Winchester Poetry Festival 2021

AD – press ticket supplied in alternate for a overview


Whether they’re centered on music, theatre, movie, meals or phrases, festivals are such joyful platforms for celebrating creativity, tradition and group.

While I’m not into the thought of becoming a member of 1000’s of individuals swimming throughout mud-bath fields on little or no sleep, I am into the thought of coming along with lovers of phrases and literature in one of many UK’s prettiest little cities for a showcase of spectacular expertise and concepts.

I used to be delighted to listen to that the famend Winchester Poetry Festival was returning for 2021, after a now-standard, pandemic-induced hiatus.

This yr, the Festival workforce determined to supply their greatest occasion but by operating small classes all year long, hybrid type, with alternatives to attend workshops, discussions, readings and extra on-line and in individual over the summer season and into the autumn. The programme reached its crescendo from 8-10 October, with a weekend rammed stuffed with poetic treats.

I used to be thrilled to attend one of many three Festival weekend days, making my manner into Winchester on Saturday 9 October for round seven hours of stanzas, syllables and sonnets.

After taking advantage of being in stunning Winchester (what a location for an occasion like this!) by having fun with a solo brunch wandering via the cathedral grounds, I headed to my first occasion, Things Being Various: Paul Muldoon with Jon Sayers. Irish-born Muldoon, recent off the airplane from New York, shared various gadgets (principally via pictures due to baggage restrictions) that informed tales about his life’s experiences and inspirations, whereas reciting various his items.

It was a brilliantly lighthearted and entertaining session that delved into the individual behind the poetry and felt extra like a fireplace chat than a ticketed occasion. I may have listened to Muldoon and Sayers chat for hours – not least as a result of their voices have been extremely soothing.

Next, onto the Winchester Poetry Prize readings and outcomes; a jewel within the crown of the Festival and undoubtedly a spotlight for me. We have been fortunate sufficient to have every longlisted poet launched by this yr’s decide, the fantastic Jaqueline Saphra, whose admiration for every author was removed from delicate and by no means restrained.

The calibre of this yr’s squad of poets was unimaginable, each capturing the viewers’s consideration and totally deserving of their place within the 2021 Prize Anthology. This was a hybrid occasion, with poets performing reside, by way of Zoom and on pre-recorded video, making this Prize actually worldwide and inclusive, which I liked.

Congratulations go to Lesley Saunders for successful first prize with the unimaginable Starlings – and in addition Laurie Bolger, whose second prize-winning poem Gem was one among my favourites. I additionally liked Helen Bowell’s Monsieur Le Barman, Imogen Cook’s Hampshire Prize successful Frankenstein, and Instructions for Modern Family by Trelawney.

Following the prize-giving, we loved readings by native wordsmiths from Winchester Muse – an area collective of poets who focus totally on girls’s writing. It was beautiful to listen to transferring and entertaining items from the group, in addition to a touching tribute to their late founder and much-loved native author, Sue Wrinch.

The day was rounded off with what was dubbed the ‘headliner’ of the day. This unofficial pyramid stage of types hosted Patience Agbabi and Hampshire Poet Kathryn Bevis, who captivated us with their readings. Both girls have been fantastic creators and performers providing two completely different, but equally stunning, kinds of poetry. I used to be significantly taken by Kathryn’s poem Matryoshka, and I liked Patience’s reimagining of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales from her e book Telling Tales, particularly her personal, modern-day, transferring contribution within the type of The Refugee’s Tale.

There was extra in retailer the following day, with the Ambassador Showcase, additional workshops, performances and shut readings. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend, however Twitter tells me it was equally as particular. I additionally hear that the Friday night time performances from native Ghost River Collective, Paul Muldoon and Clare Pollard have been additionally spectacular, and a fittingly incredible begin to the weekend.

In between classes, there was nonetheless lots to do. A Poetry Marketplace could possibly be discovered by the doorway, with a stall internet hosting native unbiased e book store P&G Wells, and a second-hand poetry e book stall providing absolute bargains (£1 per e book!). Possibly predictably, I returned residence with 5 new poetry books, together with the Festival’s 2021 anthology, so as to add to my assortment (all paid for on my own, by the best way, for readability; these weren’t included within the press alternative!)

There was additionally time to discover the Discovery Centre (the place the occasion was held), seize a espresso, and customarily community and chat with different poetry lovers and writers – I loved assembly a few longlisted poets within the submit prize-giving reception. The metropolis’s incredible Poet on the High Street, Jonny Fluffypunk, additionally engaged guests along with his work, which has been wowing Winchester locals and guests over the months.

I will even add that I used to be happy to see the Festival taking Covid pointers on board. Masks, whereas not obligatory, have been actively inspired, and for the primary time shortly I used to be not within the minority in carrying one.

I left the day feeling concurrently impressed and intimidated, decided to proceed to develop my very own expertise and uncover new sensible writers. It was thrilling to be again inside such an thrilling group after so lengthy, and I felt extra like myself than ever.

Long-time readers and long-suffering buddies will understand how passionate I’m about how poetry can, and may, be for everybody. I feel accessible occasions like this, hosted inside metropolis centres with versatile, drop-in classes, are key in getting folks concerned, bringing writers collectively, and inspiring others to be curious and check out one thing new!

While travelling again from the day, I requested myself what I might change concerning the Festival, if I needed to counsel one thing. In the longer term, I’d prefer to see extra entry-level/casual poetry workshops to encourage new or newbie writers to ‘give it a go’ with no expectations or want for expertise. Wouldn’t or not it’s fantastic if we may entice much more folks to affix us? 

It goes with out saying that I totally loved my day. It was a pleasure to have the ability to put my telephone away and actually deal with the phrases and artistic folks round me; I listened, I realized, I discovered new favourites and felt compelled to maintain writing. 

In my overview of 2019’s Festival, I commented “who must reside in London?!” and I stand by that assertion as soon as extra. Regional occasions like this not solely draw performers and audiences from throughout the UK, however they equalise us, night out the platforms we’ve got, proving that you simply don’t must reside in a giant metropolis to be on the coronary heart of a group that creates, educates and conjures up.

Thank you Winchester Poetry Festival for an additional incredible occasion. I hope we by no means must go a yr with out you once more! Roll on 2022.


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