Tag Archives: Mark Niel



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.

wenlock poetry festival

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!

wenlock poetry fest

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, WPF Trish farrell © 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.

WPF G G Trish Farrell

© 2014 Tish Farrell

After this we walked up to the Pottery for our first ticketed event – 52.

Jo Bell

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.

Norman Hadley


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.

52 wen© 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.

52 wen 2© 2015 Rachael Clyne 

He made Jo Bell get up and speak at the end too.

52 jo 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

© 2014 Writing West Midlands

www.emergencypoet.com  EP dot com

 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-book jonathan-edwards-pic-370x278

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.” 

Robert Peake The Knowledge
‘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. Hollie McNish

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.

wenlock 2015

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!



A Great Day at Wenlock Poetry Festival


I had a superb day – even getting caught in a hailstorm in between venues didn’t spoil my mood. I also bumped into two friends, which was lovely – much as I am used to wandering solo, a festival is a better experience when it is shared!


Wenlock Poetry Festival wenlock

What an amazing Poetry Festival – I thought it had been running a lot longer than 5 years, it is a great event. The Patron is Carol Ann Duffy who thought the town was perfect for a poetry festival – which of course it is!

Check out the website to see the full programme of events HEREWPF Flag
I was unable to make it sooner than Sunday due to a family wedding meal and Word Up. I also don’t have a lot of spare cash at the moment with 2 houses to pay for, so I organised a schedule of free events and set off (a little like Dick Whittington), full of hope and poetry.

The main part of the day for me would be performing at the Open Mic Event hosted by Mark Niel at the George & Dragon pub.

The events were organised in The Edge Arts centre – a short, uphill walk from the town and at various venues in the town, the Priory, Pottery, Holy Trinity Church and several other places. As with all festivals some of the events clashed and that was a tad frustrating, but is always the case. The shuttle bus service (from the arts centre) was good, although a bit sporadic.

I had planned to get there for 10 am – had some trouble with the early morning and my SATNAV not working for part of the journey. I made it in just before 11a.m


I started at the Edge Arts Centre, looking at the Words Exhibition, Symonds was influenced by the Dictionary and created some great black and white photos depicting scenes and life that associated with certain words.

Exhibition: Words of the Century – Jimmy Symonds

I also checked out the book stall and bought this year’s anthology of Wenlock Poetry. A great souvenir. WPF anth

Then I watched Dart (24 minutes)

A short film based on the T.S.Eliot award-winning poem by Alice Oswald.  Over a decade ago, Alice began recording conversations with the people who live and work along the river Dart.  This film combines the words of her subsequent book-length poem with actual observations of life along the Dart. WPF Dart

Then I hot footed into town, on the shuttle bus, went to visit the Craftevan where I bought a small notebook and wished I was rich enough to buy more.

I explored the town a little on my way to the pub for the Open Mic Event, I took photos of some of the poems on the Poetry Trail, explored Wenlock books and then bumped into 2 other poets from Worcestershire Michelle Crosbie and Io Osborn, which was lovely. They were performing at the Open Mic too.

WPF Tish farrell

Copyright Tish Farrell 2014


The George & Dragon was a friendly small pub, very traditional. There was a great turn out for the last of the open mic events hosted and organised by Mark Niel. I read 3 themed poems and was later stopped in the street by a couple who wanted to tell me how much they had enjoyed it. It was a great experience with many performers taking part, some of whom I knew. I was delighted that Anthony Owens also came to take part, it was great hearing him read.

Poems and Pints with Mark Niel – Nature or Place

WPF G G Trish Farrell

Copyright Tish Farrell 2014


From there the 3 of us hot footed uphill as Io had a workshop to attend. Michelle and I had a spot of lunch filled in the survey /evaluation forms. Before heading in for a wander around.

We stayed to watch the film Finished with the War (8 minutes) and then decided to head back into town.    WPF Prog

On our way – we were caught in the biggest hailstorm ever! We got drenched, so our first port of call was to find shelter. (Along with everyone else!)

We took a wander around the town and found Croft Originals – where my poem was displayed on the trail. WPF 002 WPF 001 Thanks to Paul Francis for these photos – I still need to upload mine. I will add to the blog when I have with a link back to this post.

We had another wander around the bookshop

WPF Trish farrell

Copyright Tish Farrell 2014

and then went to see the Guildhall –


(C) Wenlock Studios 2014

(C) Wenlock Studios 2014

not part of the festival venues but an impressive building and it was here that we spotted the Poetree from one of the windows. WPF Poetree

I took lots of photos of the Poetree and left a poem of my own hanging on the blossom branches.

Then we headed back to the Arts Centre to meet up with Io. The girls were going to call it a day after a drop in at the Arts Centre café. I had got tickets to go and watch the Dutch poets and they decided to come with me. Poetry from the Lowlands, featuring three of Holland’s finest writers
It was amazing and a great finish to the day.

After Io and Michelle left, I went to meet Sally Crabtree and I was very excited because I had seen her on television a few years ago. Her sweetshop was not disappointing at all and nor was meeting her, she is lovely.

Sally Crabtree’s ‘Sweetshop of Words’ WPF Paul Francis

Then I headed home full of happiness and poetry. Looking forward to next year already!