Poetry comes alive in Leamington as town plans first festival this summer
An innovative new poetry festival that includes involvement with local schools will take place this summer in a town originallly immortalised in a poem by Sir John Betjeman.
The first Leamington poetry festival will be staged over the weekend of July 5-7, and will feature a host of local guest poets and performers, visiting headline acts, free shows and workshops, a local poetry book fair, open mic sessions and a slam contest. The headliners include award-winning poet and playwright Inua Ellams, She Grrrowls, and veteran radical poet and performer Attila the Stockbroker.
Other events include Poetry of Peace and Reconciliation, with Roy McFarlane, Julie Boden and Antony Owen; Poetry of the Picturesque, with Andrea Mbarushimana, Laura Potts and Tina Sederholm; Poetry of the Pioneers, dedicated to the poetry of the region’s young people, plus Stand Up Poetry in Your Pants. Events are scheduled across the town over the festival weekend at places including parks, shopping centres, All Saints church and the Festival Hub – Temperance café on Bath Street.
Alongside the main festival willo be a Pop-Up Poetry Festival programme involving the town’s schools. Every child in every local school is invited to take part in the Pop-Up Festival by contributing original works of poetry that will be exhibited and then distributed to festivalgoers and members of the public.
The programme was unveiled this week at the monthly Scriptstuff Poetry evening held at Leamington’s Temperance art café. The festival’s organiser is Mike Took, a writer, poet and performer who has lived in and around Leamington Spa for most of his life.
Betjeman’s poem, ‘Death in Leamington’, was written in the 1930s, almost a century ago. It includes the lines: “Do you know that the stucco is peeling? / Do you know that the heart will stop? / From those yellow Italianate arches / Do you hear the plaster drop?”
Times have changed in Leamington, where poetry is very much alive, it seems. Mike Took said: “Leamington Spa is an extremely cool and artsy town where the success of the monthly Scriptstuff Poetry events we run proves what a great local poetry appetite there is. And when you factor in all the other great spoken words events happening in the area, creating a poetry festival seemed the next obvious step to take. Support and interest so far has been amazing”.
Primary funding for the festival has come from the Royal Leamington Spa town council. There are further applications for support from elsewhere awaiting confirmation including some sponsorship and endorsement opportunities which are still up for grabs, so interested parties or businesses are urged to get in touch quickly.