Ian McMillan (poet)

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Ian McMillan
McMillan in 2011
McMillan in 2011
Born (1956-01-21) 21 January 1956 (age 62)
Darfield, Barnsley, Yorkshire
Occupation Poet, journalist, playwright, broadcaster
Period 1980–present

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Ian McMillan (born 21 January 1956)[1] is an English poet, journalist, playwright, and broadcaster. He is known for his strong and distinctive Barnsley-area accent and his incisive, friendly interview style on programmes such as BBC Radio 3's The Verb.[citation needed] He lives in Darfield, the town of his birth.[2]


McMillan was born in Darfield, South Yorkshire. He attended Low Valley Junior School and Wath Grammar School[3] and graduated in Modern Studies from North Staffordshire Polytechnic in 1978. He started performing on the live poetry circuit in the 1970s. He has had several volumes of his own poetry published, for both adults and children. He is regarded as an enthusiastic advocate of poetry.

In addition he has had journalism published in Q magazine and Mojo magazine, and writes a weekly column in his home town's local newspaper, The Barnsley Chronicle. He is styled "poet in residence" to his hometown football club Barnsley FC. His play Sister Josephine Kicks the Habit, based on the work of fellow Yorkshireman Jake Thackray premiered in 2005. In June 2010 McMillan was appointed poet-in-residence at the English National Opera.[4]

McMillan wrote the libretto for The Arsonists, the world's first opera written in a South Yorkshire dialect, which received its premiere on 18 November 2017.

His son is Andrew McMillan, a poet who won the Guardian first book award 2015 for his debut poetry book Physical.

TV and radio[edit]

McMillan was the host of BBC Radio 4's literary quiz Booked!, broadcast between 1995 and 2000.

McMillan hosts the weekly show The Verb and Proms variation Adverb on BBC Radio 3, "dedicated to investigating spoken words around the globe". He has been described in the BBC's publication Radio Times as the "22nd Most Powerful Person in Radio".[citation needed] He is also a regular roving contributor to Radio 4's Today Programme where he was at one stage dubbed as the programme's "Election Laureate". He co-wrote the Radio 4 comedy series Street and Lane with Dave Sheasby which first aired 2005–2007 and has since been repeated.[5] During January 2007, he presented a BBC Radio 3 series on writing, Ian McMillan's Writing Lab, in which he talked to a range of authors which included Julian Barnes, Mark Ravenhill, Howard Jacobson and Michael Rosen. He has also been a panellist on BBC Radio 4's long-running game show Just A Minute.

In November 2010, McMillan was the castaway on the BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs hosted by Kirsty Young. His choice of music included John Cage's silent piece "4′33″" and Andy Stewart singing "Donald Where's Your Troosers?".

He is a frequent guest on Newsnight Review, The Mark Radcliffe Show, The Today Programme, You & Yours, The Culture Show, Never Mind The Full Stops and Have I Got News For You?. He has narrated two series of The Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District on More4 and also narratesThe Museum on BBC 2 on Thursdays. He has also been employed to provide voice-overs in advertisements for a laundry detergent and a branded food product.

Poetry competitions[edit]

McMillan is a regular judge of poetry competitions. In December 2006, McMillan judged the "Central Trains Poetry Competition" and the winners, from the Royal Grammar School Worcester, were awarded a signed copy of his poem "Take me on a Christmas Trip on Central Trains" at Birmingham Snow Hill station.[6][7][8] He was also a judge in the Foyle Young Poets Awards 2008, and went as a teacher with the winners for a week to The Hurst, an Arvon centre based in Shropshire, as part of their prize.[9] He judged the 2009 Cardiff International Poetry Competition for the award ceremony in June.

In 2005, as "Poet Laureate" for the "Three Cities" (the "Three Cities" in this case being Nottingham, Leicester and Derby), he was involved in the "Three Cities Create and Connect scheme", which included a regional writing competition. The project resulted in a now-scarce publication, A Tale of 3 Cities : New Writing from Derby, Leicester and Nottingham. McMillan contributed a foreword and two original pieces, "Here.Now.Then" and "The Laureate Reflects" as well as co-authoring (with six regional writers) "Three Cities Chain Poem".[10]

Yorkshire dialect work[edit]

In 2007, McMillan published a book named Collins Chelp and Chunter: a Guide to the Tyke Tongue. This was a compilation of words that are used in the Yorkshire dialect as well as a few pieces of Yorkshire humour and illustrations. Many words are pinned down to specific areas of Yorkshire or specific towns or villages; one word, lenerky, that means "soft or floppy", is even ascribed to Grange Moor, a very small village in Kirklees, West Yorkshire near Wakefield between the towns of Barnsley and Huddersfield.[11] In celebration of the UK's 2012 National Pie Week, Ian McMillan wrote a 'piem' devoted to the creations of the 'pie village' of Denby Dale, which has produced several world record breaking pies over the last 250 years.


  • Batteries Not Included: 36 Poems Poetry Leeds, 1980
  • The Changing Problem Carcanet, 1980
  • An Anthology from Versewagon (with John Turner and Martyn Wiley) Versewagon Press, 1982
  • Now it Can be Told Carcanet, 1983
  • How the Hornpipe Failed and Other Poems Rivelin Grapheme, 1984
  • Six: The Versewagon Poetry Manual (editor) Rivelin Grapheme, 1985
  • Tall In The Saddle Doorstop Books, 1986
  • Selected Poems Carcanet, 1987
  • More Poems Please, Waiter, and Quickly! Sow's Ear, 1988
  • Overstone (with David Harmer and Martyn Wiley) Arnold Wheaton, 1988
  • Unselected Poems Wide Skirt Press, 1988
  • Against the Grain Nelson, 1990
  • A Chin?: Poems Wide Skirt Press, 1991
  • Radio 5 Poems Twist In The Tale, 1993
  • Yakety-Yakety-Yakety-Yak! : Poems (with Martyn Wiley) Twist In The Tale, 1993
  • Breathless (editor) Write Around, 1994
  • Dad, the Donkey's On Fire Carcanet, 1994
  • Primary Colours (editor with Elizabeth Carter) Swaledale Festival, 1996
  • Elephant Dreams (with Paul Cookson and David Harmer) Macmillan (Sandwich Poets 3), 1998
  • I Found This Shirt: Poems and Prose from the Centre Carcanet, 1998
  • Just Like Watching Brazil Yorkshire Art Circus, 1999
  • Perfect Catch Carcanet, 2000
  • The Very Best of Ian McMillan Macmillan Children's Books, 2001
  • The Invisible Villain Macmillan Children's Books, 2002
  • Ideas Have Legs: Ian McMillan vs Andy Martin FUEL, 2006
  • Chelp and Chunter: How to Talk Tyke (illustrated by Alex Collier) Collins, 2007
  • Talking Myself Home: My Life in Verses John Murray, 2008
  • A Tale of Three Cities (with Les Baynton, David Duncombe and others) Arts Council, 2005

Discography (with The Ian McMillan Orchestra)[edit]

  • Sharp Stories, Taith Records, 2007
  • Homing In, Taith Records, 2011

See also[edit]


External links[edit]