The 2019 Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival will have an international theme that will celebrate Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon as a meeting place for all poets.
Organised by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and supported by Arts Council England, the 66th annual festival takes place from 15-23 June, with a diverse programme of creative events, including readings, workshops, an open-mic night, and talks at venues across Stratford-upon-Avon.
Among the events will be a BSL interpreted reading by deaf British-Jamaican poet Raymond Antrobus, whose debut book The Perseverance (Penned in the Margins) earned him this year’s prestigious Ted Hughes Award from the Poetry Society.
Award-winning folk musician Nancy Kerr will perform newly commissioned songs inspired by 18th century actor and theatre impresario David Garrick's Shakespeare Jubilee of 1769, in this 250th anniversary year of the first ever celebration of Shakespeare which really put his home town on the map as a tourist and cultural destination.
Nancy will also arrange new settings of Ye Warwickshire Lads and Ye Lasses and Soft Flowing Avon, which were first performed at the Jubilee.
The Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival is organised by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the independent charity that cares for the world’s greatest Shakespeare heritage in his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. It is supported by Arts Council England.
The festival begins with an International Poetry Picnic at Hall’s Croft, the Jacobean home of William Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna and her physician husband, John Hall. Host Matt Windle, a Birmingham-based poet and boxer, will read his work alongside poetry written by local and international primary school children, inspired by Shakespeare’s sonnets and famous poets from Hungary, Poland, India and Pakistan. The family event will also encourage creative writing and performance, with an open-mic stand, graffiti board, 'Shakespeare’s Inspiration Station’, and musical instruments to play.
There will also be a poet-in-residence, in partnership with the Hosking Houses Trust. Romalyn Ante grew up in the Philippines and is now living in Wolverhampton, and was the 2018 winner of the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet and Poetry London Clore Prize. She will lead a workshop and perform alongside Warwickshire Young Poet Laureate, Hannah Owens. Michael Rose will host two family shows.
Paul Edmondson, artistic director of the Poetry Festival and head of research at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said, “This year’s festival reflects Stratford-upon-Avon’s identity as an international destination and a meeting place for people and poets from all over the world. We’ll be taking inspiration from the 250th anniversary of the event that made it so — David Garrick’s Shakespeare Jubilee of 1769 — by celebrating our relationships with Europe and the rest of the world with a diverse programme of events that is bursting at the seams with new writing and new music.”
Louisa Davies, head of creative programme at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said, “Nancy is one of the biggest names in folk music and has a great reputation for using traditional folk music as a backdrop for contemporary narratives. She is a natural fit for a song-writing commission that celebrates the 250th anniversary of David Garrick’s Jubilee, the event which planted the seeds from which Stratford grew into the international destination it is today.”
See the Trust's website for a full programme and tickets.