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Welcome to the Joan Eardley Poetry Competition!

2021 marks the centenary of the artist Joan Eardley (1921-1963) recognised as one of Scotland’s most significant post-war artists. Eardley’s work has a sense of immediacy and power which is still felt today. Her pioneering work advanced modern painting in Scotland and it had parallels with avant-garde movements internationally.

This poetry competition invites participants to be inspired by the visual art of Eardley held in the Paisley Museum collection. What does Eardley’s work mean to you? How does it make you feel? Can you imagine Eardley’s Townhead studio? What did Eardley sense when she painted at the cliff edge in Catterline in the north east of Scotland?

This competition is open to everyone, from school age to adults. Poems will be judged, and winning entries displayed online to mark this important year. All formats of poems will be considered – there is no wrong way to submit! Please find examples below for inspiration.

Entries should be sent via email to this address: Please add your name, age and where you are from to the email

The competition closes 31st July 2021 with winners to be announced shortly afterwards.


joan eardley

joan eardley

Image credits

Joan Eardley, Boy on Stool, Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, Renfrewshire Leisure held on behalf of Renfrewshire Council © the Eardley Estate

Joan Eardley, Winter Stacks, Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, Renfrewshire Leisure held on behalf of Renfrewshire Council © the Eardley Estate


Dr Helen Tookey is a Senior Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University and has written poetry inspired by the life and work of Joan Eardley. We reproduce an example here with her permission:


white rag of shirt on a clothesline

cottage sliding away downhill

shell of a house           sailcloth walls


doesn’t matter

what you needed was weather

snowlight        smear of sun

in summer the grasses’ streak and scatter

but most of all water

its ways of breaking 

ice wall           light fracture

you for hours               standing alone

at the tideline

the point of shatter

© Helen Tookey


Paisley Museum is running a programme of dedicated activities to celebrate Eardley’s life and work. We will acknowledge her importance as a woman artist when the art world was still so closed to women. The more personal aspects of her life will be explored; Eardley was gay and lived openly in Catterline with women partners (when homosexuality was illegal) and she lived with depression throughout her adult life.





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