In Praise of Poetry

Next summer probably couldn’t seem further away at the present moment with frost on the ground and a chill in the air. However in Ledbury, plans are already underway for the biggest poetry festival in the UK. We invited Phillippa Slinger, Festival Manager of Ledbury Poetry Festival to tell us what we can expect from the festival in 2017.

“Hi. I’d love to appear at Ledbury Poetry Festival, call me to see what we can arrange” a well known celebrity’s voice boomed from my answerphone last week. It’s a really exciting time of year when we start to confirm our line-up for 2017, and yes we did call him to arrange an appearance, stay tuned for more details!

The Festival is known for its eclectic programme which welcomes a broad range of speakers to share their love of poetry. Already confirmed for the 2017 Festival will be the actors Juliet Stevenson, and Ann Mitchell (Eastenders) and top stand-up comic and poet Sean Hughes. The Festival will welcome 2016 Forward Prize winner Vahni Capildeo, as well as poets Denise Riley, Helen Mort, John Hegley, Inua Ellams, and Kayo Chingonyi. The Festival already has a strong international line-up with American poets Tony Hoagland and Thomas Lynch and the Festival will host its first Translation Slam in collaboration with Sasha Dugdale and Modern Poetry in Translation. For the third year Versopolis, a Festival highlight joining 11 European poetry festivals will continue to celebrate the best emerging European poets.

To celebrate 21 years the Festival will explode like a party popper onto the streets of Ledbury with an ambitious programme of outdoor events and happenings, for all ages and free to attend.

Many people ask me whether we work all year round. The answer is an emphatic Yes! Ledbury Poetry Festival is the largest of its kind in Europe. Last year 180 poets performed in over one hundred events spread over ten days in July. It’s a gargantuan task to organise and we need to start early to secure a really great line-up of performers.

The Festival also has year programmes taking poetry out into schools and the community. Keen writers, Poetry by Heart, Young Shakespeare, Write Out Loud – if you went to school locally the chances are you have had some sessions with the Poetry Festival – whether you knew it or not! We have community projects in Leominster, Bromyard and Hereford, as well as Pop-Up-Poetry events across the county.

There will be a Pop-Up-Poetry event at the Courtyard on Monday 9 January before the screening of Paterson, a film about a bus driver awakening to the joys of poetry. People are surprised at the power and immediacy of poetry – it has the ability to get to the heart of things in very few words, and everyone surprises themselves at what they can actually write themselves. When you think about it, we all use words every day – and that’s all you need for poetry, words. Come along before the film on Monday 9 January and surprise yourself with your brilliance! There will be poets here to help you put your own poem together, on the spot.



Words make amazing play things. On Saturday 1 April you can see poet wordsmiths at the top of their game jousting to compete for the title of Slam champion at the Ledbury Poetry Slam at The Courtyard. We thought it was time for Hereford audiences to see one of Ledbury’s Best Kept Secrets, as the Slam event is always one of the first to sell out, and is always high energy. Come along for a knockout night of potent poetry and spirited performances as do or die versifiers take the page onto the stage to compete for points that lead to prizes! You can be part of the applaudience, cheering for your favourite poet, or why not sign up to take part? To enter email:, Tel 07814 830031, and join slampressarios Elvis McGonnegal and Sara-Jane Arbury for an evening of good verbal vibrations.

In the meantime, mark your diaries 30 June – 9 July, 2017 for a truly dazzling programme of events at Ledbury Poetry Festival. You might even bump into your favourite TV star! We hope to see you there!

Paterson (PG) will be shown in The Courtyard’s Studio Theatre Mon 9 – Thu 12 Jan with Ledbury Poetry Festival hosting a Pop-Up-Poetry event before the screening on Mon 9 Jan in The Foyer.

Ledbury Poetry Slam at The Courtyard will take place in The Courtyard’s Studio Theatre on Sat 1 April at 8pm