Diary of a Hay Festival Steward – Days 1 and 2

hay festival flagsThere’s something unique about the Hay Festival, apart from its size and global reputation; it is such a mish-mash of culture, politics, literature, comedy and even some music – all concentrated down into something quite intense. I stewarded last year and found the experience addictive – the thrill of waiting for the next event to start, wondering how full it will be, discovering new authors you’ve never heard of… So here I am again, stewarding, camping and breathing in the literary air of Hay.    Continue reading

Reflections on Edward Thomas 100 & National Poetry Writing Month

Glyn Edwards poet

Glyn Edwards

National Poetry Writing Month is over at last, and it seems like only yesterday that I was cosied up on the sofa listening to the autumn storms, thinking April seemed a long way off. It was back in October that I began to plan a series of events for #EdwardThomas100, to mark the centenary of the World War One poet, and to make Cardiff University’s incredible archive collections more visible to the public. It’s been an exciting few months, and it’s hard to believe it’s all over, so here are some reflections on the experience…    Continue reading

Poetry & Music at the Abergavenny Writing Festival

Rufus Mufasa (2)The Abergavenny Writing Festival began last year, but I wasn’t able to make it, so I was determined to get to at least one of their events this year if at all possible. Life is busy! But I managed to get to the grand finale – an event which combined music and poetry. It was a beautiful drive up into the Welsh hills, to the Kings Arms Hotel, where we sat in a cavernous room with unusual acoustics to hear from some talented local musician-poets.    Continue reading

Verve Poetry Festival Highlights – A Celebration of Diversity

Geraldine Clarkson

What I enjoyed most about the recent Verve Poetry Festival (first of many, I hope) was the fact that it embraced poetry in all its guises, from the academic to the experimental, the hilarious to the downright ridiculous. We had spoken word at its most ostentatious, the big names and the new faces, plenty of opportunities to hear about the writing process, and workshops on themes as varied as ‘taking risks’ and performance technique…    Continue reading

Poetry – for loss, absence and bearing witness…

isobel dixonOn this – the final day of the Verve Poetry Festival, we have just been treated to a memorable showcase of four poets from Nine Arches Press, whose writing is both poignant and moving, unafraid to face up to the difficulties of life and the pain of loss. All the poets agreed, in their discussion afterwards, that poetry is an essential tool for “bearing witness” in the world, that it’s important to be truthful, allowing emotion to come through in your work…    Continue reading

A Feast of Poetic Delights at the Verve Poetry Festival

Dan Simpson

Last night I feasted on poetic delights of all kinds at the Verve Poetry Festival, which is beautifully pink and exciting… hosted by the many-layered Waterstones Birmingham store. I’ve never seen so many poetry enthusiasts in one space before! We had readings from Mona Arshi, Kim Moore and Katrina Naomi, followed by a full-on spoken word Dice Slam with Apples and Snakes, featuring poets from around the UK, and a rather unusual judging method… Continue reading

The Hay Festival on a Budget – A Survival Guide for Stewards

hay festival steward lanyardHaving never been to the Hay Festival before, I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first visit in May 2016, but I decided to sign up for the stewarding role, as I had a very limited budget. It was an incredible, addictive experience and I will certainly be going back again this year.

Before going, I decided to do a bit of research online, to see if anyone had written about what stewarding was really like. But there was very little information out there, so here is my own survival guide for stewarding at the Hay Festival, which I hope will be useful for others…    Continue reading

Cardiff Poetry Experiment

poetry experimentExperimentation is at the heart of all art forms, and poetry is no exception. A couple of weeks ago I attended one of the ‘Cardiff Poetry Experiment’ events, run by Cardiff University’s School of English. I was greeted at the wrought iron gates of Wyndham Arcade by the magical password ‘poetry?’ and allowed inside. The venue was Wyndham Tea Rooms (sister of Waterloo Tea Rooms), where you can get the best cuppa in Cardiff (though they were serving other drinks too).    Continue reading

Poetry Review – The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America

Book - The Other TigerIt is strange to hear someone reading a poem in another language (a language which you don’t understand at all) and then to hear that same poem read again in your own language. There is a sense of building anticipation, as you hear the emotion behind the words, with particular intonations that seem to stand out… Yet the meaning must come later, inevitably with a sense of both satisfaction and loss, as no translation will ever convey the strength of the original…    Continue reading

Topsy-Turvy Twelfth Night Celebrations

topsy turvy twelfth nightIn the tradition of Twelfth Night, the Lord (or Lady) of Misrule presides over games and festivities where, for one night only, the world is turned upside down. Amanda Rackstraw, in the guise of Befana (the Italian ‘Christmas Witch’ who brings gifts) organised this unique spoken word / musical / storytelling event, in aid of Médecins Sans Frontières, as a fabulous, topsy-turvy finale to the Christmas season…    Continue reading

Lit Fest Highlights of 2016

beowulf storytelling

Telling the tale of Beowulf

This has been an incredible year for literary festivals and events. There are many moments that stand out, from the simple pleasure of sitting in a warm room listening to someone read a good story, to the buzz of meeting new people, seeing new places and trying new things. Highlights must include my first ever visit to the Hay Festival, and hearing well known writers such as Tracy Chevalier, Sebastian Faulks and Simon Armitage discuss their work. But there are three festivals that really stand out for me, as I look back over a year of literary events….     Continue reading

Collective: Eight Poets and Eight New Poetry Collections

Poet Tracy Rhys

Tracy Rhys

What’s the collective noun for poets? Perhaps ‘a plethora of poets’, or ‘a stanza of poets’? My own favourite is ‘a pub-full of poets’ (they tend to gather in pubs). Whatever the word, we had eight of them reading their work at this new event, entitled ‘Collective’, organised by Christina Thatcher (whose own debut collection will be published in 2017). It was not held in a pub, for once, but in the retro café / bar Little Man Coffee Company, on a night so foggy that Sherlock Holmes would have felt very much at home…    Continue reading

How to Get Your Novel Published – Lessons Learned from the Cardiff Book Festival

novelsLast month I attended a workshop organised by Cardiff Book Festival on how to get published. We heard from Hazel Cushion (founder and managing director of Accent Press) and Richard Davies (director of Parthian), who each provided a fascinating insight into the publishing world. We also heard from Gary Raymond (author of novel For Those Who Come After) about his personal experience of publication. Each of them brought a different perspective and gave us some practical advice.    Continue reading

How to Write a Novel – Lessons Learned from the Cardiff Book Festival

how to write a novelI’ve always wanted to be an author, ever since I was very young and discovered what the word meant, but for some reason, I’ve never thought of it as anything more than an unattainable dream. The Cardiff Book Festival has changed that. There were two workshops, one which focused on how to write a novel, and another on how to get published, which inspired me to see it as something that could be done – a genuine possibility.    Continue reading

Performance Poetry for Black History Month

Eric Ngalle Charles

Eric Ngalle Charles

Cardiff’s Central Library has recently begun holding regular Open Space events for writers to perform their work or hold a book launch. These are free to attend, and a great way for writers to reach a wider audience. This month’s Open Space featured four local poets, in celebration of October’s National Poetry Day and Black History Month. The event was well attended, and included musical elements as well as the spoken word.    Continue reading

The Magic of Medieval Poetry – Simon Armitage Translating Pearl

Medieval Poem PearlSpeaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Simon Armitage admitted that, when translating the Medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, someone literally had to take it off him, before he would allow it to be finished. “Translation is addictive,” he explained, “and much easier than writing your own poetry, because you can concentrate on it for longer, and it’s far less open-ended”. He added that “working with poets from the past is like tracing family members or finding ancestors; it’s like harmonising, like singing along to the Beatles in the car, two voices together.”    Continue reading

Made in Roath – A Community Festival of Arts & Culture

The Bard of Ely

Made in Roath is a local community arts festival which began eight years ago and has grown into something not to be missed. Roath (aka The People’s Republic of Roath) is an ever-expandable quirky area of Cardiff which even has its own alternative ‘Actual History Museum’. The festival involves art in all its forms and this year, despite a nasty autumnal cold, I managed to get along to some of the spoken word / performance events, which were as fascinating and unique as ever.    Continue reading

Apples, Lyrics & Elves: Highlights from the Cheltenham Literature Festival

Tracy Chevalier book signingLast night I caught a fleeting glimpse of the magical white-tented world that is the Cheltenham Literature Festival. Passing through, from Coventry to Cardiff, I was only able to attend three events, but each one was thoroughly enjoyable. With a similar set up to the Hay Festival, including an almost identical bookshop tent, the same (though fewer) toilets, and extortionately priced refreshments, there was an air of familiarity that was somewhat comforting.    Continue reading