A Tale of Modern Britain – Caleb Femi’s ode to Heathrow

Caleb Femi at Heathrow with departing aircraft in background

Caleb Femi, the young people’s laureate for London, has created a novel take on the spirit of Heathrow with his latest spoken-word poem, A Tale of Modern Britain.

Nigerian-born but worn in London, Femi’s latest work, with its pulsating rhythm perfectly captures the beating heart of Heathrow. With his dulcet urban tones, he flits seamlessly between welcoming new visitors to our quirky shores to providing inspiration when you next get a call to adventure.

The poem is generously peppered with a mixture of sights and sounds and the ‘kingdom of faces’ that helps make Heathrow a destination all by itself. So, whether it’s getting your pre-nuptial hen do off to a flying start or just coming home to tea and crumpets, let Femi provide you with an alternative twist to the tale that makes modern Britain wag.

A Tale of Modern Britain

You arrive at the end of the horizon
standing at the tarmac mouth of home
lighter if you left it all behind -heavier if you brought all with you.
Come, before you step out into the open air
sit down here, in-between the brief pause
of children’s laughter and a tannoy announcement.
In the small kingdom of faces -some moving with
the grace of falling snow
others like laser beams bouncing off a disco ball.

Not too long ago you were at departures
when leaving was a sweet song bitter in the throat to sing.
Do you remember the faces who were leaving for work,
or for the spring holidays,
to say goodbye at a family funeral
or for the laughter of a hen do?
Those who were answering the call to adventure
with an open ticket in hand and in the other a phone
full of friends who will follow them each step of the way.

Now you’ve arrived at the other side of that adventure
in the warmness of home
shed the hue of ‘tourist’
you’re back in your endz now
one of the locals
you know the right trains to catch
know the best breakfast spot.

This country is not a place of good weather but of good people.
What do you want to know about the country? You might learn it here
in this marketplace of modern British culture.
Take a crash course in the local lingo
teach your ears the different accents
we don’t all sound like Downton Abbey
not all Northerns sound like Wayne Rooney
some of us man do get hot
we’re not all about tea and crumpets -well some of us are.

Imagine a terminal as a portal to a new version of yourself
a new light pouring over a new sunrise
remember that as you
depart at the start of the horizon
standing at the tarmac mouth of the world.

– Caleb Femi, 2018

So who is Caleb Femi?

Caleb Femi is a 27-year-old spoken word poet and English teacher who was born in Nigeria and moved to Peckham when he was seven years old. He is currently the first ever Young People’s Laureate for London and a judge in this year’s Premier League Writing Stars competition for schoolchildren across England and Wales.

Earlier this year, Caleb wrote and directed a short documentary called Heartbreak and Grime. which unpacks the effect grime had on a generation of London youth and dating culture.

A common theme in Femi’s poetry is his exploration of the past and past selves – dismantling them and building them back up to make some sense out of them. Peckham, where he grew up, makes so many appearances within his work it becomes a character itself. “‘Your hair smells like a Fela Kuti song’”, he says in his poem Coconut Oil, “She was never sure whether I was talking to her or the town.”

His devotion to his city made him a natural choice as the first Young People’s Laureate for London in 2016. Femi is currently fulfilling his year-long position in the role (up until March 2018), which aims to raise the profile of poetry in the city and engage young people. He’s also a member of interdisciplinary super-collective SXWKS (so named after the six weeks of summer holidays school kids get in the UK).

Caleb features in the Dazed 100 list of the next generation shaping youth culture, and has written and directed several short films commissioned by the BBC and Channel 4, whilst the Tate Modern, The Royal Society for Literature, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Guardian have commissioned his poems.

He is regularly invited to perform on high profile stages including the Roundhouse mainstage, Barbican, British Library, Royal Festival Hall and Latitude Festival, and in 2015 won both the Roundhouse Poetry Slam and Genesis Poetry Slam.

Next year, his focus will be working on his debut book alongside planning the follow-up to his Channel 4 short film debut ‘And The Knew Light’ about inner-city Londoners.

Find your next adventure

If Femi’s words ‘do get you hot’ for your next adventure, then Heathrow has more than 180 different destinations to choose from. And with new routes springing up this Spring to Kefalonia and Corsica, why not visit Go-Heathrow and book yourself a trip knowing that you will return home as a local and see Britain through a brand-new lens.

Go to Heathrow.com