‘The Builder and Poet’ may sound more like a trendy gastro pub than two professions that sit naturally side by side, but street poet and builder Gareth Williams of FMB member company Construction Linx Ltd is demonstrating how his two passions can be combined.
Gareth first started experimenting with poetry during a Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. He was inspired to write his poem ‘An opportunity for community’ after observing the spontaneous and quirky ways the nation celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE day in the middle of Covid restrictions.
Since then, he’s reached new audiences on social media, penned over 25 poems and shared popular spoken word videos. His work includes an officially endorsed poem for the HS2 rail project, alongside more personal poems about dyslexia (Judged by words) and lockdown (Time on our hands). We’re also proud to showcase his latest work in the video below – a composition all about being an FMB member called ‘I’m just like you’, which demonstrates how professional, dedicated, and skilful our members are.
'I'm just like you'We're proud to share Gareth's poem showcasing the pride of FMB members - demonstrating how professional, dedicated, and skilful our members are.
We caught up with Gareth to chat about how his creativity has allowed him to tackle some of the bigger issues, including neurodiversity and mental health...
Q: Is poetry or writing something that has always come naturally to you?
I have always had a love for words, and I didn’t let my dyslexic traits stop me from starting to take writing a little more seriously. I simply applied my skill for writing long emails to work colleagues and marketing copy for customers to another use. I found my Street poems have really resonated with people.
Q: When did you first share your poems with your colleagues at work? What was their response?
My work colleagues have been extremely supportive. Sure, there was some raised eyebrows and ribbing at the start, as poetry does tend to get quite a stereotypical label. I think the style and the way I write, then record my poems has really shown people that poetry doesn’t have to be seen as stuffy or something that is disengaging, but quite the opposite. I believe poetry can have real meaning and convey a message in a different, more engaging way.
Q: You first started writing during lockdown. That was a tough time for many people in the construction industry – was it a therapeutic process for you?
The lockdown period was very frustrating for many businesses, and this was clearly no different in the construction industry. Here at Construction Linx we were extremely lucky with the commercial nature of our business, which allowed us to communicate with our customers and ‘weather the storm’.
As for the process [of writing poetry], I find it extremely therapeutic as well as creatively rewarding, from researching the subject of the poem right through to taking the time to create something that I hope will mean something to whoever listens to it.
Q: Do you see your poetry as a way of opening the discussion about issues that have touched your life, like mental health or neurodiversity?
I certainly do think that this form of freedom of expression is incredibly important in talking about subjects such as mental health or neurodiversity. I certainly found this very useful when we realised our eldest son was having difficulty at school and how this was interrelated to my own dyslexic traits. Over the last 18 months we have had a life changing journey as a family in understanding not only dyslexia, but also how our ADHD diagnosis have been a part of our lives for some time.
It has also been a pleasure of mine to be invited to attend the ADHD foundation umbrella project in Stoke-on-Trent as a lead artist and writing about such issues.
Q: Your poetry comes to life as spoken word on your social media posts. Is live performance something you’d like to do more of?
I am most comfortable with the performance format of my spoken-word work, and this meant posting it on the most popular social media sites. During lockdown, I was touched by the tremendous response I received from people from around the world, so I decided to carry on.
People seemed genuinely surprised and their remarks about this hidden talent have really encouraged me. I’ve written close to 25 poems now and have been asked by the Federation of Master Builders to create something special for you and your members.
Q: What would you say to other builders about using a creative passion or hobby to manage stress, anxiety, or other issues?
I think there is a massive under appreciation of how creative people in the construction industry are, as my experience of tradespeople is that their biggest strength lies in how they think differently and produce amazing projects with the skills they are naturally born with.
I think that finding a creative hobby such as writing, music or traditional artwork is such a release that has certainly helped me on my journey in the last 18 months.
Help and support for the construction community
Exploring your creative side can be a great way to self-support your mental health. But sometimes we need a bit more of a helping hand.
The FMB’s national charity partner, The Lighthouse Club, offers free and confidential help to construction workers and their families affected by mental health issues. If you or someone you know is struggling, the Construction Industry Helpline is always available 24/7 on 0345 605 1956.