Andrew Motion
Human Skill



Hyphen-21 is a UK charity founded in 1994. Its “hyphen” title was suggested by a book called “I and Thou” by Martin Buber. The hyphen is a slender line, connecting I and Thou, one to other. But all we can be, all we can make, belong there. What each of us bring to the hyphen between us will outlive us both.

The charity’s original vision has much to do with the principles and skills of social work and similar occupations. In 1994, Margaret Thatcher had resigned only quite recently. After her years in power,  the function, values and whole meaning and purpose of social work was in question. How could it be otherwise, when “there is no such thing as Society” ? Social work is all about society, and what constitutes community and social responsibility.

The charity was formed at the suggestion of Phyllida Parsloe, once Professor of Social Work at the University    of Bristol. She saw a role for a quiet and independent voice that spoke up and acted in defence of community    and connectedness, amid fracture.

Hyphen-21’s aim was thus to name, highlight and affirm, through examples and by degrees, the skills, qualities and values required to run a vital, creative and cohesive 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 ? What does it consist of ? How can it flourish ? How survive ?

Over the years the charity has focused on two main areas in particular. One was social care in mental ill-health. The Hyphen-21 website sought to identify and explore issues and positive initiatives in this area. Mostly it sought to pass on examples of good practice.

The charity’s second main focus has been a project which displays poem-posters in public – in schools,    libraries and waiting rooms. The poems are carefully selected and formatted and many are bilingual, 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.”

For several years, Hyphen-21’s website sought to offer detailed descriptions and updates of its work in both its two main areas of activity.

But in 2008, the UK Poet Laureate of that time, Andrew Motion, launched a website designed specifically for this charity’s public poetry project. All its poems presently available can be downloaded from there, free of charge.  The site’s address is https://poemsforthewall.org/

And, later in 2017, a site called “Better Mental Health Working” will start to feature the charity’s perspectives, findings and recommendations to do with community mental health work.

In addition, Rogan Wolf, the charity’s founder, nowadays 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/

These developments require significant changes to the present site and these are being made in stages    through 2017.

The rotating pictures along the top of the site will continue to be a feature. They provide us with our context.    We shall also retain references around the site to the various projects we have conducted, which have    attracted comment and commendation over the years.

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

Latest News

“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
Catching up
January 12, 2017
Through the first half of 2017 this website is changing in various ways. Partly in how it looks. Partly in its role. The change is due partly to the fact that the site was looking increas...