This year’s festival is back for the first time in two years and continues to go from strength to strength delivering a programme of nationally acclaimed stars alongside a diverse programme of activities, performances and events from the vibrant homegrown poetry community. From word walks and performance masterclasses to urban haiku, writing workshops, open mics and poets against racism, there are many ways to experience the festival.
Author and poet Michael Rosen, TS Eliot prizewinner Joelle Taylor, the godfather of modern British poetry Roger McGough and the current British poet laureate Simon Armitage with his band LYR are among the headliners coming to the city.
In one of the first appearances by Michel Rosen following his 48 days spent in intensive care with Covid in 2020, the former children’s laureate will be sharing his poems ‘for the child in all of us’ at Metronome on 12th May.
‘Safety in Numbers’ is a new collection from Roger McGough which asks ‘What will we have learned from stillness and silence? From sharing, not taking? Waiting not pushing? Whispering not shouting? Dawdling not rushing?’. His show at Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside, 14th May is one not to be missed.
Fresh from winning the TS Eliot poetry prize for C+nto & Othered Poems exploring butch lesbian counterculture, Joelle Taylor will be performing at The Old Cold Store on 13 May and sees her book as a “bridge” that can bring a fractured community back together.
Festival founder, the Nottingham-born Henry Normal, began his career as a stand-up poet and went on to become a co-writer of award-winning TV and film hits including The Royle Family, The Mrs Merton Show and Coogan’s Run, and producer of Gavin and Stacey, Alan Partridge and the Oscar-nominated film Philomena.
Henry will be embarking on an ambitious tour of Nottingham City Libraries from Aspley and Bulwell to St Anns and Strelley to deliver his Poetry Hour along with a different guest poet at each location, shining a spotlight on these vital community spaces at a time when they are facing closure.
He said: “It’s so brilliant to see Nottingham Poetry Festival grow into one of the very best in the country. The community engagement, the energy, the breadth of quality and innovation now rivals any poetry festival in the UK. I’m delighted to be performing free shows at the city’s libraries and hope friends old and new will come along and say hello and bring along a poem themselves.”
He will also be bringing an evening of pure escape with stories, jokes and poems featuring favourite poems from his BBC Radio 4 series and his seven poetry collections, at Lakeside, on 12 May.
Castle Rock is once again supporting the festival and hopes its pubs will become hubs where people can connect through poetry and even have a go at writing their own with pens, notebooks and prompt sheets on hand.
Liv Auckland, Castle Rock Brewery, said: “It is so exciting to be sponsoring Nottingham Poetry Festival again. The rich creative culture of our city and the wider county is so important to our collective wellbeing and our recovery from the pandemic. We hope this year’s festival provides a platform for Nottingham’s poets to share the words we all need to hear after the past few years. For Castle Rock, it’s become more important than ever to work with our communities and seize opportunities for collaboration, and use our pubs as spaces for people to connect. It is set to be the best festival yet and we can’t wait to see what comes from it.”
Midlands Mix Up will see poets from Nottingham, Derby and Birmingham swapping places to showcase their own poetry and nominate a ‘Poet to Watch’ from their hometown to perform alongside them. Casey Bailey, the rapper-poet who wrote The Ballad of Peaky Blinders for the hit BBC series will be representing Birmingham.
Poets off the Endz, a poetry and spoken word platform born from a YouTube series of the same name curated by Jah Digga, an artist and force majeure in his home city of Nottingham, will present a night of spoken word, poetry and live music.
Kavya Rang is a traditional Indian poetry recital where audience interaction is encouraged, and promises to be a lively affair followed by delicious Indian tea, taking place at the Hindu Temple, Carlton. Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, the London-based collective, will be coming to town for an afternoon of workshops and an evening of performances.
A Poetry Takeaway Van will serve up personalised poetry performed and wrapped to take away from Sneinton Market while people will be invited to record a message of hope at the After Life benches donated by Netflix as a place for people to chat and reflect.
Check out Van Gogh Find yourself – an immersive, interactive show that blends storytelling and live drawing, with a special show for younger audiences, Van Gogh Kid Yourself, both at Waterstones. No two shows are the same as Vincent takes a lead from his audience and follows his instincts.
Festival director Anne Holloway said: “We are all poets. A poem isn’t a certain number of words or lines or stanzas. A poem is a moment noticed, sometimes shared. Some of us use words, some of us use images, music or song, paint or chalk or food, or a mobile phone, or kicking a ball, or swimming, or smiling at someone on the street. It’s all about connecting. For some people a poem might be getting out of bed and letting their feet connect with the floor. You don’t have to be a poet to enjoy poetry so come along and get involved!”
LYR, made up of Simon Armitage, musician Richard Walters and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Pearson, who have been described as ‘the nexus of diverse creative disciplines and one of the most thrilling musical prospects around’, will close the Arts Council funded festival on 15 May.
Early booking is recommended for the headline acts, while the majority of events are free or low cost. Download the specially created City Arts ‘Poetry on the Go’ app to get the most out of the festival, pick up a treasure map from a Castle Rock pub and go exploring.
Treasure hunters can take part in the Nottingham Poetry Hunt using the map and solve clues to unlock six geocache-style treasure chests hidden around the city. Those who manage to hunt them down, make sure to share what’s inside on social media with #PoetryHunt.
Confetti Media Group continue their long-standing support of the festival. Chief Executive, Craig Chettle MBE said:
“Having co-founded the festival with Henry Normal, it’s so pleasing to see it continue to grow and prosper. It’s a real highlight in Nottingham’s cultural calendar and we’re committed to continuing our support. We’re particularly looking forward to welcoming a number of poets and exciting events to Metronome and Antenna.”
“Confetti and our team of technical experts will once again deliver the live streaming of events, allowing for a far wider audience reach, providing local poets with a greater platform to showcase their work.”
The festival has been awarded National Lottery Project Funding by Arts Council England and is supported by Confetti Media Group and Castle Rock.
For the full line up and to book tickets, go to https://nottinghampoetryfestival.com/whatson/