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Poetry or Bust

Tony Harrison’s play tells the tragi-comic tale of John Nicholson, the Airedale poet, who drowned in the River Aire by Salts Mill in 1843.

A boozy woolsorter with a huge personality, Nicholson’s sole ambition was to join the literary great and good despite his humble origins at the woollen mill. His employer, Titus Salt, encouraged Nicholson’s poetic endeavours resulting in a small volume of poems. He rushed to London with copies of the book in search of fame and fortune, and was arrested whilst drunkenly haranguing a bust of Shakespeare in a theatre foyer.

Originally staged at Salts Mill in 1993, Harrison resurrected this charismatic character, played by Barrie Rutter, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Salts Mill in September 2003.

Poetry or BustPoetry or Bust