Stratford Literary Festival: The Power of Poetry to Heal


Stratford-Upon-Avon Literary Festival

stratford 2

I was lucky enough to attend the ‘The Power of Poetry to Heal’ event last week, at Stratford Artshouse

1803_BlackRainbow_Dhb.indd I read ‘black rainbow’ at the beginning of the year and was touched by the story of Rachel’s struggle through depression. After reading it I was inspired to post my own message of honesty Truth & Rainbows which itself inspired me to contact Rachel and seek permission to use part of the book in my New Year blog post New Year Message

I was looking forward to meeting her in person, but she wasn’t the only speaker at the event.

sua litfest

Speakers: Rachel Kelly, Susanna Howard & Jill Fraser

We all have a piece of literature or poetry that restores us, calms us or inspires us, but these things can work a deeper magic by triggering long lost memories, rebalancing mental health and giving hope where it may have been lost.

These three women have experienced the power of words and poetry at first hand and, in a fascinating discussion, will look at the power of words to heal.

Rachel Kelly is a journalist whose book, Black Rainbow – How Words Healed Me, charts the story of her perfect world shattered by the savagery of depression and her recovery from it.

Susanna Howard is a poet who runs Living Words and works with terminally ill patients and dementia patients weaving their words into poetry.

Jill Fraser is the director of Kissing It Better, the charity that works within the NHS brightening up patients’ lives through activities, music, drama, and poetry.

Listening to the work the women in this panel do was an inspirational experience. Learning how poetry has helped healing and how it is at work in the community, how the government are FINALLY realising mental health is as important as physical health and how there will be more focus on wellbeing in the future was heartening.

Books are bridges and words connect us all.

A very moving experience which I can barely put into words, so I hope you will spend some time checking out these links to websites. Please share the work they do… maybe even get involved; buy the books, support or donate to the charities or maybe you know people who could give their time.

Susanna Howard – Living Words


Living Words was created and is led by artistic director Susanna Howard. … She fell in to working with people with dementia after a period of personal displacement, when flow writing saved her. Living Words emerged out of the darkness of this period. All of a sudden the journey that took her in to that first hospital ward, to work with people who were struggling with their own personal displacement, made sense.

THE BOOK Antholgy-1-front-cover-web-199x300

We are thrilled with our first paperback, THE THINGS BETWEEN US, Living Words: Anthology 1, coming in to being- Sir Andrew Motion has called it ‘An important collection of witnessings to an important subject, and valuable for what it address, as well as the way it addresses.’.

All proceeds go to the charity.

Susanna-Howard stratford artshouse Susanna Howard

© 2015 Stratford Artshouse

Jill Fraser – Kiss it Better


Volunteers from the “Kissing it Better” charity read poems and recite songs to residents of a retirement home in Stratford upon Avon who have been diagnosed with dementia. (AFP-Yonhap News)

Kissing it Better is about sharing simple healthcare ideas. It is also about harnessing the energy of the most dynamic groups in a local community and inviting them to use their specialist skills to make a difference to the care of patients and their carers within hospitals and care homes.

Jill is the co-founder and director of the charity, she involves local schools in the programme, reading poetry to the elderly in hospitals and care homes.

We regularly give talks at a variety of venues across the country. We have spoken at major conferences, dinners, and other major meetings. These have included The House of Lords, The Royal Society of Medicine and the QEII Conference Centre in London. We also run Master Classes and Workshops.

Copyright Kissing it Better

Copyright Kissing it Better

Jill Fraser

Black Rainbow Rachel Kelly

You can watch media interviews on this page.

Rachel Kelly is a journalist with a long-standing interest in mental health. Her best selling memoir Black Rainbow describes how poetry helped her overcome depression and is published by Hodder & Stoughton, with all author proceeds going to the charities SANE and United Response. It was awarded the prize for Best First Book at the 2014 Spear’s Book Awards.

‘Rachel Kelly has written with bracing honesty and considerable courage about her own struggles with depression. She tells of both her own travails and the solutions to them, and her book will be immensely helpful to others in like circumstances.’

Andrew Solomon, National Book Award winner

Rachel worked at The Times for ten years as a reporter, feature writer and columnist on alternative health. In October 2011, she co-created iF Poems, a children’s poetry app for the iPhone and iPad. iF Poems was on the Apple Editor’s Choice: All-Time Favorite apps list and has sold in over thirty countries. A book version of the app, If: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility, was published in 2012 by Canongate and is now in its fourth edition.

United%20Responsesane_logo saneorgcouk

Meeting Rachel was amazing, she remembered me from the emails and blog post and urged me to write another – so here it is Rachel.

rachel kelly Rachel Kelly

Maybe, in the future I will invite some Guest blogs on the Power of Poetry to Heal.



Celebrating its 8th year in 2015, The Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival will be held between 25th April and 3rd May, 2015.

The Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival is the highlight of the regional calendar and has become one of the most significant literary festivals in the UK, attracting thousands of people who share one passion: a love of books, writing and reading.

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Poetry Wrap 2: April | awritersfountain

  2. Pingback: The Stay at Home! Literary Festival – Week 1 – Part 4 – The Weekend #SAHF 2021 | awritersfountain

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s