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17th Ledbury Poetry Festival 2013 - Review

Posted by Steve_Barfield
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on Thursday, 18 July 2013
17th Ledbury Poetry  Festival 2013 Review

5 stars

This is the longest running and easily the most important such festival in Britain and offers a chance to experience an extraordinary range of poetry and events that focus on the glory of the spoken word.  It is a cornucopia of poetic delights and there really was something for everyone, no matter what your taste.

This year it ran from 5th- 14th  July 2013 and while I couldn’t go for more than a day, I  could have easily spent a week there enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes – there was a special edition Ledbury Poetry Festival cider and plenty of welcoming cafes and cake shops- of what is also a rather lovely Herefordshire town filled with timber-framed mediaeval architecture. Carol Anne Duffy was quite right when she called the Ledbury festival: ‘A rare, genuine joining of poetry, people and place.’


Figure 1. ' Emergency Poetry ' credit: Alexander Caminada

There were certainly some great examples of more traditional poet reading their works such as Gillian Clarke, Liz Lochhead, Owen Sheers and Anne Stevenson;    including some wonderful example of international poets in the shape of the Iranians Shakila Azizzada and Azita Ghahreman.  New performers were represented just as strongly as established names with Kate Tempest  - she recently won the Ted Hughes Award for her drama Brand New Ancients - headlining the festival itself.

But there were also workshops for aspiring poets , covering all manner of skills and a resident festival poet in the shape of Naomi Shihab Nye, as well as fun-filled poetry sessions for children and Juliet Stephenson reading from Sylvia Plath. There was also some surprising innovations with Wet Sounds, an underwater sound and light installation where you have to immerse yourself in the swimming pool  whilst exploring soundscapes over two distinct sound systems. Other highlights included public figures such as politician Tony Benn and Alexandra Schulman of Vogue choosing and reading the poems that inspired them. And there was plenty of humour for example in stalwart, celebrated performers from the performance poetry scene such as the always wryly funny, political poet Benjamin Zephaniah.

small Poetry Takeaway Alexander Caminada Photography2

Fig. 2 .'Poetry takeaway', credit: Alexander Caminada
You could order a poem on any subject from a list of topics.

One of the nicest aspects of the festival is the down-to-earth and friendly nature of the festival, it is largely run by poetry-loving volunteers from the local community and it is charming to go to events being held in neighbourhood halls and local cafes. You don’t have to be a poetry event regular to be made to feel very welcome and there is enough variety in this small scale and very human festival to meet any interests. We shouldn’t forget this is  a celebration, with its roots in local schools and the community and that it does impressive work in bringing poetry to school children who may not have experienced it before¸ Life Loves To Change is a community projects, where locals working with the Rural Media Company  has led to the creation of a new poem using oral material, while  the Rural Media Company have made a  series of films and photographs depicting life in Ledbury and the changing culture and identity of the town. The project has its own website – see


Figure 3. Ledbury Festival Poetry Goers, credit: Alexander Caminada

If you are a poetry lover, or just love historic old towns then you will almost certainly enjoy a few days or a week in Ledbury at next year’s festival. Check out their web site at

PS Also don’t forget 31st October 2013 is the closing date for the national poetry competition – see, while the main nature poetry competion closes 30 September 2013, see and there are also some prizes set up by innovative theatre company livecanon see  Also look out for the Torbay Festival of Poetry Thursday 24th –Monday 28th October 2013. 

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