Winchester Poetry Festival

Brian Patten. Photo: Theo Moye

Brian Patten. Photo: Theo Moye

Friday 7 – Sunday 9 October 2016

Winchester Discovery Centre, Jewry St, Winchester SO23 8SB

A three-day celebration of inspiring poetry with readings, discussion and workshops. Featuring Simon Armitage, Sinead Morrissey, Roger McGough, Bernard O’Donoghue and many more award-winning poets and rising stars. Special commissions, competitions and – new this year – events for children. Most tickets £8-£12.50. Visit the Festival website for link to online booking or call the Discovery Centre box office 01962 873603.Workshops £20 (conc £17.50). Many events free.

New for 2016 – Winchester Poetry Festival Encourages Young Poets of the Future

Events especially for children are included in this year’s Winchester Poetry Festival – a new feature for 2016.
On Festival Saturday, children (and their accompanying adults) are invited to become explorers of the world from the safety of their own seats at Winchester Discovery Centre. Without needing to travel far away, Shelley Boden and Sasha Dugdale, poet, playwright and translator, will open up the world in new ways, with the help of poems from three continents. Children’s Poetry Around the World will encouraging children to engage and respond to poems published in Modern Poetry in Translation’s successful children’s issue (‘I WISH…’).

Children aged 8-11 from all over Hampshire have also been writing verse for a Ballad Competition organised by the Festival, with the support of B&G Wells Booksellers. The six finalists will all be reading their poems at a special prize-giving on Saturday 8 October at Winchester Discovery Centre, a free Festival event. Chair of the judges is Richard Stillman, Head of English at Winchester College, who will announce the overall winner and present books to the winners.

And wriggly children, watch out: the Festival’s Emergency Poet Deborah Alma will be wandering the streets of Winchester, prescribing a poem for common complaints. Hard-pressed mothers and fathers may well want to involve their wayward offspring in other rhyming recommendations.

Festival organisers are keen to nurture the region’s young poetic talent and plan to develop this strand in the future programming. “Children are natural poets and lovers of poetry because they respond so eagerly to rhymes, rhythm and repetition. We want to encourage their enthusiasm and make poetry an essential part of their world”, said Madelaine Smith, the Festival’s manager.


  • Saturday 8 October 2016, 11.15am-12.00 noon
    Children’s Ballad Competition
    Prize-giving. Free event, but event booking is essential as space is limited. Winchester Discovery Centre
  • Saturday 8 October 2016, 10.00am – 11.00am
    Children’s Poetry from around the World
    Readings and a conversation about poems of the world. Children £3.00 Accompanying adults free. Winchester Discovery Centre


Celebrating The South Downs Through Poetry
Major New Poetry Prize Beats Predictions


An ambitious literary event made its debut in September 2014  in Winchester. It brought 30 poets and writers to the city, including Brian Patten (who lived in Winchester during the late 60s) and Jackie Kay.

Many of the country’s most successful and popular poets shared their inspiration, their craft and their work alongside those starting to make a name for themselves, and talented young newcomers. The line-up included internationally acclaimed and award-winning writers Patience Agbabi, Ros Barber, David Constantine, Christopher Reid, Michael Longley and Kate Firth.

The new Festival weaved together three themes during the three-day event: in addition to bringing the very best of Britain’s wordsmiths to Winchester, a town with its own great tradition of learning and culture, it commemorated the centenary of World War One; and it also celebrated the contribution that Hampshire poets past and present have made to Britain’s literary heritage.

Winchester Poetry Festival brought an enjoyment of poetry to the widest possible audience. Its programme offeed a feast of inspiration for both poetry-lovers and aspiring writers with readings, talks and workshops, some of them free. Patience Agbabi retold Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales for the 21st Century; Brian Patten, Ros Barber, Jackie Kay and other acclaimed poets read and talk about their work; Christopher Reid shared five things that have inspired him; Michael Longley and David Constantine commemorated the war dead; and Kate Firth, sister of Colin and herself a former resident of Winchester, helped aspiring writers improve their live delivery.

The Festival also made literary history. The winner of the first Wilfred Owen international poetry competition was announced. Two other new poetry competitions also made Festival firsts: Hampshire’s first school poetry slam and a pop-up poetry competition launched by Magma, one of Britain’s leading poetry magazines.

Hampshire’s own poets, young and old, were celebrated: from readings by seven of the county’s leading bards to the poetry of Edward Thomas and cricket broadcaster John Arlott in the centenary year of his birth. Students showcased their work in Slam Dunk Hants, the new Hampshire Poetry Slam.

Free events included a literary walking tour, 15-minute talks and readings from Festival poets about a poem that has inspired them and exhibitions featuring artwork specially commissioned for the Festival. The Poetry Postie was also delivering poetic inspiration on her bicycle.



Brian Patten, Patience Agbabi, David Constantine, Michael Longley, Jackie Kay, Ros Barber and more. Local Hampshire poets include Joan McGavin, Robyn Bolam, Stephen Boyce, John Haynes, Nick MacKinnon, Maggie Sawkins and Julian Stannard.

Commemorative WW1 reading in the Winchester College War Cloister, with Michael Longley and David Constantine, hosted by Sasha Dugdale.


Roads from Hampshire: the poetry of Edward Thomas with Professor Edna Longley.
Things being various: the poet’s craft and inspiration with Christopher Reid.
Those timeless things: John Arlott, poetry and the BBC with former England cricket captain Mike Brearley and Arlott’s acclaimed biographer David Rayvern Allen.


Performance skills led by Kate Firth. Sat 13 Sept 10.30am-12.30pm.
Getting published led by Clare Christian. Sun 14 Sept 10.30am-12.30pm.

Free events

Close readings: 15 minutes in the company of a well-known poet and a favourite poem.
Wilfred Owen International Poetry Competition award ceremony.
Literary walking tour around the city.
Edward Thomas exhibition of memorabilia.
Robert Truscott, exhibition of sculpture, some specially commissioned for the Festival.
Slamdunk Hants: student showcase, the county’s first poetry slam competition.

Festival firsts

Wilfred Owen International Poetry Competition.
The National Conversation about Poetry

Winchester Poetry Festival is supported by Winchester City Council, Hampshire County Council, Arts Council England and Winchester Bid.