Last weekend I was at Ledbury Poetry Festival as the Young Poet-in-Residence. I had an amazing time – I went to see loads of events – the highlights were probably Simon Armitage reading from his new prose account ‘Walking Home’ about his journey along the Penine Way. He decided to see if he could make it with no money other than what he earned by giving poetry readings on the way. He had the sell-out audience laughing throughout the reading – a great performance.
I really wanted to get to see the new Eric Gregory winners read, and Nikolai Masdirov, the Macedonian poet who took part in Poetry Parnassus read, but our lovely weather had other ideas. It took me seven hours to get to Ledbury instead of the estimated four – I did get there in time to see Kay Ryan and Bill Manhire in the evening – who were fabulous.
The rain on the way down was biblical – and twenty miles from Ledbury the motorway was shut because of floods – the signposted diversion kept me on another motorway and the traffic wasn’t moving, so I came off and made my way to Ledbury down some tiny country roads. I switched the satnav off at this point as she just kept telling me to do a U-turn and I was swearing so much by this point at the satnav that I was starting to believe she was a real person.
Anyway, I finally got there. I was staying at David and Ann Tomb’s house, who were just lovely all weekend. As well as looking after me, they were stewarding various events and making sandwiches for poets – all voluntary – two of the loveliest people I’ve met. They also have a guest book which all the poets sign – and I got to sign it too!
On the Saturday I had a mentoring session with Neil Astley as part of my young poet-in-residence experience, went for lunch with Amy Wack and her lovely husband Kevin, ran a two hour ‘PutYour Hand in a Poet’s Pocket’ workshop and then went down to meet up with the two poets that I was reading translations for in the evening.
This was where I met Ribka Sibhatu, the Eritrean poet. She was an absolute force of nature, and decided that she was going to braid my hair – before I’d worked out what she meant, she’d braided my whole head – anyone who knows how long my hair is will know how impressive this is!
Here is a photo that I took when I got back after the evening reading – this was the first chance I’d had to look!
Then Sunday I went to the reading with Samantha Wynne Rhydderch – who was ace, and then off to the Simon Armitage reading, then off to run my own ‘Starting to Publish’ workshop, and then I sat in Hospitality for a while, drinking cups of tea with Roy Marshall and Maria and Jonathan Taylor, and then I had to drag myself (literally) to go and pack up the car to go home.
It was a ridiculously full weekend, full of lovely people. I would definately recommend Ledbury Poetry Festival – it was a fantastic experience.
Just found Maria Taylor’s blog about Ledbury : http://miskinataylor.blogspot.co.uk
Tomorrow’s Sunday poem will be by C.J.Allen.