Meet a Member: Tom Sharp

This month, Tom Sharp shares some current projects, a game-changing ad for the Design Museum, and why he actually doesn’t love words…

We’ll be meeting a new 26 member each month. If you’d like to feature, or nominate another member, drop me a line at Don’t be shy.

Tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from and what do you do?

I grew up in Hammerwich, a Mid lands village. Every day I passed a corn field. Shortly after I left they dug the field and found Europe’s largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold. Maybe this is a metaphor. I’m a poet and a commercial writer. I’ve written for the British Library, Google, Design Museum, Southbank Centre, V&A, Nike, Innovate UK, English National Ballet, D&AD, British Council, Francis Crick Institute, Women Deliver and Art Fund.  

Where did your love of words come from?

I don’t love words. I find them slippery and unfaithful. You can trust them as much as you can trust atoms. I do believe in magic though – willed actions to change reality – and in years of searching I’ve never found a technology that can cause reality transformation as successfully as writing. 

What made you join 26? And how long have you been a member?

Under a year. Tim Rich told me about 26 and I listen to Tim Rich.

Have you been involved in any 26 projects?

I’m one of the core editors on the upcoming Hot Flashes project with Ed and Becca. I’m writing about William Morris for the Bloomsbury thing. 

What’s your ideal scenario for writing? (A coffee shop? Quiet retreat? With or without music? What do you do to get yourself in the right frame of mind?)

I do the thinking part of writing all the time. Luckily I have quite a cold expression so people don’t make small talk with me and I can get on with it. The pen and paper crafting part happens anywhere. I do this in sky blue ink and I prefer unlined paper. I listen to wordless music, Brian Eno’s ‘77 Million Paintings’ and Peter Gabriel’s ‘Last Temptation of Christ’ are on such a rotation that they skew my Spotify algorithms.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working with Politico on some outdoor advertising. I’m writing a second summer campaign for the British Library, following the one I did last year. I’ve created and am leading a group artistic exhibition about fairies and the City of London, I’m writing a long, surreal poetic fairytale as part of this. I’m in talks to turn my most recent poetry publication, ‘Naomi’s Poem’, into a stage piece. I’m working with a large architectural practice on an artistic installation about the language we surround buildings with. 

Could you tell us about a piece of writing you’re particularly proud of?

I wrote a nine-word advert for the Design Museum, ‘Someday the other museums will be showing this stuff’, which was their most successful campaign. Ticket sales went up, the ad was featured in various books, and the line helped shift thinking internally. 

On a different scale, thematically and wordcountedly, my recent long piece, ‘Naomi’s Poem’, about confronting mortality and childhood memories, has resonated deeply with lots of people.

Where do you get your inspiration? 

The corn field we all go digging in. Jung called it the Collective Unconsciousness and Alan Moore calls it Ideaspace. I used to think I originated ideas, now I realise I just encourage altered states to access what is already there for all of us.

– Tom Sharp and Sophie Gordon

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