Bristol Spring Poetry Festival Director's Review


Bristol Spring Poetry Festival 2013 had a different feel this year,

its impact seemed even more intimate, even more immediate somehow.



Colin Brown Festival Director

Colin Brown, Festival Director

Arnolfini Stage

The Arnolfini Stage

Colin and Ewan

Colin Brown and the marvellous Ewen McCloud, Arnofini tech.
photo: Ed Martin
   photo: David Bloomfield   photo: Dru Marland



Acoustic Night  
  photo Dru Marland  

Acoustic Night at Halo Cafe/Bar on Gloucester Road set the tone, it's Bristol's longest running spoken word / open mic event, and one of the best organised and run, it is regularly frequented by some of the most interesting and inspiring poets and poetry enthusiasts in Bristol, though it's very relaxed with the feeling of a really good "local" it is very welcoming to new-comers and especially those performing for the first time. Julian Ramsay Wade is the front man of the Acoustic Night team and is a skilled host easing the night along with just the right blend of poetry, song, humour, informed banter, introduction, encouragement and appreciative encouraging of applause... more than readily forthcoming for special guests Jo Bell and Bohdan Piasecki, excellent and engaging performers who would grace any poetry event anywhere at all.





Ian McMillan's performance at the Arnolfini elicited an appreciative "Stand-up verse is a big hit"9/10 review for his show Talkin' Myself Home in the Bristol Evening News. On the night Ian paid tribute to the people, places, and life circumstances that have made him into the kind of community writer and popular performer he is, and he is very popular, his way with the audience, which feels like he's talking to someone he's known for years, created a warm everyday kind of intimacy, he was irresistibly endearing and funny and had the audience laughing from beginning to end...

Totally brilliant evening with one of the funniest, most perceptive, engaging and charming people one could ever hope to  meet. Emotion depth and poignancy interspersed with the hilarity. Fabulous event! Thank you." FEEDBACK FORM – Ian Beech

Ian MacMillan Audience   Ian MacMillan   Ian MacMillan

 photo Ed Martin


Photo Dave Bloomfield


photo Ed Martin

 Ian MacMillan    Ian MacMillan    Ian MacMillan
 photo: Dave Bloomfield    photo: Dave Bloomfield    photo: Ed Martin


Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About
poetry play written by and starring: Stephen James Smith, Kalle Ryan and
Kalle Ryan Colm Keegan and Stephen James Smith 3Colm Keegan.

Special guest reading from Pete Mullineux.

Pete Mullineux, originally from Bristol, now living in Galway, opened the show with readings from his three poetry collections, after the break Stephen, Kalle and Colm, three poets from Dublin, performing on a simple but beautifully designed set told interweaving stories in verse about life, love, family, relationships, loss and redemption and showed just how beautiful, powerful and engaging performance poetry can be.
One of the highlights of the Festival, the audience certainly felt so:
"This was a stunning evening of material about masculinity with Pete Mullineaux guesting in the first half. I arrived late from work, to walk into a poem about singing. I am a singing teacher - this was a great start. Warm words about fatherhood and fathers followed, and then the performance of a show about a male perspective on 21st century life and relationships. I was stunned by the passion of the words and the delivery, and the raw honesty and power that was crafted into the performance. The story of the loss of a parent or the end of a relationship has a predictable sort of trajectory and is utterly universal but the imprint of each was personal and moving and I thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of that intimacy.
FEEDBACK FORM – Frith Trezevant



Readings from: Penelope Shuttle, Deryn Rees-Jones, Kapka Kassabova, Pat Simmons.

Pat Simmons is one of Bristol's best poets, she has come relatively recently to writing poetry, it was only when she retired that she found the courage and the time to write, since then she has had poems published in several anthologies and has won various awards. On a night of beautiful readings from some of Britain's most talented poets Pat read first and looked very much at home there on the stage, reading her poems with the care and style they clearly deserved and talking to the audience with confidence. Kapka Kassabova is originally from Bulgaria and has lived and travelled all over the world, she is based now in the Scottish highlands. Kapka brought an a multiplicity of international perspectives to the Festival which ran like a thread through her magical realist poems.

Deryn Rees-Jones was short-listed for the 2012 T.S. Eliot Prize and it was a pleasure to welcome such a skilled and inspired poet to the Festival and a privilege to hear her read.

Penelop Shuttle is, of course, one of the very best poets we have, Poetry Can is very fortunate to have her as a patron and the Poetry Festivals are always lucky when she agrees to read in Bristol. Penelope read from her latest book Unsent: New & Selected Poems 1980-2012 which includes poems from ten collections published over thirty years, plus new work.


Audience   Pat Simmons   Kapka Kassapova

photo: Ed Martin


Pat Simmons photo: Dru Marland


Kapka Kassapova photo: Dru Marland

 Deryn Rees-Jones

Penelope Shuttle

Deryn Rees-Jones   photo Dru Marland

Penelope Shuttle   photo: Dru Marland


Film: We Are Poets



"It was such an interesting and uplifting experience to see the stories of the young poets told and all the young people at the slam in the US, I thoroughly enjoyed it!"  FEEDBACK FORM Becky Carron

We Are Poets is a film made by Alex Ramseyer-Bache & Daniel Lucchesi it follows the fortunes of four young performance poets, from Leeds Young Authors as they represent the UK at Brave New Voices, the most prestigious poetry slam competition in America. This film was another highlight of Bristol Spring Poetry Festival, from its impressive opening sequence right through to the final credits it drew gasps, cheers, laughter, sighs and cries of delight from the audience. The decisions made by the film makers are fascinating to see and to think about – this film could have been made to be like an extended t.v. reality talent show but it is so much more, it's the kind of experience you can keep thinking back upon long after you have left your seat in the auditorium.





The Rememberers

Kenny Baraka brought his classic tale of good versus evil, told through rap, narration, lyrics, music and projection. We haven't had anything like this at the Festival before and it was an intriguing and compelling way to enjoy an evening of performance poetry.








Events Around Bristol included BLAHBLAHBLAH at the Bristol Old Vic, WRITE SPACE – POETRY WORKSHOPS at Maitreya Social, THE LANSDOWN POETRY WORKSHOP PRESENTS at The Lansdown, Clifton; THE ARTS HOUSE OPEN MIC at Stokes Croft; CAN OPENERS at  Foyles Bookstore.

Alice Oswald 001 700 420 90


The final event, organised with Bristol Festival of Ideas, was Alice Oswald at the Watershed. Alice Oswald is an amazing poet to read and an astonishing poet to see/hear.

Many people there said that this was one of the most amazing poetry events they had ever attended. Alice read poems from almost all her collections, with an extended reading from her most recent book Memorial... Actually she didn't really read, she'd learnt the poems she was going to do by heart, as performance poets will happily tell you, this removes the last barrier between poet and audience, and it meant she was able to be more expressive and to create a much more immediate and intimate atmosphere that amplified the emotional-intellectual-aural-impact of the poetry.





Bristol Spring Poetry Festival 2013 was an exciting and wonderful poetry time. I look forward now to the next Bristol Poetry Festival, Monday 30 September to Sunday 6 October 2013 which will include: the launch of The Echoing Gallery an anthology of Bristol poems by Bristol poets including Helen Dunmorea day long Poetry-Film Festival; Bristol Poetry Festival Slam; An Assortment of Sibyls with Prunella Scales and Leo AylenMartin Figura's poetry play Whistle; readings from Louis de Bernieres, Helen Ivory, Deborah Harvey, Rachael Boast and David Briggs;  Inner Skin: a poetry-visual arts exhibition which documents the experiences of the Chinese community in Bristol... and much, much, more, see you there!