To mark National Poetry Day (Thursday 1st October), Birmingham poet – Basic Existential Boy – has installed a city-wide graffiti trail, inspired by his own experiences of Covid.
Basic Existential Boy, or Jim Cockburn as he’s also known, launched his collection of Covid-19 poetry last month after falling ill with symptoms of the virus back in February.
Now, as we approach National Poetry Day, Jim hopes to inspire others and share his love of the written word with this thought provoking ‘clean graffiti’ art trail.
The trail aims to highlight the importance of art and poetry at times like these but also analyse how the pandemic has radically altered our society, rendering everyday life virtually unrecognisable overnight.
Showcasing excerpts of the poet’s work, the graffiti can be found in a number of locations throughout Birmingham such as Moseley, Harborne, Digbeth, Broad Street and New Street, as well as Moor Street and Snow Hill.
Speaking about his Covid poetry collection, Jim says: “Lockdown created time and space for me to reflect and writing this poetry has been a cathartic experience, helping me to deal with the mixed emotions the pandemic has brought about.
“The Coronavirus has disrupted every part of our lives in profound ways and no one has been immune from the effects. Within the pages of the collection, I have tried to capture some of these momentous times, good and bad.
Available to purchase on Amazon, Jim’s collection – called Covid Spring – features 17 poems reflecting on the world we’ve come to witness during the pandemic.
All proceeds from the collection go to EPIC Youth – a project set up by the Martin James Foundation to help disadvantaged young people with business and entrepreneurial success.
Martin James Network founder and chairperson, Jim Cockburn, has launched a collection of Covid-19 inspired poetry after falling ill with symptoms of the virus back in February.
Jim is usually known for his candid, straight-talking approach in business but he also has a surprising love for the arts, theatre and literature.
Like many of us during lockdown, Jim re-evaluated the things that brought him joy and he started to express himself through poetry.
It was here that Jim’s pseudonym, Basic Existential Boy, was born. He was inspired to write Covid Spring – a collection of 17 poems reflecting on the world we’ve come to witness during the pandemic.
The collection features pieces such as The Covid Singalong, Kick It Out Covid, and Covid the Crow, and analyses how the pandemic has radically altered British society, rendering everyday life virtually unrecognisable overnight.
The anthology is available to purchase on Amazon, with proceeds going to EPIC Youth – a project set up by the Martin James Foundation to help disadvantaged young people with business and entrepreneurial success.
Jim comments: “Lockdown created time and space for me to reflect and writing this poetry has been a cathartic experience, helping me to deal with the mixed emotions the pandemic has brought about.
“The Coronavirus has disrupted every part of our lives in profound ways and no one has been immune from the effects.
“Within the pages of the collection, I have tried to capture some of these momentous times, good and bad, with my verse as the drama unfolds.”
Fellow Brummie and renowned spoken word artist, Amerah Saleh, has brought a selection of the poems to life in a series of short performances on Basic Existential Boy’s YouTube and social media channels.
Amerah says: “It’s really important for me to connect with any work I take on, to feel the story and to be able to relate it to my life. These poems are a glimpse into what a lot of people are thinking and feeling around the world. The writing is poignant and raw, and that is the kind of thing I have always loved to read. To bring it to life feels like I’m able to share these important words into voice.
“Writing like this really hits home with life right now and allows you to reflect on the world as a whole rather than our micro-society. Basic Existential Boy looks at the bigger picture and how Covid-19 is impacting everyone’s lives.”
Birmingham-based business, the Martin James Network, has expanded its portfolio further with the acquisition of VR company, VR Simulation Systems.
Headquartered in Edgbaston, and employing over 1,200 people globally, the Martin James Network is formed from a variety of organisations ranging from start-ups to well-established brands that have been in business for over 15 years.
The network has gone from strength-to-strength over the last two years, having started as a team of ten in rented offices in October 2018.
This latest move sees the network expand its mental health group, TalkOut, as it looks to help businesses navigate new ways of working and support staff wellbeing following the coronavirus outbreak.
Headed up by CEO, Jill Mead, TalkOut will now be able to offer workplaces across the country access to the best employee mental health support using the latest technology, in addition to its existing training and consultancy services.
As well as the new VR offering enabling employees to better understand and manage mental health through simulated environments, TalkOut has launched an app to help businesses connect and engage with teams as the nation adjusts to home working.
Rigorously tested for 18 months, and developed to work across countries and continents, the app helps businesses encourage collaboration, boost engagement, break down silos and provide crucial mental health support and counselling through a specialist chat function.
Ayyab Cockburn, chief operating officer at the Martin James Network, says: “We’re an ambitious network of businesses and we’re always looking at ways to diversify and grow, whilst keeping an eye on emerging trends.
“This latest acquisition is our response to what is a global issue. We’ve all been forced to work remotely, and whilst flexibility is an attractive benefit, this way of working can lead to isolation or silos.
“Businesses now more than ever are faced with both emotional and physical barriers that can and will impact on their success. Accepting that we need to change how we communicate with our employees, will be key in driving businesses forward during this challenging time.”
The recent COVID-19 outbreak has caused immense disruption to businesses across the globe – and in some cases, irreparable damage. But for The Martin James Group, the clever use of data and digital platforms, alongside unwavering persistence, has meant we have been able to navigate the crisis and ride the bumpy wave.
From charities to leading technology brands, The Martin James Network consists of three groups of companies all with a shared vision of changing futures. Founded by Martin James Cockburn – or Jim, as he’s commonly known – the network ranges from start-ups to well-established brands that have been in business for over 15 years.
Like all businesses, the Martin James Network hasn’t been able to completely avoid the impact and interruption felt by this unprecedented global pandemic. Yet, thanks to its existing innovations and the need for continued support from the markets it operates within, the network has been able to adapt and make the most of a potentially catastrophic situation.
Jim shares the network’s learnings and successes from the last four weeks of this new business landscape:
Over the last 12 months, the Martin James Network has developed and implemented a digital communication and engagement app called JiffyJab, which allows organisations to share information within their own private network. Having already been successfully adopted by a number of businesses, we are now offering the app to the care, charity and health sectors free of charge during the coronavirus crisis.
One of our brands, FosterTalk – a not-for-profit support service for foster carers – has also been working with internal partners to implement a new communication tool. Due to launch soon, the app will allow FosterTalk members to access advice and support, as well as chat in real-time to other foster carers at what is an extremely stressful and challenging time for them.
Responding to market needs
Our brand leaders across the network have been using this crisis to shape new ways of working, whilst responding to market needs. Life sciences company, Okra, is working to offer COVID-19 insights using transformative predictive AI technology. Our workplace mental health organisation, TalkOut, is offering more webinars and online training at a time when managing employee mental health remotely is crucial. Business support and IT brand, Anster, has been busy developing a family support package to help Local Authorities across the UK support more vulnerable families. And Intellect – our foster carer tax advice service – is supporting carers to unpick and understand the massive volume of information regarding self-employment.
Offering a helping hand
Our charity, the Martin James Foundation, supports vulnerable young people around the world and has stepped up during this crisis to launch an emergency appeal. It is also working closely with partners in Birmingham to support more vulnerable families within communities that need it.
Internally, the network’s People team have launched a range of initiatives to boost morale and wellbeing, including wellbeing Wednesday, Sing-a-long Thursday, quiz nights on Friday, daily HIIT workouts on Facebook Live, and a Facebook group for employees needing to keep their kids entertained which has grown to nearly 4,000 members.
We are also hugely proud that we haven’t had to furlough too many staff and any that have been, have had 100% of their salaries covered.
Crisis builds collaboration
In what is an unsettling and stressful time, our people have really stepped up to get employees and themselves through the upheaval. Whilst information and updates were always previously shared between brands, our network leaders are now having weekly virtual meetings so we can share ideas and concerns, as well as identify new ways to collaborate and support each other.
Our staff continue to support each other through candid and authentic communications via our internal communications app, JiffyJab, as well as through Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Slack.
Jim comments: “It could be very easy to be knocked back by a crisis like this but through collaborative effort and the commitment of each brand within the network, we’ve managed to explore new ways of working and meet market demands.
“Our focus has become sharper during these testing times and our network’s mantra of ‘connecting minds and shaping futures to transform lives’ resonates now more than ever.
“We’ve learned that times of crisis and uncertainty can actually give us more courage and we believe that we will come out the end stronger and more resilient as a network.”
Find out more about the Martin James Network here.
A few weeks
back, our Birmingham-based restaurant, Holy Moly – home of the ‘Proper Mac’, headed up by Paul Elliott teamed up with national
charity, FoodCycle, to help support vulnerable people in the local community
each week with hot meals.
combines surplus food, spare kitchen spaces and volunteers to create
three-course meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation,
whilst helping those who may not be able to afford to feed themselves or their
donated its first selection of its vegetarian cheesy ‘Proper Mac’ to the UK
charity in January and has provided hot meals on a
weekly basis since, until the restaurant was forced to close due to the
We’re pleased to announce, we will donate essential food on a weekly basis, during lockdown. Throughout this uncertain time, it is now more important than ever, that those who are most exposed are not left hungry or lonely, and we support the mission and determination of this incredible national charity, and ensure our community is fully nourished.
Different parts of the network have been involved in ensuring this goes ahead including –
Martin James Foundation who have provided the donation through their EPIC programme. Agility Group – kindly provided the van to transport the goods between wholesaler and FoodCycle. Martin James Group – some of our colleagues helped arrange collection and drop off and Tribera who continue to raise awareness of FoodCycle and promote the partnership.
Paul Elliott, Head of Business at Holy Moly which is part of the Martin James Network, added: “FoodCycle do some incredible work supporting the local community. The charity is made up of amazing volunteers who provide so much to those in need and being able to play a small part in helping, especially during this time, means a lot to us all here.”
You can find out more about FoodCycle by clicking here. Find out the latest news from Holy Moly by clicking here.
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