Here co-organiser Peppy Scott – who is the Times of Tunbridge Wells cartoonist and a poet – tells Eileen Leahy more about the event, now in its second year, and reveals more details about who is on the bill
Last year saw the first Tunbridge Wells Poetry Festival take place and because it was such a success its organisers have decided to put it on again this year – even extending its run by a whole week in order to include all the keen poets and performers who want to be part of this inspiring local literary event.
Headline shows include Radio 4 stalwart Henry Normal performing his touring show ‘The Escape Plan’ at Trinity Theatre and an evening with Costa Book Award-winner Hannah Lowe at Waterstones, with her guest, local poetic rising star Jess Mookherjee. There will also be music and poetry from internationally acclaimed performers Chris Tutton (poet) and Anne Denholm (harpist) at the Church of St John the Baptist, Penshurst.
During the festival’s run (June 5-26) there will also be an evening of eco poetry, open mic sessions and readings with piano music at King Charles the Martyr Church.
“In addition to all this there will be numerous workshops on offer in order to inspire everyone from novices to established poets,” explains the festival’s co-organiser Peppy Scott, who also just happens to be this newspaper’s resident cartoonist.
“The workshops are mostly in person but some are online and one takes place al fresco on the beautiful Ashdown Forest. The workshops cover a diverse range of angles – inspiration, art, mythology, nature, religion, performance, poetic form – and are led by some of the area’s most successful established poets.”
Peppy explains that the Tunbridge Wells Poetry Festival – which is an independent, not-for-profit, grassroots organisation – is run entirely by volunteers, who are all poets themselves, many of whom are part of the Kent & Sussex Poetry Society.
“As the Chair of the committee, Charlie Bell, has previously said, ‘Poetry is the new rock and roll, with the same elements of commitment, energy and excitement. It appeals to a wide and general audience’. And this is certainly reflected in our line-up this year.
“The festival’s strap line is ‘Poetry for All, Big or Small’ and we are motivated by the pleasure of sharing poetry of all genres with people of all ages, who may or may not already know they like poetry. To be able to invite poets of national standing like Henry Normal and Hannah Lowe into the town is a thrill, but we are equally excited by the platform we offer to undiscovered local talent. Members of the committee work entirely voluntarily and each one is also a poet.”
And why does Peppy think people should support these events?
“This is something that is for all the local community. Poetry can be moving or calming, thought-provoking and intriguing, challenging or soothing, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. While the more cerebral readings will appeal to confirmed lovers of poetry, much of the programme is designed to appeal to a general audience. This includes a whole range of writing workshops and open mics. “Whether someone is an absolute beginner who has never attempted to write a poem before, or an established poet who is regularly published, the festival offers opportunities to stretch one’s skills regardless of experience. We also have a policy of affordable pricing and there are many free events on the programme. Accessibility is central to our ethos.”
The festival finale is the Wordplay Fun Day, a free family-friendly day at The Forum. This incorporates children’s workshops and activities, relaxed discussions and open mics, and delightful surprise performances by community groups. The evening show, Verse-a- Tility, is a light-hearted celebration of poetry in popular culture hosted by ‘Flitt & Folio’, and sure to leave smiles on faces as the festival comes to an end.
Peppy says another aim of the Tunbridge Wells Poetry Festival is to further help put the town on the cultural map.
“Without a college or a university, this falls to the authorities and local groups. The recent Literary Festival was a welcome and successful event. However, we feel that culture lies beyond headline events, and that local creativity should be nurtured and championed to feed the longer term cultural life of the town. Who knows? Perhaps a future poet laureate already lives in Tunbridge Wells!”
Full details can be found at www.twpoetryfestival.com