Festival puts Winchester on poetry map

Poets and audiences have been full of praise for Winchester’s first poetry festival

The three-day event, held at the Discovery Centre, featured national and world-renowned poets including Brian Patten, Michael Longley and Patience Agbabi in a series of readings and workshops.

Organisers said the festival, which had taken two years to plan, came about through a shared love of poetry and a realisation there was a demand for a full-scale event to bring poets and audiences together in the South of England.

Artistic co-director Stephen Boyce said Winchester’s literary heritage made the City an ideal location:

“There are the historical connections with Jane Austen and John Keats that people are familiar with but there have also been a number of poets who have been based here.

Wendy Cope, one of the most popular poets in recent memory, lived here for many years and only recently moved away.

One of our guests Brian Patten, one of the three poets of the ‘Mersey Sound’ of the 60s, also lived here for a few years trying to get away from the hubbub of the Mersey scene and found it quite a restful place.”

Festival Trustee Kate Raines thought that poetry had a unique appeal to people:

“People connect with poetry because it gives that moment of stillness and they can connect with their emotions and the universe and when you have these amazing poets reading their then that moment of connection is very powerful.”

Stephen Boyce agreed:

“People really need something to bring them together in a way they can talk about meaningful issues but also so they can do something creative and hear a variety of voices.

Something poets do is shine a light on things and give you a different perspective so we brought together a lot of people who write in different ways on different themes and that allows the audience to connect with the subject.”

Organisers say they plan to make the festival an annual event.