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.
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.
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.
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.