BBC's Contains Strong Language spoken word festival coming to Coventry City of Culture
The annual poetry and spoken word festival BBC Contains Strong Language comes to Coventry City of Culture this year with over 50 Covid-compliant and in-person poetry events taking place in the city between Thursday 23 and Sunday 26 September.
Sixteen local poets from Coventry and the Midlands are included in the programme. Locations vary from London Road cemetery to Charterhouse Park, from FarGo and Coventry’s Belgrade theatre to the West Indian Community Centre and Social Club.
Friday night’s big broadcast event sees English hip hop musician and Mercury Prize nominated Loyle Carner joined by Grace Nichols and John Agard for an evening of poetry and conversation looking at the poets’ shared Guyanese heritage. Saturday sees a performance by the poet laureate Simon Armitage and the band LYR (Land Yacht Regatta) featuring music from Richard Walters and Patrick Pearson accompanying the laureate's spoken word vocals.
Poetry pharmacist Deborah Alma will dispense free 20-minute poetry consultations from her chaise longue at the Belgrade theatre, while outside at the FarGo forecourt, the Poetry Takeaway will offer personalised poetry, performed and wrapped up, ready to take away.
Outdoors, Green City poet-in-residence Liz Berry will run two walking and writing workshops at Paxton’s Arboretum at London Road cemetery. Also at the cemetery, George Ttoouli and Sujana Crawford appear with Liz Berry to perform poems written in response to residencies in and around Coventry. Elsewhere, Warwickshire Wildlife’s Trust’s Charlotte Ridpath runs three events to Re:Verse the River Sherbourne – a poetry workshop with David Morley, and two walking tours with John Bernard and Sujana Crawford. City of Coventry Brass Band and Olga Dermott-Bond join forces at Coombe Abbey country park with poems by Olga inspired by the band’s songs and Midlands heritage.
Celebrating the legacy of Ira Aldridge, an African American actor who came to Coventry in 1828 to manage the Coventry theatre, Roy MacFarlane, Siana Bangura and young Coventry writers will explore Aldridge’s impact on the city at the West Indian Community Centre and Social Club.
Dance and poetry are combined in a collaboration between Ashley Jordan, director of Coventry’s Ascension Dance, and poet Ian Humphreys, culminating in a film screening. The British Council also showcases the DigiPoems project, a cross-cultural collaboration between poets and digital artists from southern Africa and Coventry, in a film featuring work by Lorna Zita, Musenga Katongo, Prudence Delah Dube, John Bernard, Aysar Ghassan and Andrea Mbarushimana.
Nine Arches Press present new voices in contemporary poetry Romalyn Ante, Lewis Buxton and Forward Prize shortlisted Cynthia Miller. The new 2021-23 Coventry Poet Laureate and Young Poet Laureate will be revealed at Coventry City Library by Roy McFarlane, former Birmingham Poet Laureate and Theresa Lola, former Young People’s Laureate for London with a special guest.
There’s also a special Contains Strong Language edition of Coventry’s long-standing spoken word and open mic night Fire & Dust with guest poet Olga Dermott-Bond. The Poetry Lounge at FarGo will present a range of poets across the weekend including Amanda Dalton, Raef Boylan and many more.
For budding writers, BBC Writersroom hosts two panel events to explain how they scout for fresh talent while The Poetry Toolkit on Saturday 30 October stages an event for emerging and established poets to network, connect and discuss the challenges and opportunities poetry, performance and poetry publishing face today. The vast majority of events are free for the public to attend, with advance booking essential.
As a taster for the September programme, free workshops, performances and a preview night will run in late August and early September. Coventry will also host BBC radio shows introduced by broadcasters such as Stuart Maconie and Ian McMillan and including programmes such as 5 Live’s Afternoon Edition, Radio 3’s The Verb and Radio 4’s Front Row. More details