Open the Door: What the Pandemic Taught Us

The events of 2020 changed the world. For some of us, our lives have been utterly transformed by loss and ill health. For all of us, life has changed - our ways of working and socialising, travelling and meeting; our expectations and anxieties, skills and networks.

Of course, the literary community – including the community of people who attend poetry events – has changed too. In this resource, we examine those changes. We hear how the anxiety and isolation we experienced under Covid has ignited a deeper longing for the connection and expression offered by poetry. And we hear how our community rose to the challenge, negotiating complex financial, legal and practical challenges to reach out to each other.

As we move into a phase of “living with Covid” we want this process of learning and change to continue. This resource is an attempt to share some of our learning as festival organisers. We want to offer you the lessons and the practical strategies, the knowledge, experiences and reflections that have been shared by everyone who joined with us in the last two years to answer the question – where to next?

Throughout the resource, you’ll read contributions and essays from poets like Moniza Alvi, facilitators like Peter Samson of the Poetry Business, activists like Hannah Hodgson, researchers like Christina Wilson, directors like Lucy Burnett of Stanza and Chloe Garner of Ledbury Festival, events organisers like Hannah Catterall of Wordsworth Grasmere. The resource was funded by the Arts Council, and it was curated by Clare Shaw, co-director of Kendal Poetry Festival. It will be of particular interest for people who organise or attend live poetry events - including festivals, readings, open mics and workshops – and to anyone who is interested in creating a dynamic, inclusive community of practice.

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