Winchester Poetry Festival

Hollie McNish. Credit Paul Newbon

Winchester Poetry Festival announces its 2018 programme, with some of the best-known names in UK and world poetry and a range of thrilling new voices – plus the launch of the Festival’s third annual open poetry competition – Winchester Poetry Prize.

This year’s Festival takes place on the weekend of 5-7 October, straight after National Poetry Day on Thursday 4 October. At a special launch event on Friday 13 April, chair Stephen Boyce unveiled a roster of more than 40 poets and speakers, including Ian McMillan, Frances Leviston, Liz Berry, Kathleen Jamie and Holly McNish.

Winchester Poetry Festival has become a major player in the poetry world, with a reputation for innovative programming and for sponsoring and nurturing new talent, championing many of the most exciting poets from the UK and beyond. This year is no exception.

IDENTITY is the theme for 2018

Festival co-director Sarah Hesketh said: “Questions of who we are really are or who we want to be, where we come from, and where we find ourselves have long preoccupied poets. But while technology makes the distances between us grow ever smaller, it can also feel like we are retreating from each other, unsure of who we are and how to live with those who might be different from us. The poets we have invited explore the difficulties, but also recognise the strength in our individual differences and personal stories.”

2018 International Poetry Prize

Winchester Poetry Prize is an open poetry competition, which attracted more than 1800 entries last year. The 2018 competition, sponsored by 200 year-old Hampshire law firm Paris Smith, will be judged by award-winning poet Liz Berry, and the winner will be announced at the Festival. Last year’s award was won by Bristol-based Caleb Parkin. See him read his prizewinning poem Somewhere to Keep the Rain here.

New for 2018

Special events include a new writing competition for 11-16 year-olds. Its theme, Changing the World, eco poems for a new climate, is a collaboration between the Festival and Winchester Action on Climate Change and commemorates Robert Hutchison, the founder of both organisations, who died last year.

Also new is a programme of workshops for young writers aged 16/17, which will be led by this year’s Hampshire Poet Robyn Bolam. These will run in five local colleges throughout the summer term. Their work will be published by the Festival and read at a special event on National Poetry Day.

The Festival takes place at Winchester Discovery Centre. Advance booking opened on Saturday 14 April 2018, for more than 30 events, readings and workshops, some of them free. To book: Theatre Royal Winchester Box Office 01962840440, www.theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk

 

OTHER FESTIVAL 2018 HIGHLIGHTS

World voices

Poetry from other countries, and how it is translated, is a key element of the Festival, bringing the very best in translated poetry to Winchester, with poets from Syria, Macedonia, USA and the Caribbean.

The natural world

Three award-winning poets, Rebecca Goss, Kathleen Jamie and Harry Man, for whom the natural world and its environment are a vital concern, will read new work, from Suffolk to endangered species.

Old Norse Translation Duel

Sharpen your axes! Translators Debbie Potts and Carolyne Larrington tackle verse from the saga of Gísli.

Free events – tours and readings

Book early for popular Festival freebies, with poetry tours of Winchester conducted by literary expert Kieren Phelan, and close readings by Festival poets.

Poetry workshops

An opportunity for aspiring poets to improve their creativity, from crafting sentences to the inspiration of Tai Chi – with acclaimed poets Frances Leviston, Liz Berry and Eileen Pun.

 

Related:

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

 

Beginnings:

Brian Patten picture by Theo Moye

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.

FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS

Readings

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.

Talks

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.

Workshops

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.