Updated 31st August 2008

Richard Tabor
Poet, Editor

From 1978 to 1981 Richard Tabor spearheaded a project to break formalist traditions prevailing in Cambridge. After founding Lobby Press he became co-ordinator of the Cambridge Poetry Society and a member of the committee which  planned and put on the international Cambridge Poetry Festival. During the same period he collaborated closely with Richard Hammersley and Mark Chinca, forming a performing quartet with Nick Radin.


Throughout that time he was a controversial figure, variously regarded as liberating and tyrannical, creative and destructive, profound and puerile. All these aspects are to be found in his poems, sound texts and collages in books as well as in critical and theoretical pieces in magazines, including those he edited, most notably the Lobby Press Newsletter.

After moving from Cambridge in 1981 and eventually returning to his native Somerset he withdrew increasingly from active engagement with other poets and performers and his own and Lobby Press publications became sporadic. Without the stimulus of a regular performing group his work has become much more word-based and usually for a single voice. During that time he has spent 15 years as a psychiatric nurse, straddling the closure of the large institutions and the shifting of treatment towards an often euphemistically named community. He has also done a PhD in archaeological landscape survey and from 1992 to 2008 directed the South Cadbury Environs Project, employed from 2001 to 2008 as a research fellow at the University of Bristol. His popular account of the research is due from Tempus in August 2008 and he is working on the final academic report.

Tabor’s first multi-vocal piece, Polyphony No 1, was performed at The Little Theatre, Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1977. In most respects it is a conventional poem arranged in four movements, or aspects, for five voices using meters based on Medieval and Renaissance dances. During the same year he composed his first score for three voices, Cloud Chamber. Although word-based, a narrative is increasingly abstracted before the pain of industrial processes is made concrete in the repetitive vocal patterns of the third aspect. The sound, although not its scored form, was much influenced by a jgjgjgjg performance of Cris Cheek’s In the Park. In 1978 he moved sharply towards a more abstract form of expression in Xpls  x, adding backing tracks to the three live voices who only rarely find words in a concerto-like piece.


In 1980 Tabor produced a major scored piece, Boboli/Mariette/Le Machine, in which he explored ideas concerning the interaction between space, audience and performers, members of the latter being treated differentially. He also introduced a means for creating unique copies in a mass productive process by mixing ink colours as the litho printed. The colours determine which voice utters which marks of the partially collagist Le Machine, creating critical interpretative problems as the colours mix. Plans to realise the piece in either London or Paris fell through due to problems with rehearsal time and it remains unperformed.


Since the early 1980s Tabor has been working on a multi-faceted poem, Die Zeithandlung, notes towards which appeared in procedures. The piece deals with destructive impulses in humans and their implications. Ten years later he began an epic parallel piece, An Archaeology of Poetry, working through notions of human creativity. The latter first saw light in a Hegelian preview of the subject in Groundwork towards an archaeology, performed in the London SubVoicive series in the early 1990s with Kevin Hegan and the late Alaric Sumner. Increasingly the two projects are entwining, and words becoming the dominant features of the text.


Tabor is available as a solo performer/reader for £60 plus travelling expenses. He is also looking for three or four committed people, men and women, to perform his old and new multivocal texts, as well as their own. If you are interested in participating in regular, structured, disciplined, rehearsals send an email.



Tabor on Hicknoll Slait, 2001


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