The festival will take place on Thursday 6th, Friday 7th, Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th September 2018. You can book tickets for individual events – prices range from between £5 and £8 and can be bought from the Brewery Arts Centre.  We also have a limited number of £45 Weekend Passes available, also from the Brewery Arts Centre.  A Weekend Pass will allow you to access all of the Poetry Readings, Open Mics and Discussion/Talks taking place at the festival, (excludes Thursday night Open Mic, Afternoon Tea and Workshops) giving you a saving of £23.

Please note most events will take place at the Castle Green HotelExceptions to this are the Thursday night Writing Summit: Poetry Open Mic which will take place at the Waterside Café in Kendal, and the Friday Afternoon Poetry Reading and the two Children’s events on Saturday; all three of these events will take place at Kendal Library.


7.30 – 9.30pm / ‘Opening Doors’ Open Mic Night

hosted by Dove Cottage Young Poets in association with Kendal Mountain Festival

Location: Waterside Café, Kent View, LA9 4DZ, Kendal
Tickets: £5, maximum numbers 40

Kendal Poetry Festival is excited to be holding our first Open Mic Night at the Waterside Café, in association with Kendal Mountain Festival, and hosted by the fabulous Dove Cottage Young Poets. Sign up on the night to read your poems which explore the environment, nature, landscape and our place in the world. The Festival Manager of Kendal Mountain Festival will also be in attendance and scouting for poets to perform at Kendal Mountain Festival later in the year (15th–18th November 2018). Entrance fees from the night will go towards a new project ‘Opening Doors’ which will enable the festival to award two bursaries for low-income writers to attend our next festival.


2.00 – 3.00pm / Poetry Reading with Polly Atkin and Kate Davis

Location: Kendal Library
Tickets: Free entry, maximum numbers 30.  Booking ahead advised.

Kendal Library host a reading from two Cumbrian poets, Polly Atkin and Kate Davis. Polly’s collection Basic Nest Architecture (Seren, 2017) weaves together poems which explore both the natural landscape and the landscape of the body and the impact of illness. Kate’s first collection The Girl Who Forgot How To Walk will be published by Penned In The Margins in 2018. It tells the story of a small child who falls into the sea and explores disability across a shifting landscape.

4.00 – 6.00pm / Young Writers Workshop with Liz Berry

Location: Castle Room, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: Free, but please book a place. Maximum numbers 16

The acclaimed poet Liz Berry will be running a poetry workshop for young writers aged between 14 and 21.

4.00 – 5.00pm  / Afternoon Tea with Brewery Poets

Location: Kendal Suite Foyer, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: £6

Brewery Poets has been running for over 30 years and is the driving force behind Kendal Poetry Festival. Members of Brewery Poets are talented poets in their own right, as well as being good at volunteering at festivals! This year, hear from six of its members – Jennifer Copley, Elizabeth Hare, Barbara Hickson, Antony Christie, Carole Coates and Chris Dodd. Ticket price includes tea or coffee and a scone with jam and cream.

6.00 – 7.00pm / Festival Launch

Location: Foyer, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: Free but please book a ticket to ensure there is enough wine!

Everyone is welcome to the Festival Launch. Come and enjoy a celebratory glass of wine, meet our invited guests and members of Brewery Poets. The Festival will be opened by Tim Robertson, Former Director of the Royal Society of Literature and now Chief Executive of The Anne Frank Trust UK.  There will be a reading from our Young Poet in Residence Matthew Sowerby, and a performance by our Young Musician in Residence Alistair Burton.

7.30 – 9.30pm / Main Reading with Judy Brown and Kayo Chingonyi

Location: Kendal Suite, Castle Green Hotel

Judy Brown was a popular Poet-in-Residence at The Wordsworth Trust in 2013 and makes a welcome return to Cumbria. Her most recent collection Crowd Sensations (Seren, 2016) is a highly original exploration of both city and rural landscape. Kayo Chingonyi’s debut collection Kumukanda (Chatto, 2017) is a compelling examination of identity and masculinity and the influence of grime music. Kayo is well-known for the energy and dynamism of his performances. Dove Cottage Young Poets Sophie Hansen and
 Em Humble will also be performing during this event.


10.00 – 1.00pm / Workshop with David Harsent

Location: Castle Room, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: £16.50, maximum numbers 16

All Your Own Work
It’s common for workshops to provide a stimulus – a subject, in effect – in order to kick start the writing process. David  Harsent wants to avoid that kind of specificity. There will be a prompt – a means to composition – which will be both minimal and provocative, but it’s purpose will be to push poets to locate the poem that already lies at the backs of their minds. And once the first draft has been arrived at, then the real work will begin…

11.00am – 1.00pm / Main Reading with Dean Parkin and Wayne Holloway-Smith

Location: Kendal Suite, Castle Green Hotel


Wayne Holloway-Smith’s first full-length collection Alarum (Bloodaxe, 2017) veers between hilarity and tragedy, with real inventiveness and adventure. It is a vital and necessary exploration of masculinity and the working class. Dean Parkin is a ‘natural born storyteller’ (The Scotsman) and is well-known for engaging performances of his work. His first full-length collection The Swan Machine was published by The Rialto in 2016. Dove Cottage Young Poets Jagoda Gomiak and Joseph Williams will also perform during this event.

11.00am – 12.00pm / Poetry Rhyme Time for the Under 5’s with Catherine Kay* from the Wordsworth Trust

Location: Kendal Library

A very special session of classic poems and rhyming stories for little ones and their families. Join Catherine Kay* to go where the wild thyme blows, discover rhymes of Shakespeare, Rossetti, Blake, and many more – all brought alive with music and movement for the joy of young poetry lovers! You are never too young to find wonder in great poems.

* Our sincerest apologises for a last minute change. Hilda Sheehan was to be leading this event and can no longer make the festival. We hope you enjoy the event lead by Catherine Kay instead.

2.00 – 4.00pm / Main Reading with Patience Agbabi and Sasha Dugdale

Location: Kendal Suite, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: £8

Patience Agbabi is one of those rare poets who effortlessly crosses the boundaries between page and stage. One of her main concerns is how language can cross borders, whether between page and stage, or across forms and traditions. Her latest book Telling Tales (Canongate 2014) is a retelling of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales for the 21st Century. Sasha Dugdale’s latest collection is Joy, published by Carcanet in 2017. The title poem of this collection, a meditation on the life of Catherine Blake, William Blake’s wife, won the 2017 Forward Prize for Best Published Poem. Sasha is a renowned translator and playwright, as well as a poet, and was the editor of Modern Poetry in Translation for many years. Dove Cottage Young Poets Florence JonesSolomon Russell-Cohen and Heather Hughes will also perform during this event.

2.00 – 4.00pm / Workshop with Nikola Madzirov

Location: Castle Room, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: £16.50, maximum numbers 16


Silence And / In the Poem

Silence is all we dread.
There’s Ransom in a Voice –
But Silence is Infinity.
Himself have not a face.
– Emily Dickinson

In the world I am
Always a stranger
I do not understand its language
It does not understand my silence
– Bei Dao

Silence is the seed of the word, not its grave. It is the purest architecture of the unseen inside the poem, not just the empty space between the words. Mallarmé believed that the white of the page is charged with meaning, that it is precondition for any meaning to be born.

We start writing poetry even before reading it, yet we feel poetry when we hear the silence among or inside the words. Is silence transferable from one word to another? Is it translatable from one language world to another? In her poem “Three Oddest Words” Szymborska wrote: When I pronounce the word Silence, / I destroy it. Poetry is close to silence even when read in bars surrounded by the sounds of coffee machines or in the waiting rooms of train stations.

The silent questions are: How to find the silence outside of graves and city libraries and build it into the poem? How to touch the silence inside the poem, without destroying it?

2.30 – 3.15pm / Children’s Poetry Event with Dean Parkin

Location: Kendal Library

A magical afternoon of snappy new poems read by the ever-entertaining poet Dean Parkin as he reads from his first book for children. The Bubble Wrap is packed with playful and peculiar poems that seriously uncover the ups and downs of childhood – losing shoes on the first day of High School, burying a sister’s Barbie doll in the back garden or the best things about a sneeze. Discover the seagull that thinks it’s an eagle, good words to send by bubble (and the best way to wrap it) or the noise a cow makes… going backwards downstairs. It’s also a chance to find out other uses for a smart phone without it leaving your hand, which day to wear what colour scarf or what exactly spagnats are for?
Suitable for children of all ages – from five to ninety five!

5.00 – 6.00pm / Talk/Discussion with Kayo Chingonyi

Location: Kendal Suite, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: £5

Making A Mess
Drawing on the work of poet and performer Douglas Kearney this talk will look at ways that contemporary poets from the UK and US bring a sense of spontaneity in their use of poetic form by seeking out working methods that allow for failure, mess, and the happy accidents that occur in the moment.

7.00 – 9.00pm / Main Reading with Pascale Petit and Nikola Madzirov

Location: Kendal Suite, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: £8

Pascale Petit’s fierce and distinctive poetry has been gaining fans for many years. Her latest collection Mama Amazonica, (Bloodaxe, 2017), explores the impact of childhood abuse and violence, with the Amazonian rainforest as one of the key characters. Nikolai Madzirov is an acclaimed Macedonian poet, editor, essayist and translator. Remnants of Another Age was published by Bloodaxe in 2013. His poetry is haunting and mysterious, concerning itself with questions of belonging, shelter and homelessness. Dove Cottage Young Poets Ruby Evans and Hannah Hodgson will also perform during this event.

9.30 – 11.30pm / Late Night Open Mic with Ann Grant

Location: Kendal Suite, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: £5

Ann Grant returns with the Late Night Open Mic – a festival favourite. Sign up on the door for up to three minutes on the mic, all names will be drawn from a hat to add extra excitement to the running order. In between groups of five poets the audience will have chance to take part in ‘Stick the tale on the poet’ ‘Poetry-oke’ or ‘Play your poets right’. Don’t miss this high energy and fun event.


10.00am – 1.00pm / Workshop with Patience Agbabi

Location: Castle Room, Castle Green Hotel
£16.50, maximum numbers 16

The Sound of the Sestina 
Troubadour Arnaut Daniel invented the sestina in medieval Provence. Dante praised him as ‘the greater craftsman of the mother tongue’. This practical workshop will focus on the form’s musical roots: how it trips off the tongue; echoes in the ear; dances on the page.  The workshop will briefly examine how the sestina has developed in English. Then, through short, fun exercises, Patience will explain how to master the inner mechanics of the form, write a first draft of a sestina and share the creative process. Beginners and experienced poets are welcome. The sestina has the reputation for being difficult: come to challenge that assumption and learn new techniques that will enhance your writing, in formal or free verse. Handouts will be available on the day but if you’re inspired, please read the following poems online prior to the workshop:

  • Sestina –  Elizabeth Bishop
  • You Can’t Rhumboogie in a Ball and Chain – Alice Fulton
  • Boy Wearing a Dress – Dan Bellm
  • The Signifying Monkey – Michael Donaghy
  • Skins – Patience Agbabi
  • The Misfits – Paul Muldoon

11.00am – 1.00pm  / Main Reading with Claudine Toutoungi and David Constantine

Location: Kendal Suite, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: £8

Claudine Toutoungi’s first collection Smoothie, published by Carcanet in 2017, is both poignant and funny, tender and exuberant, written with a dry wit and a sharp eye. As Mark Waldron pointed out in a recent review, this is poetry that will ‘linger in the mind’. David Constantine is one of the UK’s best loved poets and has published ten books of poetry, five translations and a novel. His poetry looks outwards, to the European poetic tradition, but with his own unique passionate lyricism.  He will be reading from his latest pamphlet, published by Smith/Doorstop. Dove Cottage Young Poets Rachael Ensoll and Natasha Davenport will also perform during this event.

1.30 – 2.30pm / Talk/Discussion with Sasha Dugdale

Location: Garden Room, Castle Green Hotel

The Poetic Estate

The Russian poet Alexander Pushkin is central to Russian literary experience and history, but his work is hardly known in translation and even less is known about his short, intense and troubled life. Poet and translator Sasha Dugdale spent time at his estate in the North West of Russia, a deeply-loved home for Pushkin, but also a place where he lived in exiled, spied upon by his own family. The estate is now Russia’s top literary site, a place of huge significance in today’s Russia. Dugdale reflects here on the literary heritage industry in Russia and the UK and how nationalism and politics affect our sense of poetry and place.

3.00 – 4.00pm / Reading from ‘One for the Road’ anthology with Stuart Maconie and Peter Sansom

Location: Kendal Suite, Castle Green Hotel

One for the Road by Helen Mort and Stuart Maconie (ed.)
Join some of the UK’s best contemporary poets on an ideal pub crawl, guided by Stuart Maconie and Peter Sansom. This anthology will showcase a variety of new writing celebrating the British pub and everything that happens there: glass-half-full poems, early doors and last orders poems, it’s-your-round-next poems, poems so urgent they had to be scribbled on beer mats.

Stuart and Peter will be selecting some of their favourite poems from the anthology to share during this event.

4.30 – 6.30pm / Main Reading with David Harsent and Liz Berry

Location: Kendal Suite, Castle Green Hotel
Tickets: £8

Liz Berry’s first full-length collection Black Country, published by Chatto in 2014 was described in The Guardian as a ‘sooty, soaring hymn to her native West Midlands’.  A winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, she makes a welcome return to Cumbria, reading poems from a new pamphlet which explores experiences of motherhood. David Harsent has published eleven collections of  poetry. David has collaborated extensively with the composer Harrison Birtwhistle, and the influence of music can be heard throughout his poetry. He will be reading from his latest collection Salt, published by Faber & Faber in 2017. Dove Cottage Young Poets Jaz Pirie and James Siodlak will perform alongside our Young Poet-in-Residence Matthew Sowerby and our Young Musician in Residence Alistair Burton.


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