Poetry for Summer

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One of the hats I like wearing is that of the Director of The Stratford –upon-Avon Poetry Festival. It’s one I’ve worn for several years now and each year, as I come to organise the programme, I try to ring the changes a little. The Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival is our way of celebrating poetry in the hometown of the greatest poet.

I thought you might like to know about some of this year’s Festival highlights. There are two Dickens-related events coming up here in Stratford, in honour of his bicentenary. What the Dickens! is all set to be a delightful show of sketches, readings and songs, from Bleak House to Broadway, from Edwin Drood to Hollywood. Friends will be Mutual and Expectations will be Great! It’s been devised by Malcolm McKee and stars Jan Hartley, Clive Hayward, Nicola Keen, and David Timson. Then there’s Celebrating Dickens on Film – a special screening at the Stratford Picture House of possibly the greatest of all Dickens film adaptations: David Lean’s 1946 Great Expectations, which includes a talk-back after the screening with the novelist Dame Margaret Drabble.

Other highlights include Play Up! and Play the Game!, devised by Roger Pringle as a lighted-hearted evening in the run up to the Olympics. The actors are Clive Francis and Desmond Barrit (playing Falstaff in the R.S.C.’s forthcoming The Merry Wives of Windsor).

Photo. by Mark Fairhurst

Image from Nouse

I’m delighted, too, to be revisiting our successful partnership with Amnesty International U.K. with Poetry for Amnesty. Poetry Festival favourite Jane Lapotaire joins Malawian Amnesty poet Jack Mapanje and the theatre group, Billimankwhe Arts, who are flying over from Malawi especially to perform Jack’s work alongside him.

We’re working in partnership with the Cultural Olympiad’s Poetry Parnassus project together with Writing Westmidlands, so come along and hear poetry by T. J. Dema from Botswana and Kosal Khiev from Cambodia live at The Shakespeare Centre.

Have you ever attended a Poetry Mass? These started eight years ago and I’ll be leading another one in The Guild Chapel on the Feast of St. Mary Magadalene. It’s a celebration of Holy Communion which uses appropriate poems to help form the liturgy. There’s also a talk about St Helen (daughter of Old King Cole and mother of Constantine the Great) in St Helen’s Church, Clifford Chambers with the great Marina Warner.

Image by xgthox

There’s also Poetry Sunday on 15 July, when we’re trying to encourage Stratford to come to life with the sound of Poetry. Do come and join us to share poetry in venues around the town. You can take part by reading any poems you like – but make sure you also come along to Shakespeare’s Birthplace at 4.00pm to take part in a public recital of ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ (it’s Edward Lear’s 150th anniversary).

This year also sees The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s first ever writer in residence: Bulgarian-born, Kapka Kassabova.

She’ll be taking up residence in the writer’s cottage in partnership with The Hosking Houses Trust for women writers and producing three special poems commissioned by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. But more about her work and the Festival in future blogs…

Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival highlights:
Poetry Parnassus, The Shakespeare Centre, Henley Street, Thursday 5 July at 7.30pm. Tickets £9.00.

What the Dickens!, The Shakespeare Institute, Church Street, Sunday 8 July at 7.30pm. Tickets £15.00.

Celebrating Dickens on Film, The Stratford Picture House, Saturday 14 July at 2.00pm. Tickets £9.00 via The Stratford Picture House (0871 902 5741).

Play Up! and Play the Game!, The Shakespeare Centre, Henley Street, Sunday 15 July at 7.30pm. Tickets £15.00.

Poetry Sunday, Sunday 15 July from 10am to 4.00pm.

The True Legend of St Helena, St Helen’s Church, Clifford Chambers, Saturday 21 July at 7.30pm. Tickets £5.00.

Poetry Mass, The Guild Chapel, Sunday 22 July at 7.30pm. Free but ticketed.

Poetry for Amnesty, The Shakespeare Centre, Henley Street, Sunday 29 July at 7.00pm. Tickets £15.00.
Find out more via www.bloggingshakespeare.com/poetry-festival or at www.shakespeare.org.uk

Tickets can be purchased in The Shakespeare Bookshop on Henley Street or via the Ticket Hotline: (01789) 294911.

Find out more about The Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival by clicking here.

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Author:Paul Edmondson

Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_edmondson
  • Most tempted I have been all year to return to Stratford… might have to squeeze in a visit before I leave the UK! And you know this year it’s gotta be one of the Dickens events

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