Poetry in a pub and at an allotment: Nottingham poetry festival full line-up revealed

Nottingham Poetry Festival is set to present award-winning poets, fresh voices and even a world record attempt. In less than a month, the city will be buzzing with performances, slam nights, talks and workshops across various venues including pubs, bookshops, libraries, theatres and community centres as the largest Nottingham Poetry Festival to date kicks off (7-16 June 2024).

The annual celebration of words will feature some of the UK's leading poets such as Linton Kwesi Johnson, Hollie McNish, Michael Pedersen, Luke Wright, Anthony Joseph and Henry Normal. The festival will also showcase a vast array of local talent, open mics, panels and workshops, exhibitions and free poetry books from the city's independent publishers.

This year, the festival will honour the late poet Benjamin Zephaniah with a screening of films featuring his poetry made by Ben Wigley, a Nottingham filmmaker who collaborated with the renowned poet. After the Broadway screening on 16 June, local poets will pay tribute to Zephaniah followed by a Q&A session with Ben Wigley and producer Anna Griffin about their experience working with the poet.

Proceeds from this event will go to the brainstrust charity. Tickets are available now.

While tickets for the headline events are running low, the majority of the festival programme remains free. Notably, Hollie McNish and Michael Pedersen will be performing at Poppy and Pint on 8 June, though there is currently a waiting list for this event.

After a series of sold-out performances across the UK, Hollie McNish is back with her latest book, Lobster and other things I'm learning to love. In Lobster, Hollie applies her unique style to topics such as friendship, flags and newborns, clocks, cocks and volvos, casting a beautifully poetic and somewhat ridiculous light on all those things we've been taught to despise, but might just learn to love again.

She will be joined by fellow poet Michael Pedersen, who will read from his recent brilliant books The Cat Prince and Boy Friends. Tickets are priced at £15/10.

Luke Wright's Silver Jubilee is set to take place at The Old Cold Store on 12 June. Celebrate with us as it's Luke Wright's Silver Jubilee.

Over the past twenty-five years, Luke Wright has earned a reputation as one of Britain's most beloved live poets. Hindered in his plans to throw a street party by the council's philistines and unable to sell the surplus commemorative plates, Wright does what he does best as a poet, and takes a deep dive into himself.

What ensues is his most personal show to date, unearthing lives lived and not lived. Tickets are available for £12/10.

Nottingham Poetry Festival presents Linton Kwesi Johnson at Metronome on 14 June.

Linton Kwesi Johnson, a reggae poet, recording artist and activist, was born in Clarendon, Jamaica in 1952. He moved to London in 1963 and attended Tulse Hill secondary school, where he joined the Black Panthers.

His first poetry collection was titled Voices of the Living and the Dead. In 2002, he became only the second living poet and the first black poet to be included in Penguin's Modern Classics series; that book has now been republished as Selected Poems.

His first collection of selected prose, Time Come, was released in 2023. Tickets are priced at £18/£15.

Cultural Vibrations is presenting Anthony Joseph at Antenna on 15 June. Joseph, who won the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2022, is a poet, novelist, academic and musician who relocated from Trinidad to the UK in 1989.

He has published four poetry collections, numerous albums, three novels, and critical work exploring the aesthetics of Caribbean Poetry. At the festival, he will perform alongside a dynamic line-up of spoken word artists and performers from the Caribbean & West African diaspora.

Music will be provided by DJ Suga Lion. Tickets are available for £10/£5.

The packed programme includes nearly 40 community events. Here's just a taste, with the full programme available on the festival website.

Vice Verses will take place at St Ann's Allotments on 8 June. This event offers a hilarious, thought-provoking and uplifting experience of poets performing each other's work.

Attendees also have the opportunity to write their own poem, drawing inspiration from the surroundings. The event operates on a pay-what-you-can basis.

Comedy in Poetry, Theatre Royal & Concert Hall, 9 June.

Henry Normal, Hollie McNish and Michael Pederson will be discussing the role of comedy in poetry. Comic poetry is some of the most cherished verse in the country.

Whether it's tight rhymes, subverting forms or hilarious observations of the everyday, it can surprise and delight audiences. Comedy can also bring nuance to darker writing.

With Hollie & Michael's performance sold out, this is likely to be popular. Free.

Henry Normal's Library Tour, 10-11 June.

Henry will be joined on his tour of libraries in Retford, Southwell, Kirkby-in-Ashfield and West Bridgford by four Nottingham poets; Manjit Sahota, Bridie Squires, Michelle Hubbard and Pete Ramskill. Free.

Henry said: "I love libraries. Without Notts libraries I would never have become a writer. In a world becoming ever more isolating, libraries are one of the few remaining safe spaces where people can interact."

"The choice offered by libraries opens up a wide world of possibilities. Libraries are a place where you can find the world and find yourself. If we lose any library we are all the poorer. We should be putting more money and resources into the libraries - they are an essential part of our community life and vital for the mental health of the nation and future generations."

Nottingham Slamovision Heats, Nottingham Central Library, 10 June.

Nottingham City of Literature is on the hunt for a talented slam poet to represent the city at the global Slamovision finale in Manchester later this year. You can either participate in this local heat or simply sit back and enjoy an evening filled with top-notch slam poetry.

Entry is free.

Cultural Vibrations presents: Pidgin, Patois & Poetry at Antenna on 15 June. This engaging creative workshop explores how dialects and slang from the Caribbean & West African diaspora have influenced British language & creativity.

Admission is free.

Join the Nottingham Poetry Festival Attempt A Poetry Record on 15 June. Participate in the attempt to break the record for the world's longest street poem.

Located right outside Nottingham Central Library, you can pick up chalk to add your own lines of poetry and be part of history. The event is sponsored by It's In Nottingham and entry is free.

Notts vs Derby, Poetry Slam!

will take place at The Old Cold Store on 16 June. Conclude the festival with the ultimate Slam challenge as the best poets from Nottingham and Derby compete in a battle of words.

Champions from each city will present their best poems to compete for honour, glory and a grand prize. Expect fireworks!

Entry is free.

In preparation for this year's programme, the festival has also collaborated with a diverse range of groups to develop work that will be showcased at the event. This includes the poetry of young carers, an exhibition by early career creatives and a showcase of exciting new voices from four local secondary schools.

Writer Jim Hall has been working with young carers aged 8 and upwards on weekly creative writing sessions, encouraging each individual to find their voice and express what they want to say. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

With the support of community artist Danny JD and TuVida, these young carers have poured their hearts onto the page. Their moving anthology of creative writing is set to be launched at the Royal Concert Hall foyer on June 15, marking a special moment for these youngsters, their friends and families.

Entry is free.

Festival sponsor Castle Rock Brewery is offering festival attendees a discount on the Castle Rock App. They can enjoy 20 percent off purchases during the festival, as well as a 'thanks for coming' follow-up offer.

Jessica Collins from Castle Rock Brewery expressed her delight at continuing their sponsorship of Nottingham Poetry Festival. She said: "We are delighted to be able to continue our sponsorship of Nottingham Poetry Festival, especially as they have an incredible line-up planned for us all this year! The festival is an amazing platform to spotlight local talent, bring the community together, and celebrate Nottingham's rich cultural and creative landscape."

"Nottingham Poetry Festival is always a highlight of our year, and we hope to see many new and familiar faces enjoy the wonders of discovering, creating, listening to and getting involved with poetry, in our pubs and beyond."

The festival has received National Lottery Project Funding from Arts Council England and is backed by It's in Nottingham, NTU, Confetti Media Group and Castle Rock Brewery.

For further details, visit www.nottinghampoetryfestival.com.

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