Chaired by Rt Hon Baroness Chalker of Wallasey FRGS, President of the CFCC
With Gyles Brandreth, Aphra Brandreth and His Excellency Kevin M Isaac
Getting to know 2.5 billion people through…. Wait for it… Poetry!
Gyles Brandreth and Aphra Brandreth discussed their Commonwealth Poetry Podcast, now downloaded in 77 countries, and shared what they’ve learnt about soft power and the challenges & opportunities of the modern Commonwealth.
H.E. Kevin Isaac, High Commissioner for St Kitts and Nevis, and also a published poet, joined us to share poems and answer questions.
We were thrilled to welcome CFCC President Rt Hon Baroness Chalker of Wallasey FRGS, His Excellency High Commissioner of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Kevin Isaac, and Gyles Brandreth, and Aphra Brandreth, to discuss poetry in the Commonwealth.
Gyles and Aphra Brandreth shared stories from their fantastic ‘Commonwealth Poetry Podcast’. Gyles delighted the audience with anecdotes from his anthology ‘Dancing By The Light of The Moon’, and espoused the benefits of learning poetry by heart. He recommended we all start with Iambic Pentameter, which mimics the rhythm of the heart and consequently inspired the phrase, ‘learn by heart’.
Gyles turned our attention to, in his words, “one of the best”, the High Commissioner for St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Kevin Isaac. The High Commissioner duly introduced himself as a father and poet, who moonlights as a High Commissioner and remarked that even though St Kitts (also known as St Christopher) and Nevis was the smallest country in the Western hemisphere , he saw it as his duty to say to the world that small doesn’t mean dependency; and whilst he may wear a fedora, he never comes cap in hand.
He reflected on at times depriving himself of poetry so he could hear his own voice and described his poetry as ‘verbal photography’.
The High Commissioner recited three of his superb poems. One, entitled “Paper Cup” was a poem many guests felt they could identify with, as it relates to no longer being in vogue.
With eleven years in the role, the High Commissioner opted not to be a ceremonial diplomat, but to use the pulpit to advance the interests of St Kitts and Nevis and left us with the perennial words of wisdom, that “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
CFCC President Baroness Chalker closed the event with reflections and thanks.
His Excellency Kevin M. Isaac
You can read and subscribe to his poems at www.verbalphotography.com (scroll to the end for a file with a selection)
A career diplomat with over two decades of experience in multilateral and bilateral diplomacy. His Excellency Kevin M. Isaac is an alumnus of the University of the West Indies (Cave Hill and St. Augustine campuses); the University of Birmingham and the University of Warwick. Kevin M. Isaac is St. Kitts-Nevis High Commissioner to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; Permanent Representative to the IMO, non-resident Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam; Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary designate to the Kingdom of Thailand; and a Governor of the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Kevin M. Isaac has served St. Kitts-Nevis in several capacities, including at its Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York; the Embassy of St. Kitts and Nevis to the United States of America and Permanent Mission to the Organization of American States (OAS), both in Washington DC. He also served, in the Cabinet of the former Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, as an Advisor and Coordinator of the OAS in-Country Offices across Latin America and the Caribbean.
He is married to Prangtip. They have three children. High Commissioner Isaac is a former Chevening Scholar, published poet and twice voted Diplomat of the Year for North America and the Caribbean.
Gyles Brandreth is a podcaster, broadcaster, biographer, novelist, author, actor, former MP and Lord Commissioner of the Treasury in the UK. He is Chancellor of the University of Chester, founder of the Poetry Together project, and an ambassador for the Royal Commonwealth Society. His many books include the best-selling anthology of poetry to learn by heart, Dancing by the Light of the Moon. His favourite poems include Macavity: The Mystery Cat by T. S. Eliot. He has recently published book is Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait.
Aphra Brandreth loves Poetry, Pets & Politics! A former Government Economist, she now runs a successful veterinary business with her husband and is a charity trustee for the Castelnau Centre Project. Aphra has been a local councillor and stood as a parliamentary candidate in the 2019 General Election. She lives in South West London with her husband Ian, their three children and their two tortoises Topsy and Tom. Her favourite poems include The Pobble Who Has No Toes by Edward Lear.
By Jamila Robertson