Monday, 11 November 2013

SUNDAY NIGHT NEWS - The Aldeburgh Poetry Festival

Apologies for the lateness of this week's Sunday Night News - I might need to rename it Monday Afternoon News - but I've been away this weekend at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. And I had such an awesome time!

In case you're not up to speed, let me tell you that the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival is the UK's pre-eminent celebration of national and international contemporary poetry and this year was its twenty fifth anniversary. Every autumn, the Adleburgh Poetry Festival plays host to a glorious mix of well-renowned writers, lesser-known poets and amazing new talent, and over the weekend there's a huge variety of readings, performances and workshops to attend.

This year, there were thirty poets from seven countries performing, and it was fantastic to be completely immersed in contemporary poetry for three whole days!

I'm really thankful to Amy Wragg from Get on the Soapbox events for inviting me along to perform as a featured act at her Saturday night event at the festival. When Amy first got in contact with me, I jumped at the chance to be involved, to perform alongside fellow featured poet Rowan James, and to work as a steward at the festival.

Working as a steward was great fun. I spent my weekend handing out leaflets, putting up posters, blowing up balloons, helping audience members to their seats, and generally pitching in with all aspects of the festival organisation. It is amazing just how much hard work goes on behind the scenes at these events - and the festival team work tirelessly to ensure that everything is just right for the audience of very friendly poetry-lovers.

In between all the stewarding, I got the chance to sit in on some of the readings. It's impossible to chose my favourites, but I managed to catch great readings from Alison Brackenbury, Katha Pollitt and Terrance Hayes, as well as fantastic poetry from Karen Solie and beautiful stuff in both English and Macedonian from Nikola Madzirov.

Ian McMillan's performance on Saturday evening was laugh-out-loud funny, and his wonderful poetry and rapid-fire jokes had the audience in stitches for the whole of his show. It was also great to see the festival championing new writers, and celebrating collections by up-and-coming names. The 'Pamphlet Poets' event on Saturday afternoon – featuring Richie McCaffery, Kim Moore, Shazea Quraishi and Luke Samuel Yates – was wonderful, and Salena Godden's performance on Sunday afternoon was fantastic too.

I also really enjoyed listening to Russian poet Vera Pavlova discussing her favourite piece of poetry at the Close Reading on Friday evening, and it was wonderful to hear John Whitworth perform. He writes the kind of witty, rhyming poetry I wish that I could come up with!

My own performance went down really well, and I'm just so chuffed to have been part of the festival! Rowan James gave a cracking performance, as always, and the standard of performers at the open mic was incredibly high. Angela Kirby even snuck into the venue, to perform a fantastic poem about male and female genitalia! (My kind of poet!)

All in all it was a really great weekend, and I'm counting down the days until the twenty sixth Adleburgh Poetry Festival! 

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