – in the doorway

(written about a `rough sleeper` in Wolverhampton )

Iris Rhodes

To Boldly Go Where The Tourist Board Never Does

And so it began - with a fanfare of music, both classic and folk
As we tackled Austerity’s sickening joke
With speeches and safety and thanks one and all
100 miles if we have to crawl!

And so on through Smethwick to slog up Cape Hill
So far, so good (Mr. Shennan is chilled)
We walked 30 strong, and more joined along
Tweeting and singing Austerity songs

And so on past factories, boarded and grey
No Tourist Board posters point out the way
But people are smiling and drivers toot too
And the foster team feeds us – we’re grateful to you

And so on to Wolves - the old gold and black
Goodyear’s all gone, jobs ain’t come back.

Pete Unwin, Poet Austeriate
19 April 2017

Haiku for Boot Out Austerity

Could we use haiku?
Does justice need leaner speech
But richer action?

Ruth Allen
23 March 2017

Poem for World Social Work Day
(Or Social Work for World Poetry Day)

Today I heard a social worker say
That social work exists in the spaces in between
Perhaps a poet could have said the same
Today is World Social Work Day
World Poetry Day too
Poets and social workers
Share words as well as days
And a reaching for that
which cannot be said
In any other way

Guy Shennan
21 March 2017

My Sad Walk to Work

The bright spring air darkens as I approach the cordon tape
White suited figures like off the telly kneeling on the canal bank
A gathering crowd of older shoppers nod sagely and agree
It’ll be one of those alkies, they drinks like fishes
And now they’m with the fishes, just wait and see
I take a sly look canal wise but see nothing
And only think of the staff in the hostel and of what it must feel like
on a cold sun March morning face down in a canal
Does your life really flash before you like it did me
on a gently drowning sunny day all those years ago
Or is it a horrible, cold and vicious end to a tortured life
And what of the relatives, if still in touch
A lover , a man, a son wanted so much
Now lying bloated and cold with his story untold
Who will weep at his passing, not the bystanding crowd
I’ve heard of those funerals just a pastor and book
Forty six years face down in the cut.
I tell my sad story as I arrive at my desk
But nobody’s bothered, these things happen, they says.

Peter Unwin
20 March 2017

My Rich Walk to Work

Driveways heave with commuter cars on bends and verge alike
A misty spring morn dampness clears and the spires appear on high
Past detritus of old street sleepers, the hostel and the mosque
Past chatting Asian princesses who spare me not a glance
Down past bargain basement stores to crowded market shops
Blackbird whistles a lonely note and sirens drown him out
Past Tattoo parlour and gliding swans the muddy river thinks
Cast iron bridge and small train thunder, café window blinks
Bacon butties, men in work clothes and chaffinch startled pinks
Up the hill and across the road as pigeons coo me on
To my place of work, of hopes and dreams
League Tables but no song. 

Peter Unwin
6 March 2017