I visited Ledbury Poetry Festival for the first time last week-end. From a poet’s point of view, how fantastic it is to see a whole town ‘dressed’ in poetry, with local firms from jam factories to book shops sponsoring events and locals in pubs just accepting, in fact more than that, expecting to hear poetry and see all sorts of people sitting around reading it and writing it. Sitting in Mrs. Muffin’s Tea Shop quietly working on my next Horace Ode, I was thrilled to overhear a gentleman on the next table to me say, ‘Oh look, a poet at work’. Actually I was as much there for the wonderful cake as to grab a quiet bit of writing time, but hey, it was a good feeling anyway.
As well as making some new friends, (Hi Angela and Charles and Jo etc.), it was great to bump into Jane Holland (fabulous poet) who reminded me that we’d first met in Middlesbrough when she came to read over ten years ago, and also to see Anne Stewart who reminded me that our paths first crossed over ten years ago at an Arvon course at Lumb Bank and of course Colin, the ‘big cheese’ from Dead Good Poets in Liverpool.
Then of course there were the great and good performers themselves, (or at least some of the ones I managed to hear) Sean O’Brien, Jo Shapcott, Elaine Feinstein, Ruth Padel, Jane Duran, John Mole and the fantastic C.K. Williams. I’d recommend the Ledbury Poetry Festival to any poetry lover who hasn’t been there – make the effort.
Other things keeping me out of mischief; well I’m still working on the ‘Beyond the Sword Project’ at Preston Hall Museum in Stockton, I’m about to do a short extension to the long residency I did at North Lodge Park, I have a fortnight tutoring again for the Orange Young Writers’ Festival starting at the end of July and I will be starting a new project for New Writing North at the Museum of Antiquities in Newcastle, starting in October. All of this, plus a three week sabbatical at Oxford in September and hopefully starting a PhD attached to the University of Newcastle in the autumn, (wrapped round my beloved Horace, of course) – and I was supposed to be concentrating entirely on my writing this year! Still it keeps me from noticing just how much the house is in need of redecoration and how overgrown the bit of garden is that I was supposed to be tending.
I’ve also recently joined the Lit & Phil in Newcastle and spent a wonderful afternoon there a couple of weeks ago, reading through ancient work by – yes, you’ve guessed it, HORACE.