Andrew Motion
Human Skill



Hyphen-21 is a UK charity. It was set up in 1994 to promote and defend the principles and skills of social work and similar disciplines concerned with social responsibility and cohesion. It would seek to do so partly by highlighting particular initiatives associated with good practice.

In the process, we hoped that it  would seek to name and affirm, through example and by small degrees, the skills, qualities and values required to run a vital, creative and stable society of the present day. What are we all for ? What enables and sustains human connection ? What creates trust ? What supports good citizenship and right action and truth-telling ? Where does true empathy belong ? Of what does it consist ? How can it flourish ? How survive ?

Hyphen-21 was formed at the suggestion of Phyllida Parsloe, then Professor of Social Work at the University of Bristol. She saw a role for an independent voice to articulate and keep alive a “social work” position in response to different events and behaviours in our fractured society. Articulating it might help clarify and strengthen it as a valuable, even crucial, perspective.

The  Hyphen title was suggested by a book called “I and Thou” by Martin Buber. The book explores ways in which we, as individuals, deal with “otherness,” the “not me,” the “out there,” the “stranger.” Through    separation ? Or through connection ? What kind of connection ? What each of us brings to the hyphen that connects us will outlive us both.

And the “21” in the tittle is of course this 21st century.

Over the years since its founding, the charity has come to focus on two main areas.

One has been a project which displays poem-posters in places where everyone gathers – in schools, libraries and waiting rooms.  Grant–funded, mostly by the Arts Council, but also by bodies such as the NHS, the King’s Fund and the John Lewis Partnership, the project’s poems are carefully selected and formatted  as posters. Many of these are bilingual, the originals written by poets well-known in their own countries and beyond. It has been said of the bilingual poems that “here is a way to open people’s lives to each other.” The project began life being called “Poems for the Waiting Room.” Later, we changed its name to “Poems for…” In 2017, we changed it again to “Poems for… the wall.” The poems it provides go all over the world.

The charity’s second main focus is social care in mental ill-health. For several years, it identified and explored some current issues in mental health and particular areas of creativity and innovation.

And the first Hyphen website combined both areas of concern, as well as some others. However, over the last decade we have taken a different tack.

In 2008, the UK Poet Laureate of that time, Andrew Motion, launched a website designed specifically for the Poems for…the wall project. All the poems presently available can be downloaded from there, free of charge.  The site’s address is https://poemsforthewall.org

More recently, a site called “Better Mental Health Working” has been constructed. Soon it will start to feature the charity’s perspectives, findings and recommendations to do with community mental health work. It will act less as present-time debating ground, as cache for ideas and thinking which might be worth referring back to.

In addition, Rogan Wolf, the charity’s founder, keeps a blog. There he speaks in a purely personal capacity, but many of his concerns are inevitably consistent with those of this charity he set up. Occasionally, then, if Trustees agree that they further and accord with the charity’s aims and principles, pieces published initially on his blog will be transferred here. His poems often appear on the blog as well. Here is the blog address : https://roganwolf.com/

The role of this site is thus nowadays chiefly to act just as sign-post to the others. However, you can also find here the charity’s latest annual report and some more of its background thinking. Also, in the right hand column of this home page are listed some of our initiatives over the years, with comments they have attracted.

Hyphen-21 is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee.

Latest News

Exhibition of Bilingual Poems in Clifton Cathedral
December 30, 2019
Clifton (Roman Catholic) Cathedral was built in a Bristol suburb in the 1960's and 70's. You can find it near the Brunel suspension bridge, looking massive and unexpected. In the Spr...
“Poems for the wall” heads south west
November 28, 2017
A very good international magazine called "Resurgence," based in Devon, did a feature on the project in July this year. Click here for the online version. And during November, an exhibiti
Further Poems for…the wall developments
January 12, 2017
The charity's  Poems for... project (now re-named Poems for the wall) has launched two new collections for use in schools. With help from the charity United Response, the new collections