The morning after the finale before – From LitFest with Love

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What a festival week it’s been! We started off with our launch on Sunday, June 10th, where one Worcestershire Poet Laureate was thanked and praised, and another Worcestershire Poet Laureate was crowned and welcomed. Nina Lewis has been a credit to this county’s literary scene and we are, as an entire team, delighted to have worked with her over the last twelve months. However, we are equally delighted to be welcoming Betti Moretti into the laureate role, and we cannot wait to see what her twelve months in the post will bring.

From the launch we moved through Worcester Writers’ Circle’s annual showcase, Suz Winspear’s Night at the Museum, and then we cruised into the firm favourites of 42, SpeakEasy, and the festival quiz, bringing everything to a head on Saturday, June 16th, with our double whammy slam (another congratulations to Kevin Brooke and Io Osborn who bagged the flash fiction slam champ and poetry slam champ titles respectively).

Now it’s all over and we can, as a team, breathe a sigh of relief, it seems only right that we extend our love and gratitude to the unofficial committee members of LitFest – which is, of course, the audience members who turn up to event after event, year after year, to support us.

You were there so you know exactly how our 2018 festival went down, and we just want to take a moment to thank you for it. Thanks to every judge, every performer, everyone who has emailed, telephoned, rallied around and supported in one way or another. It has been an absolute blast and you will never know just how sincere we’re being when we say that we really couldn’t have done it without you all.

We’ll all go into hiding for a bit now to recover – until the July SpeakEasy, that is – but know that we are both knackered and exceptionally grateful, and we think you’re all flippin’ lovely! We’ll be back with a bang next year —

From LitFest, with love xxx

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A poetry performing platform – by Daniel Burton

Poetry has the potential to move audiences to tears, make people laugh, and tackle some of the most difficult topics in our world. Every poet, whether they’ve been honoured as a Poet Laureate or whether they simply enjoy it as a hobby, has a voice. And that voice should be heard.

At Litfest, we love hearing passionate poets delivering their work and wowing expectant audiences. Poetry is what gets us going, and it’s always a great feeling helping aspiring poets along their journey.

 It’s always been our mission to make poetry and prose accessible for everyone. We’ve seen poets perform sets about everything from mental health through to environmental awareness and everything in between.

“How do you give these poets a platform?” we hear you ask. Through our festival and fringe events!

Each year, our festival committee bring together a week-long extravaganza of open-mic nights and slams which are open to anyone who has something to share. Throughout the last eight years, we’ve seen an amazing mix of poets with a range of abilities and each time, it’s been a pleasure to see them grow and develop.

It’s not unusual for us to see performers reappearing at our fringe events, like our SpeakEasy open mic night for example, after the festival draws to a close. And we’re always delighted to welcome them back time and again!

Connecting poets and the public is a key part of what it means to be the Worcestershire Poet Laureate. We crown a new Laureate each year, and each time they’ve left a lasting impression.

This year’s Laureate, Nina Lewis, took poetry to a global scale. One of her many projects, A Tale of Two Cities, brought together poets from here in Worcester, UK, with poets from Worcester, Massachusetts. And what an amazing collaboration! The UK poets were paired up with a poet from the USA. One would send a poem to the other and the other wrote a response based on that poem and so on, until each pair had four poems in total. Nina then set about bringing them all together in one collection which was released in a special edition of Nina’ own Contour magazine, which she launched as part of her laureateship.

A Tale of Two Cities was a fascinating eye-opener on both sides of the Atlantic. It showed just what is possible through collaboration and the power of poetry – bringing together whole countries and cultures!

But it’s not just through our events that we have given poets a platform to perform and develop their work; it’s through our people, too. Everyone involved in LitFest, from the committee teams to the poets who compete in our slams, has poetry in their hearts and are always happy to give advice to aspiring poets.

So for a taste of the platform we give to poetry and prose writer extraordinaires, come along to our festival events taking place from the 10th to the 16th of June (the full programme of events is available here) to see what Worcester LitFest and Fringe is bringing to this brilliant city.

From Leicester to Worcester, and back to poetry!

Moving to a new city is a huge step in anyone’s life. For Dan Burton, one of our LitFest and Fringe committee members, a move from Leicester to Worcester has opened the door to all sorts of opportunities for him.

With the launch of our eighth festival on the horizon, Dan shares how visiting Litfest for the first time last year helped him to rediscover his poetic spark.

Why Worcester?

 I was asked that question a lot when I first moved. And the simple answer is I love the city! It’s always nice to walk down the river or take a seat on the bank and relax for an hour. Plus the whole place just felt right for me; as though this was where I was meant to be.

A year on and I still feel the same. If anything, I’m even more certain that Worcester is the place for me to grow and develop in all areas of my life, especially with my writing.

A first taste of a literary festival

I came across LitFest last year by searching for literary festivals nearby. Before moving to Worcester, I’d always wanted to go to one but for one reason or another, I’d never had the chance. So when I saw LitFest, I was like, ‘I have to go to this!’

The launch that year (2017) was amazing. I loved the quality of the potential Worcestershire Poet Laureates and the night really got me thinking about taking up poetry again. I’d written a few poems at university but I’d lacked the confidence to do anything with them or take them further so I focused instead on my novel writing, which I felt was more natural for me.

I remember driving home that night replaying the performances in my head and thinking that maybe it was time to try getting back into poetry. That thought only got stronger as I went to the events throughout the week. By the end of the festival, I knew for definite that I wanted to get back into poetry again.

Taking to the open mic stage for the first time

During the end of festival slams, I remember watching the performers (or contestants if you prefer!) and becoming curious about giving performance poetry a shot. So during the next couple of months, I wrote a few poems and put myself forward for the September SpeakEasy open mic night.

And what a night! Genuinely, I could not stop smiling from start to finish. Of course, with it being my first performance, I was terrified but the audience was so supportive.

Since then, I’ve been writing and performing my poetry on a regular basis, and I still think back to how and when it all started; by coming to LitFest and learning from some amazing poets. It really is a great platform for anyone looking to get into poetry or even if they’ve been writing for a few years.

What does this year’s LitFest have in store?

I’m proud and delighted to be on the committee for LitFest 2018. We’ll be revealing the new Worcestershire Poet Laureate – who will have some big shoes to fill! – and there are plenty of events taking place all across the city to enjoy.

We’ve got the famous Night at the Museum (Tuesday, June 12th) hosted by the amazing Suz Winspear and if prose is your thing, then the Worcester Writer’s Circle will be taking over St. Swithun’s Institute in the City Centre as well (Monday, June 11th).

This year’s line-up of events really does have something for everyone and the end of festival slams are always great to get involved in. So if you’re looking to see the writing wonders Worcester has to offer, then be sure to check out the full programme!

And the Worcestershire Poet Laureate shortlist is…

 

Every year our chosen judges work tirelessly towards choosing a new Poet Laureate for the county of Worcestershire and this year is certainly no exception. Seasoned judges Steve Wilson and Polly Stretton are joined by Nina Lewis, the current Worcestershire Poet Laureate, and Rachel Evans, the current Young Poet Laureate for Worcestershire, to make their decision on who is next in line to represent the literary community of Worcestershire and after much deliberation they have narrowed their options down to a final three…

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Our three finalists for this year’s competition are:

Peter Sutton

Sarah Leavesley

Betti Moretti

A huge congratulations to our three finalists, and commiserations and deep gratitude to everyone else who entered. We were delighted to see the wonderful entries that stacked up this year and we hope that those who entered alongside the three finalists will consider entering again in the future.

Peter, Sarah, and Betti will be performing their themed poem alongside one personal poem at the launch of this year’s festival on June 10th, at The Angel Centre, Worcester, after which we will discover who will be crowned WPL for 2018/2019.

For more information on this event, and many others that we are hosting throughout the festival week, please do have a peek at our programme which you can access by clicking here.

‘I am John Clare’ – A revealing and outstanding performance!

In a collaborative event between Worcestershire LitFest and Fringe and Evesham Festival of Words, the peasant poet John Clare was revived for one night only in the Almonry Museum, Evesham, last Thursday.

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Written by Stephen Loveless and performed on the stage by Robin Hillman, the evening promised to be a feast of poetic brilliance and historical wonder.

Now Worcestershire LitFest and Fringe Committee Member, Daniel Burton, shares his thoughts with us on what was undoubtedly an informative and emotional evening.

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8th March 1860. John Clare, peasant poet and the son of a farm labourer, has been committed to the General Lunatic Asylum in Northampton after years of ‘poetic prosing’, confused and unsure about his identity.

3rd May 2018. Robin Hillman brings Clare back to life for a 21st century audience with a thought-provoking performance as the peasant poet himself. Evesham’s Almonry Museum provided the perfect stage to welcome Clare to modern-day England, surrounded by historical artefacts in a beautiful venue.

Delivering his performance with passion, Hillman enabled the audience to gain an insight into the mind of one of the 19th century’s most important and influential poets. He effortlessly switched from exuberance to humility and you really got the sense that you were having a conversation with Clare as a result of Hillman’s performance. You could say it was like having Clare in the room with you!

Anyone unfamiliar with Clare’s poetry was treated to a fantastic lesson! Hillman blended in Clare’s poetic inspirations, namely nature and birds, with the poet’s sense of confusion using imagery and his delivery. He also captured the essence of the difficulties that Clare would have endured throughout his life and career.

Balancing the need to write poetry and the need to make money for his family took its toll on Clare. He had difficulties with his mental health and even claimed himself to be Lord Byron and Shakespeare on several occasions, according to historical records. Hillman portrayed this emotional turmoil with great confidence – every member of the audience felt a strong, deep connection with him and, importantly, with Clare and his situation.

Hillman’s performance was made possible by the research and incredible writing of award-winning writer Stephen Loveless. During a Q&A session after his performance, Hillman revealed that even though the script for ‘I am John Clare’ was written fairly quickly, it was only after the weeks and weeks of intense research Loveless carried out beforehand. This attention to detail and facts, Hillman also revealed, was how he was able to get into Clare’s mind and put on such a great performance.

Opening with Hillman/Clare playing the fiddle whilst making his entrance, ‘I am John Clare’ took place surrounded by an array of historical artefacts and instruments. The location took the audience to the days of Clare, almost putting them ‘into’ the scene themselves, as though they were meeting Clare in person back in 19th century England.

With a charismatic and talented performance by Robin Hillman and the perfect location in the Almonry Museum, ‘I am John Clare’ was educational and emotional all rolled into one fantastic evening. It was a pleasure to attend the event and learn about the struggles and personality of one of England’s poetic geniuses.

Review written by Daniel Burton.

I am John Clare – A collaboration between Worcestershire LitFest and Evesham Festival of Words!

The Worcestershire LitFest and Fringe team are delighted to have teamed up with Evesham Festival of Words for a collaborative event; a one-night-only performance of the marvellous I am John Clare! To be hosted at the Almonry Museum in Evesham on Thursday, May 3rd, this evening of poetical ‘madness’ promises to be a night to remember!

After years of being addicted to ‘poetical prosing’, John Clare, known as the peasant poet, found himself committed to Northampton General Lunatic Asylum in the closing weeks of 1841. We join him there on the night of 8th March 1860.

Subtitled ‘One night with a poet in a madhouse’, the Almonry provides the perfect setting for this one-man play, written by award-winning writer, Stephen Loveless, and performed by actor, fiddle-player and singer, Robin Hillman. The play will be followed by a Q&A session.

Tickets are £6 and this grants you entry to the event plus a glass of wine, and you can buy them online now just by clicking here (although tickets will also be available on the door on the night of the performance itself).

We’re tremendously excited for this event and we’d love it our friends and patrons could come along in support of the evening as well. See you there!

The Countdown is on for our 2018 Competitions!

We are delighted by how many entries we have received for our 2018 competitions so far, but we’re here to give you a gentle reminder that if you’re thinking of entering yourself then it’s time to get your skates on.

Our Young Writer Competition is open until Friday, April 27th (this Friday!) and the details on how to enter can be found just by clicking here.

Our hunt for the new Worcestershire Poet Laureate will also come to an end this Friday (April 27th) but we’re still accepting entries throughout this week, so if you fancy yourself a WPL type then get involved by clicking here.

Last but by no means least, our wonderful Flash Fiction Competition will also draw to a close this Friday but we are accepting entries up until midnight Friday evening so if you’ve got some fabulous flashes stashed away somewhere, have a peek just here to see how you can submit them.

We’ve had some wonderful submissions so far but we’d like even more before we shut our doors completely! Spread the word and get involved – and maybe you’ll even feel moved to send something in yourself…