Heaven & Hell: Poppy Johnson

Norwich writer and musician Poppy Johnson

Norwich writer and musician Poppy Johnson - Credit: Kelly Robb

What’s the impact of COVID-19 been on your life and how are you adapting?

It’s been a difficult couple of years! Having to finish my final year of uni and graduate in a pandemic was something I couldn’t have foreseen when I moved here. Being immunocompromised - I have hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome - I’ve had to be more careful than most. I’ve had to miss out on so many things whilst isolating, and whilst I’ve kept myself and other vulnerable people safe, it’s hard not to feel a bit resentful. I’m really looking forward to becoming more confident as normality creeps back in.

What is your connection to East Anglia?

I didn’t know anyone here before coming to UEA for university. I’d only been to the campus twice for applicant days and hadn’t really explored Norwich or the surrounding area, but as soon as I found out about the creative writing course, I made Norwich my first choice. After four years here, I’m starting my Masters in Prose Fiction - also at UEA, of course - in September, and now feel completely at home here.

What is your East Anglian Heaven i.e. what do you love most about East Anglia?

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Definitely the music scene. I had a really hard first year of uni and started making music to cope with everything. Then I was completely taken aback by the support I received after releasing it. Almost straight away, I was played on BBC Introducing in Norfolk, who have been the biggest support from the beginning, and the gig offers started rolling in. It’s so tight-knit and enthusiastic here. Everyone really looks after each other.

What is your East Anglian Hell i.e. what you hate most about living here?

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As much as I love the close community in Norwich, it can sometimes be a little bit suffocating. I’m not really complaining, but everyone knows each other, and it can all get a bit dramatic sometimes.

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

Norwich Arts Centre! I’ve played quite a few gigs there now – big shout out to Sonic Youths - and headlined it back in pre-pandemic February 2020. The refurbishments are so beautiful, and it’s always been the best venue!

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

Although it’s only managed to hold one fully non-restricted festival, I’d have to say Wild Paths in Norwich. It’s a huge sustainable music festival with conferences, art installations, and lots of other cool stuff. I played it in 2019 and will play it again this October - I expect it’s going to be huge.

Musician Poppy Johnson at a gig in Norfolk

Musician Poppy Johnson at a gig in Norfolk - Credit: Young Norfolk Arts/Taryn Everdeen

What is your favourite restaurant?

It has to be Moorish Falafel, Lower Goat Lane in the Norwich Lanes. My go-to is the Mediterranean wrap and a chai latte. The vegan food in Norwich is amazing. 

What's your specialist Mastermind subject?

Either dinosaurs or ecofiction.

What is always in your fridge?

Tahini, aubergine, and tomatoes always seem to make an appearance. I really love cooking!

What’s your simple philosophy of life?

My mum passed away recently and, as grief often does, it’s made me realise how important it is to tell people how much you love them. 

Your favourite film?

Fantastic Mr Fox. It always makes me cry.

What was your first job?

Not counting the random cleaning jobs I did as a teenager, my first ‘proper’ job was working at Marks & Spencer as a Christmas temp. I’m now a writer for a magazine, so I can’t really say it gave me much experience in the journalism sector, but it definitely made me appreciate everyone working in retail.

What is your most treasured possession?

I have this massive toy shark from IKEA that I got a few years ago. Her name is Sharon and she is beautiful.

Who do you admire most?

Everyone who’s had to work in retail or hospitality during the pandemic.

What is your biggest indulgence?

The Co-op sells these vegan rocky road bites that I’m obsessed with. I don’t think you should ever feel guilty for eating anything but they aren’t particularly cheap and never last long so I really have to limit how often I buy them.

What do you like about yourself most?

Probably my creativity. 

What’s your worst character trait?

I’m so competitive. I get really angry playing cards.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

I don’t think I’ll be flying anywhere again any time soon, but I went to Hong Kong with my mum and sister when I was 11 and honestly think about it all the time. 

Best day of your life?

All my favourite days are really mundane! I get so much enjoyment out of really small things. I went bowling the other day with my friends and won, so that’s probably up there. I’m not the most extravagant of people. 

What’s your favourite breakfast?

Tomatoes on toast.

What’s your favourite tipple?

Arboretum on St Benedicts Street in Norwich has blessed me with some incredible drinks - I had a rhubarb and custard whisky thing from there last summer that I still have dreams about. 

What’s your hidden talent?

It’s quite disgusting but because of my hypermobility I can fully skip with my arms. It’s a party trick I only do on very rare occasions.

What’s your earliest memory?

I really don’t remember anything clearly until secondary school. My little sister remembers our whole childhood in incredible detail, down to which outfits we were wearing on certain days, and I’m lucky if I remember what I had for breakfast. I tell myself it’s because I’m busy. 

Tell us something people don’t know about you

Did I tell you I’m vegan?

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

Someone in secondary school said I had a weird face shape. I shaved my head a few years later and I’m pretty sure they were lying.

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?

I’ve never felt more at home in my interests or studies. Being a writer and a musician in a city known for literature and becoming better known for its music scene, I just fit in here. It’s so nice to feel like I really belong somewhere.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

My next gig! My music project is called Bug Teeth and I’m playing in Ipswich on October 2 for Sound City. Sound City Ipswich takes place in various venues around Ipswich town centre on Friday and Saturday October 1 and 2. It presents a hand-picked multicultural mix of upcoming and established bands and includes an industry conference on the Friday. Amongst the headline acts are US songwriter BC Camplight and his band; the Mercury Award nominated Porridge Radio; London rapper TrueMendous; Australian avant-popsters The Goon Sax, Ghanaian singer and percussionist Falle Nioke. See soundcityipswich.co.uk for full info and ticket bookings. 
Be there or be square

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