I LOVE WENLOCK POETRY FESTIVAL – it is such a great programme and a lovely town too. I dream of a year when I can book in and make a weekend of it. Last year I went alone, on the Sunday and bumped into lots of people I knew. This year there were so many people going that I knew, it was part festival, part reunion.
The programme as ever was a delight with so much choice. Claire Walker and I spent a while with the decision of which events to book, we had a limited budget as we had to get there and wanted to buy people’s poetry on the day.
There were lots of events I would have loved to attend on the Sunday including workshops, I had half a mind (a silly notion) that after driving to Wenlock and back I would have the energy for Cheltenham Festival the next day. Truth – my Sunday was a day of recovery and had I been at the festival would have probably missed the morning!
We were about to set off when we heard from our friend Kathy Gee, she’d arrived! We were only about an hour away. We hoped to meet up with her in the morning, but reception and signal are two things that Wenlock is not great for, we managed a quick conversation outside the bookshop, © 2014 Tish Farrell she was in the pottery going to see Kei Miller. A poet I recently discovered at a workshop in Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Claire I started out at The Edge (Arts Centre), perused the book stall and bumped into Hannah Lowe, who was an inspiration to Claire when she started writing, great meeting your heroes in the first half hour.
We dipped into the poetry film and then decided to walk down to the town.
We bumped into Mogs (who had come 2nd in the Wenlock Poetry Slam the night before, the winner this year was Paul Francis). We saw Jo Bell, Jean Atkin and Emma Watkinson, love the fact you just see poets walking about on the streets of Wenlock.
We went to George and Dragon for lunch and the open mic Poems & Pints hosted by Mark Niel. I read two poems, the first one competing with two noisy dogs barking at each other. Tough crowd. I wasn’t stopped in the street this year but I thoroughly enjoyed the event and listening to all the poetry.
© 2014 Tish Farrell
After this we walked up to the Pottery for our first ticketed event – 52.
For the 52 weeks of 2014, Jo Bell ran online poetry group 52 under the banner “Write a poem a week. Start now. Keep going.” A unique brand of collective critical encouragement generated the largest workshopping group in the world. The resulting community has claimed prizes and publications ranging from Bridport to the Rialto, from the Charles Causley prize to valued fellowships and PhD places.
Join some of the 52ers including organisers Jo Bell and Norman Hadley for a celebratory reading, and to hear work from a new anthology published by our publisher in residence, Nine Arches Press.
I was not prepared for how emotional reuniting with everyone was let alone the event itself – and of course the aftermath of packs of 52ers let loose on Wenlock once more.
© 2015 Rachael Clyne
It was the best party atmosphere ever. Even greater than the initial impact of Stratford Poetry Festival 2014, where we were strangers. We all piled into the Pottery, Norman Hadley (Head Boy) Master of Ceremonies and he did such a grand job, he got through all the names in the hat – those of us who had read last year in Stratford and those who hadn’t (who went first of course)! It was emotional.
© 2015 Rachael Clyne
He made Jo Bell get up and speak at the end too.
Jo Bell © 2015 Norman Hadley
52 and the extended prompts of Norman has recently come to an end and I think we all feel it a bit. Thank goodness for Hannah Linden who founded a group for us to continue sharing our successes and the community.
After the event a bunch of us 52ers went to the Poetry Café and I popped in to see Deborah Alma, The Emergency Poet, on the way, to pick up a prescription to draw me to the ocean.
© 2014 Writing West Midlands
In the Poetry Café I saw Jean Atkin, Poet in Residence at the festival and bought a much sought after copy of Luck’s Weight. The book of poems alongside Andrew Fusek Peters which grew out of her Acton Scott Farm residency 2014.
Then it was back to The Edge for the rest of our events.
Jonathan Edwards – Costa Poetry Prize Winner– his event was great. I am inspired that, like me, he is a teacher too.
The opportunity to hear the Costa Poetry Prize winner for 2014 Jonathan Edwards reading from his prize winning debut collection ‘My Family and other Superheroes’, and talking to Anna Dreda about his Costa win.
Jonathan Edwards’s first collection, My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren) won the Costa Poetry Award 2014 and was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize 2014. He won the Terry Hetherington Award for young Welsh writers in 2010, received a Literature Wales New Writer’s Bursary in 2011, and in 2012 won prizes in the Cardiff International Poetry Competition and the Basil Bunting Award. He won the Ledbury Poetry Festival Competition in 2014. His work has appeared in a wide range of magazines, including Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, New Welsh Review and The North.
Jo Bell and Robert Peake with Nine Arches Press launching their new collections
We warmly welcome The Canal Laureate, Jo Bell, described by Dame Carol Ann Duffy as “one of the most exciting poets writing today,” alongside the illuminating and sharp-minded Robert Peake to Wenlock for 2015.
We are thrilled to announce that both Jo and Robert will be launching their new collections at this year’s festival:
‘Kith’ by Jo Bell is her long-awaited second collection spanning love, sex, boats and friendship and yet so much more, as these bold and generous poems interweave bigger questions of place, identity and community and what these mean to us, here and now. Jo Bell joins us to launch her long-awaited new collection, Kith. Her work is sharp, joyous, precise and plain. As the Poetry Society’s Canal Laureate she covers the industrial waterfront, but is often diverted for a roll in the hay. These poems celebrate our fellow-travellers, honouring deep friendships, one-night stands and the ongoing pursuit of home. “MacCaig meets Bukowski – on the towpath.”
‘The Knowledge’ by Robert Peake is a stunning a collection of stirring and delicately attuned poems that not only roam but actively seek – travelling to all manner of places but also moving through time, taking leaps of faith or journeys into memory and sensation.
A wonderful start to your festival evening!
Introduced by Jonathan Davidson with Jane Commane, Nine Arches Press
It was great to finally get my hands on a copy of Kith and to speak with Jo, although I missed the evening catch up over Curry as I was at another event. I will make sure we get to speak at Stratford! It was great to meet Robert, the man behind the Transatlantic Poetry sessions I have enjoyed this year.
and Hollie McNish to finish the night off.
This April, the extremely talented Hollie McNish will be hitting the road once again, after her first UK tour in October 2014 sold out across the country. She has now added a further 12 dates, including Wenlock. The gig will be an hour of pure unadulterated poetry, spanning two albums and one book, to be released March 2015. A true festival gem!
Hollie is a UK poet who straddles the boundaries between the literary, poetic and pop scenes. She has garnered titles like “chick of the week” (MTV), “internet sensation” (Best Daily)” , “really, really amazing” (Davina McCall) and poet Benjamin Zephaniah stated “I can’t take my ears off her”. Her poem “Embarrassed” was tweeted to fans by renowned singer Pink. Her album Versus was released in October 2014, recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London.
It was a bonus to see a set from Emma Purshouse too.
Other highlights included buying MyFanwy Fox’s collection and falling over at the feet of Liz Berry, bless her. Mostly, discovering a festival that doesn’t just repeat the success of the previous year, but builds on it.
I had a great Poetry Day and I look forward to next year!