Winchester Poetry Festival 2021
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Winchester Poetry Festival 2021

AD – press ticket offered in alternate for a overview


Whether or not they’re centered on music, theatre, movie, meals or phrases, festivals are such joyful platforms for celebrating creativity, tradition and group.

Whereas I’m not into the concept of becoming a member of 1000’s of individuals swimming throughout mud-bath fields on little or no sleep, I am into the concept 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 Pageant was returning for 2021, after a now-standard, pandemic-induced hiatus.

This yr, the Pageant group determined to supply their largest occasion but by working small classes all year long, hybrid fashion, 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 filled with poetic treats.

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

After profiting from being in lovely Winchester (what a location for an occasion like this!) by having fun with a solo brunch wandering by means of the cathedral grounds, I headed to my first occasion, Issues Being Numerous: Paul Muldoon with Jon Sayers. Irish-born Muldoon, recent off the airplane from New York, shared quite a lot of gadgets (principally by means of photographs due to baggage restrictions) that instructed tales about his life’s experiences and inspirations, whereas reciting quite a lot of 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 might have listened to Muldoon and Sayers chat for hours – not least as a result of their voices have been extremely soothing.

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

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

Congratulations go to Lesley Saunders for profitable first prize with the unbelievable Starlings – and likewise Laurie Bolger, whose second prize-winning poem Gem was one in every of my favourites. I additionally beloved Helen Bowell’s Monsieur Le Barman, Imogen Cook dinner’s Hampshire Prize profitable Frankenstein, and Directions for Trendy Household 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 pretty 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 kinds hosted Endurance Agbabi and Hampshire Poet Kathryn Bevis, who captivated us with their readings. Each girls have been fantastic creators and performers providing two totally different, but equally lovely, kinds of poetry. I used to be significantly taken by Kathryn’s poem Matryoshka, and I beloved Endurance’s reimagining of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales from her guide Telling Tales, particularly her personal, modern-day, transferring contribution within the type of The Refugee’s Story.

There was extra in retailer the following day, with the Ambassador Showcase, additional workshops, performances and shut readings. Sadly I couldn’t attend, however Twitter tells me it was equally as particular. I additionally hear that the Friday evening 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 loads to do. A Poetry Market might be discovered by the doorway, with a stall internet hosting native unbiased guide store P&G Wells, and a second-hand poetry guide stall providing absolute bargains (£1 per guide!). Probably predictably, I returned residence with 5 new poetry books, together with the Pageant’s 2021 anthology, so as to add to my assortment (all paid for on my own, by the way in which, 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 put up prize-giving reception. Town’s incredible Poet on the Excessive Road, Jonny Fluffypunk, additionally engaged guests along with his work, which has been wowing Winchester locals and guests over the months.

I may even add that I used to be happy to see the Pageant taking Covid tips 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 sporting one.

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

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

Whereas travelling again from the day, I requested myself what I’d change in regards to the Pageant, if I needed to recommend one thing. Sooner or later, I’d wish to see extra entry-level/casual poetry workshops to encourage new or novice writers to ‘give it a go’ with no expectations or want for expertise. Wouldn’t or not it’s fantastic if we might entice much more individuals 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 give attention to the phrases and inventive individuals round me; I listened, I discovered, I discovered new favourites and felt compelled to maintain writing. 

In my overview of 2019’s Pageant, I commented “who must stay 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 have now, proving that you simply don’t should stay in an enormous metropolis to be on the coronary heart of a group that creates, educates and evokes.

Thanks Winchester Poetry Pageant for one more incredible occasion. I hope we by no means should go a yr with out you once more! Roll on 2022.


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