Volunteers rally round to ensure there will still be poetry in Aldeburgh this year after festival crisis

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Poetry is returning to Aldeburgh in November this year with a three-day festival organised by a  group of volunteers, backed by a wave of goodwill and enthusiasm from the poetry world.

While uncertainty remains over the future of the Poetry Trust’s Aldeburgh poetry festival, after the trust was forced to make huge cuts and close its offices last year, poets such as Blake Morrison, Maura Dooley, Kate Miller, Jack Underwood, and Anne-Marie Fyfe are among those who have already signed up to read in the Suffolk seaside town’s Jubilee Hall in autumn this year.

The “poetry in Aldeburgh” weekend from 4-6 November has been developed by a committee of volunteers led by Mark Fairweather, who is a solicitor in Aldeburgh, and a former member of the Poetry Trust. At the heart of the initiative was the idea of bringing poetry back into Aldeburgh itself; in recent years the staging of poetry events has migrated from the town to the nearby Snape Maltings arts complex.

Committee member Pam Johnson said: “Everyone was saddened by the dreadful news from the Poetry Trust, and felt dismay that there might no poetry at Aldeburgh this year. The idea is not to replace the Aldeburgh festival, but to hold the space in Aldeburgh in November.” She added that there had been concern that the lack of a festival would affect businesses in the town.  

Key figures and bodies involved include art dealer Caroline Wiseman, who runs the Aldeburgh Beach Lookout and the Art House; artist, poet and Poetry School trustee Daphne Astor; the Aldeburgh Bookshop; and Suffolk Poetry Society.

The main poetry readings will be in Aldeburgh's Jubilee Hall, with other events at the Peter Pears Gallery, involving groups such as the Poetry Society, the Poetry School and Suffolk Poetry Society. There will also be an art and poetry exhibition at the gallery, plus a workshop on poetry and drawing at The Lookout, run by National Portrait Gallery BP Portrait award finallist Clara Drummond. The “garage” area below the Peter Pears Gallery will be a chillout area, for book swapping, magazine buying, meeting and chatting.

Pam Johnson, a novelist, poet, and fiction tutor, said the aim of the weekend was collaborative: “It was a modest plan at first – but it was amazing, when people heard about it, they were eager to take part in it. The enthusiasm and energy that we’re getting. People are delighted that it’s back in Aldeburgh … we’re starting again from scratch. I’m sure there’ll be rough edges, people will have to be quite forgiving. All the members of the committee are volunteers - none of us is being paid.”

Organisers will be seeking charitable status, and then looking for donations. You can keep up with developments by liking the group’s Facebook page, following on Twitter, or by checking its new website.  


Background: Questions over future of Aldeburgh poetry festival


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