The spectacle of the self-styled Pavement Poet, sitting on the pavement and adorning it with verse in colourful chalk, is well known in Swindon.

Wandering wordsmith Danny Rowland never stays anywhere long, but he was back in Swindon, his hometown, last week – and now he is the star of a new, short documentary called The Pavement Poet – filmed and edited by Tamara Gabriel. The documentary explores his life and art, how he lives outdoors in a tent, and the motivation behind his poetry.

A few weeks ago, Danny, 32, was also filmed by BBC Oxford, composing poems on the streets of one of our greatest university towns. Yet here in Swindon, he is a controversial figure. Swindon Borough Council officials tried to stop him writing on the pavements in 2016, but Danny defied them.

He persisted in writing his poetry on the pavement, in contravention of the Public Space Protection Order. Stories about him in the local press led to a rash of negative comments – and a Swindon Adver readers’ vote, which attracted nearly 1,000 participants, was split almost half and half on whether he should be prosecuted - but the ‘no’ vote narrowly won out with 51 per cent of the votes.

He was also backed by Hilda Sheehan, organiser of Swindon Festival of Poetry, who said his work was public art – and that his hometown Swindon was the only place that gave him trouble for his street poetry.

Danny was born and raised in Swindon. He says his great great grandfather moved to the town in the 19th century, to work on the railways, and that he died in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Danny’s family lived on Park South and he went to school at Headlands, which later became Swindon Academy, and Churchfields. At this early stage, he was not a poetry enthusiast.

“I liked some of the war poets, like Wilfred Owen. They were talking about something real and very raw.

“I found most of the poetry taught in secondary school was written in a complicated form that didn’t really capture a young imagination,” he says.

On leaving school, he went to college and studied politics, law and history, and he gained a place at Bath University to study politics with economics.

“I got bored after a while,” he said. “I left in the second year. Anyway, I didn’t fancy being a banker.”

It was in his late teens that Danny got involved with far-right politics – and joined the BNP. He looks pained when the issue is raised and says it was a youthful decision he regrets.

“It was a long time ago. It was the EU issue that prompted me. But I was a bit naïve and didn’t look at the entire picture of what I was getting into. Over the years things have changed. I was 17 or 18. I left the party on December 9, 2007. I remember the date. I just got out. That’s all left far behind. Thankfully.”

Danny tried a few jobs and joined the army for a short while, but he did not finish training. He says he found it hard to fit in and find a place where he felt comfortable. Eventually he started travelling. Seven years ago, he walked from Holland to Belgium, starting a nomadic lifestyle that has continued to the present day.

“I wanted to get lost,” he says. “I wanted to clear my head. I don’t think I ever, ever enjoyed conforming to the system. I never enjoyed university, or the workplace.”

In walking, however, Danny did find satisfaction, and a connection with nature.

“You can zoom around the place in a car but often that makes you think the world is a smaller place than it actually is. When you are walking, you have an entirely different concept of distance,” he explains. Danny carries all his possessions with him in two rucksacks, one on his back and one on wheels. He says he does not claim benefits, but sleeps outside, in a tent and sleeping bag, and makes money through his pavement poetry.

“Poetry enables me to travel, and the travelling enables the poetry,” he said. “It is how I get by – I’m a nomadic poet.”

He has travelled all over the UK and in parts of Europe, writing his poetry, often living outdoors. He says he stays in places for a few weeks, or even a couple of months, before wanting to move again.

“It all helps the poetry. It all provides inspiration,” he said. “In the middle of winter, after the winter solstice, when the nights are the longest and coldest, it can be a bit depressing. But you get used to it, and enjoy it.

“You tune more into the seasons. In the summer I’m full of energy, and in the spring. In the winter, something inside me seems to go to sleep. It’s a good time for contemplating the year that’s gone by. The long nights help that. There have been times when I’ve spent the whole winter in the wild – cooking outside on a fire, going to bed very early. Alone in the cold nights, you are faced with yourself. You can’t hide from yourself.”

Danny has travelled with his poetry to France, Belgium, Spain and Germany. He says he composes his poetry as he writes on the pavement, and he enjoys the interaction between the words and the physical space of the town centre.

“The poetry interacts with the architecture,” he explained. “People come and talk to me about what I’m doing, and I get an idea of what people like, and what they are thinking when they are reading. As a poet, that’s brilliant. Sometimes people misinterpret what I’ve written, which can be frustrating, but generally people are positively disposed and enjoy what I write.”

Danny has more than 2,800 followers on his Facebook page. He spent some of winter in Oxford, where he says his poetry was well received, and the BBC report was filmed. He was approached by Tamara Gabriel, who asked if she could make a documentary about him.

“She approached me. We got to talking about it and it developed from there.”

And is his life lonely?

“That is the price I pay for freedom,” he says. “I could have a conventional home, but I would lose that freedom. This life enables my art and headspace.”

His next stop is Wales. He says, “I want to catch the first scent of spring coming in off the sea.”

For more information about Danny’s poetry visit his Facebook page, the Pavement Poet. To watch the documentary about Danny’s life and poetry, visit