Ledbury Poetry Festival

PUBLISHED: 13:01 21 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:23 20 February 2013

Alan Lloyd waxes lyrical about this year's Poetry Festival

Ledburys got rhythm

Alan Lloyd waxes lyrical about this years Poetry Festival

Lebry might rhyme with Febry, but the bunch of friends who planned the first festival way back in 1997 chose the first two weekends in July, A: because they hoped the weather would be good and B: because there was no other literary event in the cultural calendar at the time. Fourteen years on the calendar may be a bit more crowded, but the organisers feel they have been remarkably lucky with the weather. Or is it that no one remembers the rainy days...?

Either way, this years line-up contains a feast of poets and performers to arrest the attention, challenge your ideas and amuse, and the one thing about a poetry festival is that rain never stopped play! Festival Director, Chloe Garner, promises a host of events from readings, to talks, walks, open mics and performances combining poetry with music, dance and good food.

First and foremost, Ledbury offers you the chance to hear the best in contemporary poetry from all over the world. How about Christopher Reid and Don Paterson on Saturday 3? Christopher won the latest Costa Book of the Year award (for poetry!) while Don won the most recent Forward Prize for Best Collection pairs of poets dont come more powerful than that. Or, perhaps you would rather hear women reading poetry. If so, a dazzling highlight will be Fleur Adcock, not to mention Jenny Joseph (When I am an old woman I shall wear purple) and exciting newcomer Elizabeth Cook, who read together on Friday 9.

Fancy an international flavour? Ledbury is packed with choice. One of Chloes major coups is securing the former American Poet Laureate Billy Collins who will be at the festival as poet-in-residenceand reading on Saturday 3. His workshops have long sold out. He will also be appearing in conversation with Judith Palmer, the dynamic new Director of the Poetry Society, on the 4th of July, Independence Day. Well, Ledbury likes to make people feel at home.

Not content with just one star American poet, though, Ledbury has invited Michael McClure to open the festival on Friday 2. Michael gave his first reading at the legendary Six Gallery event in San Francisco, where Allen Ginsberg first read Howl. Perhaps you would prefer something more eclectic a blast from the Baltic with Kristiina Ehin, Anna Hints and Mari Kalkun, three of Estonias leading female poets, folk singers and musicians, on Saturday 3. Poetry and music is a winning formula, much loved at Ledbury, and there are similar events ranging from Will Stone on singer-songwriter Nick Drake (Friday 9) to Josephine Foster, who has put together an album of songs based on the poems of Emily Dickinson (Wednesday 7). On Saturday 10, Ledbury is host to three Emirati poets at Hellens Manor in Much Marcle. Two Iraqi poets of different generations will be reading on Sunday 11, while on the previous Sunday the festival brings together two brave and outstanding leading poets Tal Nitzan from Israel and her friend Basem Nabris, a Palestinian from Gaza whose home has been repeatedly bombed by Hamas because of his peace campaigning.

An important first for Ledbury in 2010 is dance with a pair of cracking events by the Siobhan Davies Dance troupe, one of which, Differences, has been commissioned by the festival. If you cant make the performance in Ledbury on Friday 2 July, there is a chance to see it at Hellens, Much Marcle the following day.

There are walks and talks and features on past poets too. Dr Sarah Wood from University College, London, draws on her research on Piers Plowman to discuss the poems elusive author William Langland, and his connections to the Malvern area (Monday 5). Also on Monday is Knotwork, a fusion of the imagery found in those astonishing borderland churches such as Kilpeck and Old Kempley by Ledbury artist Jeanette McCulloch and Crickhowell poet Graham Hartill, while the next day, Tuesday 6, Hereford poet and publisher, Glenn Storhaug discusses Eric Gill and his engravings for Chaucers Canterbury Tales. The popular John Masefield Walk is on Sunday 4, with frequent stops for readings from the poets work, and there is awalk round Dragon Orchard at Putley on Wednesday 7, accompanied by poet and former Festival Director Charles Bennett.

Whereas Ledbury cant claim Shakespeare as a local lad, it is mounting what will be an exceptional event at Hellens on Tuesday 6, Shakespeare in the Courtyard, with Harriet Walter and Roger Lloyd Pack. On the other hand, we can claim a fine team of singers and the 80-strong Ledbury Community Choir will sing settings of well-known poems, including local composers John Frith and Bob May on Tuesday 6, while on Sunday 11, the famous Town Party is revived with poetry and music, food stalls and feel-good dance music from Cuban Combination and Flat World.

I have left the very strong Sunday (11th) to last, when Prof. Marcus du Sautoy, ace Oxford mathematician, (and he of the muddy football shirt when hes not thinking in prime numbers), comes to Ledbury to explore, for the first time in public we think, the links between poetry and maths. And if that werent enough he is followed on the final day by Ledburys favourite interviewer Francine Stock talking to Michael Buerk about his Desert Island Poems.

There are many more events from a total of over 80, that I dont have space to cover, but I should not wrap up without mentioning the festivals initiative in schools, where our poets-in-residence do precious work with the children. Their efforts culminate in a magnificent performance entitled Out Loud, on Monday 5.

For the rest there is a myriad of workshops, community events in cafes, pubs and shops throughout the 10 days and the preceding period.

Ledbury Poetry Festival: Friday, July 2-Sunday, July 11.
Box Office: 0845 4581743.

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