Skip to main content

We're Lighting Up The Nation: Professor's poem wins the castle crowd's hearts


The Coronation Concert, held this evening in the grounds of Windsor Castle and broadcast live by the BBC, featured actor James Nesbitt OBE reading the poem ‘We’re Lighting Up The Nation’, penned by Brunel University London’s Prof Daljit Nagra MBE.

The Professor of Creative Writing was honoured to be asked to write the poem by BBC1 and the Palace on behalf of the Royal Society of Literature, of which he is the Chair.

“My poem is about the nation coming together as various iconic sites around the United Kingdom are lit up,” said Prof Nagra. “It’s packed with references to British cultural moments. For example, the opening line refers to John Donne’s great poem that opens ‘No man is an island’. I imagine he said this when he was the Dean of St Paul’s and speaking, as it were, to the nation.”

The Coronation Concert, watched in more than 100 countries around the world, brought global music icons and contemporary stars together in celebration of the historic occasion of the Coronation of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen Consort. Prof Nagra's poem followed a rendition of God Save The King.

The crowd in the castle grounds cheered at each mention of cities and locations in the poem read out by Nesbitt, whose acting breakthrough in the romcom TV series Cold Feet led to further success on both the small and big screens.

Prof Nagra is often described as a national treasure and received an MBE for Services to Literature in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2022. He was BBC Radio 4’s first Poet in Residence, and he presents the BBC Radio 4 Extra’s weekly Poetry Extra.

We’re Lighting Up The Nation 

No one’s an island when each is at home
in the hope and glory! Born free – we’re a plucky bunch
of every shade. From the bronze of the Celts
across our Roman roads to Windrush and beyond,
today, just now, the spectacular parades of light
travelling from Windsor to iconic heartlands across the realm
so the kingdom be unified. Imagine Edinburgh Castle
near monuments for Scott and Burns, or imagine
across the waters of Belfast our titanic dockyard
and the blood-sweat, the toil that launched a thousand ships
over there’s Blackpool for Punch & Judy, glad rags
for the tango and foxtrot, and out for a pint of Newkie Brown
by the Gateshead Bridge, that harp of the Toon, the Tyne – it’s all mine
now all Yorkshire beams from the hall of seven-hilled Sheffield,
now my heart’s with the famed anthem, the land of my fathers
at Cardiff Millennium! Everywhere I look, from the golden
miles of Leicester with their chicken masalas and jollof rice
to an eco-haven amid the botanical gardens of Cambridge
like the oasis at Eden with its rainforest under a dome,
to our bold promise of the cliffs of Dover, everywhere I look,
within our shores, I feel a new phase, new chapter must begin,
just now, so let’s light up the nation like a smile! 

Find out more about Creative Writing at Brunel University London

Reported by:

Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268821