Bristol Poetry Festival 2011

A post-festival overview from Colin Brown, Director of The Poetry Can.

A very appreciative thank you to all the poets, performers, audiences, organisers, volunteers and workers who made Bristol Poetry Festival

such a success.

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There were many extraordinary, highly entertaining and inspiring events. These included Attila the Stockbroker, at the Polish Club on

St. Paul's Road; Poetry Pulpit, a lively open mic. event at Left Bank; Can Openers at Bristol Central Library cafe; 20 Poets Perform also

at the Central Library; Lansdown Poetry at the Lansdown, Clifton; Word of Mouth – Hiphop & Humour at Bristol Old Vic featuring Dizraeli,

Laurie Bolger and Vanessa Kissule.


It all began with a festival aperitif event: Boston Tea Party played host to Park Street Poetry with entertaining and engaging poetry readings

from Roddy Lumsden, Tamar Yoseloff, Katy Evans-Bush and David Briggs, and with admission only the price of a drink it's not surprising

that the room was full. Park Street Poetry is set fair to take place four times a year at Boston Tea Party. The next one will be at the end of

November, watch this space for further details.


When Simon Armitage and Sean O'Brien read together at the Arnolfini you had to think that there must have been many poetry nights

taking place all over the UK that night, but how many of them could have been as good as this?


Douglas Dunn, Katharine Towers and Rachael Boast

I'm also getting a lot of very good feedback about the Douglas Dunn, Katharine Towers, Rachael Boast event, about the event as an whole

and about the poets indiviually. One person told me how much she had enjoyed seeing Douglas Dunn reading, then she looked at me wrily,

and said, 'now all I have to do is review everything I thought I knew about what it means to write a good poem.'


Saturday was renamed Slamday during the Poetry Festival. In the afternoon Tim Gibbard brought together some of Bristol's finest young

poets and performers in the first ever Youth Slam & Poetry Jam event at the Arnolfini. Over forty young people delighted the audience with

their imagination, passion and panache, and if they were nervous, it didn't show at all. Well done to them and very well done too to Tim


Saturday night was Bristol Poetry Festival Poetry Slam 2011; Bristol VS Manchester.


Glenn Carmichael and Claire Williamson hosted with the charm, style, deep slam knowledge and humour for which they are renowned.

Bristol was represented by Lucy English, Vanessa Kisuule, James Bunting and Rebecca Tantony.

Manchester brought from the north the considerable talents and experience of Ben Mellor, Shamshad Khan, Michael Wilson and  

Sophie Hall.

A poetry slam is an event in which poets compete for the approval and appreciation of panel of judges and, most especially, the audience, who

play a huge part in the proceedings, their clapping, stomping, cheering, whistling, laughing, and howls of unbridled pleasure influencing the votes

of the judges and embodying the spirit of the the slam itself. Bristol Poetry Festival Slam audiences are fantastic! From the moment Glenn and

Claire danced onto the stage it was clear that the Bristol audience was up for burning down the night and blowing the judges' collective socks off.

I think it will be long time before Ruth Kapadia, introduced as the judge responsible for judging audience response, will forget the entire

audience singing (and clapping and stamping) Queen's We Will Rock You. Lloyd Fletcher, the Poetry Can's chairperson and a poet himself,

judged quality of writing, and Chris Redmond, was responsible for judging quality of performance. Chris, who lives in Bruton, Somerset, was

also the guest poet for the evening, he performed a tour de force poem about a day in his life when he saw two tower blocks demolished in the

morning and James Brown performing in the night.

The teams produced from out of their hats a wide range of poems and performance styles delighting the audience who were supportive and

appreciative (and very loud) throughout. In the end Manchester's Ben Mellor scored highest individually whilst Bristol were the winning team.



Sunday was a more mellow affair, it was a privilege to see Menna Elfyn, one Europe's leading poets, reading with Owen Sheers, who arrived

in the nick of time having just flown in from New York where he'd been discussing the filming of one of his books, and with Ellie Evans who

was launcing her first collection, the deliciously titled: The Ivy Hides the Fig-Ripe Duchess.


Sunday night was a tribute to Bob Dylan on the occasion of his seventieth year. Reading from The Captain's Tower, its editors Phil Bowen,

Damian Furniss, David Woolley and poet Ann Gray demonstrated the influence one of the greatest artists of the twentieth/twenty-first

century, has had over the minds of far more than one generation and certainly more than one generation of poets.


The Music Of Poetry, a celebration of sound and music in poetry, featured Romola Garai reading a selection of classic and contemporary

poems, as well as a wide range of quotes from poets worldwide on the importance and significance of sound in poetry and the desirability of

reading aloud. Romola Garai is one of our most genuinely talented actresses and it was a pure pleasure watching and listening to her read.

She was bewitching.

A list of poems read by Romola at the event can be found here.


Jonathan Davidson, poet and playwright, was reading from his new and second collection Early Train . Jonathan is a very engaging reader

whom the audience warmed to from the first poem. It was hard to come away from his reading and not think I wish he would write more


David C Johnson, performing as Ogden Nash, was the winner of Trevor Carter's very watchable Dead Poets Slam at the Lansdown,

Clifton. Jeremy Toombs as Allen Ginsberg was a very close second.


Acoustic Night Instant Anthology at Halo Cafe Bar on Gloucester Road was a warm and lovely night, it featured Thom the World Poet

and Marc Carver. Twenty Eight performers contributed performances and poems to the instant anthology.


James Bunting hosted a new open mic poetry night downstairs at Starbucks on Park Street. The room was full of enthusiastic poets, many

making their debut. Vanessa Kisuule and Liz Greenfield were the excellent special guests.


Watch this space for details of Bristol Spring Poetry Festival 2012.


Colin Brown,

                 Director, The Poetry Can