'the ultimate spoken word artist' Apples'n'Snakes
'a force of nature' The Guardian



As well as litfests & theatres & village halls the length & breadth of the land, Ian enjoys doing the occasional House Concert. Let us know if you're interested!

New: TO FOLD THE EVENING STAR – New and Selected Poems (Carcanet)

Write Out Loud review
The London Magazine interview
Stride Magazine review

'The jovial, friendly face and voice of British poetry has here produced an outstanding collection of poignant, inquisitive and enjoyable poems, gathered from the last 20+ years. It is also subversive, political and experimental in the best way possible.' © Rupert Loydell, Stride Magazine

NEITHER NOWT NOR SUMMAT In Search of the Meaning of Yorkshire (Ebury)
With contributions from the Cudworth Probus Club, a kazoo playing train guard, Mad Geoff the barber and four Saddleworth council workers looking for a mattress, Ian tries to discover what lies at the heart of Britain’s most distinct county and its people, as well as finding out whether the Yorkshire Pudding is worthy of becoming a UNESCO Intangible Heritage Site, if Harrogate is really, really, in Yorkshire and, of course, who knocks up the knocker up?

'Best INSET day I've been to in 30 years!' Anon

'Ian was totally fabulous and the schools were blown away' Erin Barnes, Picture The Poet, National Literacy Trust

'I've decided, after last Friday's Sporting History conference, that every conference should have a poet, and it should always be Ian McMillan!'  @RafNicholson 

You were brilliant today' Tom Riordan, Chief Executive, Leeds City Council
'the verbal gymnastics of a north country Spike Milligan coupled with the comic timing of Eric Morecambe'
Martin Dimery, Frome Festival
'I knew he was good, but he’s even better' Wirral Festival of Firsts
'world-class – one of today’s greatest poetry performers' Carol Ann Duffy
'With the best will in the world AGM's are not lively. But I laughed so much at your stint I could hardly breathe!' Matlock U3A AGM

'inching towards the status of a National Treasure' Andy Kershaw

Ian is poet-in-residence for The Academy of Urbanism and Barnsley FC. He’s been resident poet at English National Opera and UK Trade & Investment Poet, Yorkshire TV’s Investigative Poet and Humberside Police’s Beat Poet.

'He was absolutely brilliant and really made the event. The fact that he had such empathy with the subject matter was perfect and I've now lost count of how many people have either emailed or who came up to me to say he made the conference the best they'd ever been to and inspired them to use oral history and sport going forward!! Massively helped us to achieve our aims and can't thank him enough!' Justine Reilly , Sporting Heritage CIC

'the best evening that the club has had in a long, long time' Pontefract Rotary Club
'We haven't laughed so much for years, you were an absolute hit.' Grimsby Everyman Club
' the man's a genius!' Yorkshire Post reader
'Ian McMillan, owner of one of the finest broadcasting voices currently gracing the airwaves' Radio Times  

a superb exponent of palindromes, puns and garden path sentences and his tweets include ‘Pam ran backwards into a map’ and the magnificent ‘T.Eliot, top bard, notes putrid tang emanating, is sad. I’d assign it a name: gnat dirt upset on drab pot toilet. Palindrome’.’ www.theculturetrip.com  

Ian has been castaway on Desert Island Discs. Cartoon by Doug Lawrence

‘If there's a more engaging presence on the radio than Barnsley poet Ian McMillan and a more entertaining show than Radio 3's The Verb then I don't know it’ Stuart Maconie, Radio Times

Ian's verse autobiography is Talking Myself Home (John Murray Publishing).
John Murray, £10; 96pp  Buy the book here

Step closer, please, and hear my song.
It won’t take long, it won’t take long.

I hold my secret in the frost
I keep my secret in the cold
I hold it tight; it can’t get lost
A secret as shiny as gold

Fly me high through winter air
Take me over freezing seas
Place me in the bright lights’ glare
Stand me in the icy breeze.

Step closer now and hear my tune
Lit by the beaming Christmas moon.

I had to go, I could not stay
Beneath the distant stars so high.
My secret hidden, locked away,
As fragile as a sigh.

I’m here to stand as people stare
As babies point and parents smile
And magic fills the gleaming air
Crowds slow down and stand awhile.

Step closer, please, and hear my song
It won’t take long, it won’t take long.

In a country far away
The light shone on the saw
I felt unsteady, felt me sway
Crashed down to the floor

But something happened as I fell
I felt some magic start to shift
Inside me like a secret spell
Like falling snow begins to drift

Step closer now and hear my tune
Lit by the beaming Christmas moon

In the corner of your watching eye
Here’s my secret: hard to prove
My well-lit branches wave goodbye:
When nobody’s looking, I move.

I stroll around Trafalgar Square
Then quickly I am back in place.
But surely I was over there?
I see it in your face!

I am the mobile Christmas tree
My secret’s safe with you
Step over here and you will see
I’m walking. Yes, it’s true!

Step closer, please, and hear my song.
It won’t take long, it won’t take long.

© Ian McMillan for the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree and The Poetry Society

It is so cold.
The lines of this poem are sinking
Into the unforgiving mud. No clean sheet.

Dawn on a perishing day. The weapons freeze
In the hands of a flat back four. 
The moon hangs in the air like a ball
Skied by a shivering keeper.
All these boys want to do today
Is shoot, and defend, and attack.

Light on a half-raised wave. The trench-faces
Lifted till you see their breath.
A ball flies in the air like a moon
Kicked through the morning mist.
All these boys want to have today 
Is a generous amount of extra time.

No strict formations here, this morning;
No 4-4-2 or 3-5-1
No rules, really. Just a kickabout
With nothing to be won
Except respect. We all showed pictures,
I learned his baby’s name.

Now clear the lines of this poem
And let’s get on with the game.

No white penalty spot, this morning,
The players are all unknown.
You can see them in the graveyards
In teams of forgotten stone;
The nets are made of tangled wire,
No Man’s Land is the pitch,
A flare floodlights the moments
Between the dugouts and the ditch.

A hundred winters ago sky opened
To the sunshine of the sun
Shining on these teams of players
And the sounds of this innocent game.
All these boys want to hear today
Is the final whistle. Let them walk away.

It has been so cold. The lines 
Of these poems will be found, written
In the unforgotten mud like a team sheet.
Remember them. Read them again.

© Ian McMillan for the Premier League and The Poetry Society


Sue Townsend, you made me.
You built me. 
You constructed me.
In some ways you were my mother
Although I had a real mother
Although she couldn’t be my real mother
Because you invented her too.

Sue Townsend, you have left us.
Faded like a Leicester sunset
Just before the darkness. 
I never liked being on the shelf in my life
But you have made sure
That I will be on lots of shelves
For ever.

I like that line about a Leicester sunset
And I know that you would too
Because you liked fine writing.

(c) Ian McMillan


Every day you need your breakfast
And Every day you need a rhyme
Start the morning with a cuppa
And Every morning’s poem time!

Poetry’s essential, just like porridge:
Poems will make you smile, not curse 
So I say start every morning
With a fine Full English Break-verse! 

© Ian McMillan, The Chris Evans Breakfast Show


On the first day of Yorkshire Christmas my true love gave to me
A tinsel muffler to put round me tree
On the second
2 racing pigeons
3 nippy whippets
4 flat caps
5 Dickie Birds
6 Grandmas grumbling
7 Grandads snoring
8 Banghra Dancers
9 parkin makers
10 Bowls full of Yorkshire pudding batter
11. Football teams struggling in the lower divisions
12 Michael Parkinson Blow Up Dolls

© Ian McMillan


Our house was always full of Burns;
We had his picture on a shortbread tin
That became my mother’s button tin.
It’s strange the way a poet learns:

I asked my dad about the solemn bloke
On the button tin; my dad explained
About the bard, and he explained
How the poet’s words came from the folk

He listened to, their songs, their rhymes,
Their stories in the Ayrshire air;
Dad’s story hung in Yorkshire air
And then, as he did many times

My Dad recited ‘To a mouse....’
In his dancing Scottish voice
And a poet’s long-dead voice
Reverberated round our house

And the stern chap on the button tin
Could not suppress a Bardic grin.

© Ian McMillan 8.1.09 for The Times and Rabbie's 250th Birthday


Before, when you got mail,
It was a chap in a cap with a sack packed full;
Before, when you researched
You sat and sweated in a library that was just this side of dull;

And when you booked your holidays
You stood there in a queue
Behind a family of five and a pensioner or two
And life seemed so much slower, somehow;
There was acres of last week and just half a glimpse of now;

Today you click
On a mouse
And you can shop till you drop without leaving the house
And now you send 
Your blogs
Right across the globe and the photos of your dogs
Can appear on your site in the twinkling of an eye
And in a tick you get a picture back of Grandma saying Hi!
Framed against the backdrop of a California sky…

And it’s been fifteen years from before to this
And now we’re living in a universe of constant cyber bliss! 
And like the first fire in the cave
Or the first turning of The Wheel
The internet is changing how we think and speak and feel
And in the next fifteen years the net will turn and twist again
And go down murky sidestreets far beyond this Barnsley brain
And one thing’s certain: the net is here forever,
Constant as taxes, unpredictable as weather…

And before I’m dragged right under in a growing tide of spam
I’ve time for just this one last post: I click therefore I am!

© Ian McMillan, for BBC R4 Today, 7.8.06


Come friendly words and splash on Slough!
Celebrate it, here and now
Describe it with a gasp, a ‘wow!’
Of Sweet Berkshire breath

Slough is open, wide and green
With gorgeous buildings in between;
In the museum can be seen
Slough life, Slough death

Which show the history of a town
That people have tried to put down
By talking of it with a frown
And cruel sneers.

It’s true Slough Town don’t always win
But losing’s shrugged off with a grin;
Slough can take it on the chin
And has, for years.

Some towns are just seen as a joke
Through a fog of prejudicial smoke
Well, let’s shut up these put-down folk:
Their opinions smell!

Ask Slough people if they’re glad
To live in Slough, dismissed as bad:
Mum and dad and girl and lad
Are living well!

In 1196 it was known as Slo
and through the years it’s had to grow:
people came here ‘cos they didn’t want to go
To Maidenhead.

On foot, in coaches, trains and cars
To the factories, houses, shops and bars
They came to play or work for Mars
And stayed, and bred.

It’s people, living lives with care
And breathing in the Berkshire air
That make a town think ‘Yes, I’m there!’
And the sneering fails.

So, Children, Husband, partner, wife
Dismiss the poet’s rhyming knife
Slough’s the place to live your life
So hoist Slough’s sails!

© Ian McMillan, for VOLVIC, 19.4.05
as an antidote to John Betjeman’s take on the town

Bookings / info. contact: Adrian Mealing tel/fax:  +44 (0) 1684 540366  web: www.uktouring.org.uk

Press contact: Jim Howden tel: +44 (0)1568 620515   e-mail: jim@uktouring.org.uk

Page last updated: 22 October 2016