Black Lives Matter Statement and Open Mic

Kendal Poetry Festival UK - Bringing a Poetry Festival to Kendal and the Lake District

A Statement From Kendal Poetry Festival 

‘Change is going to come’

Poetry is one of the most human of art forms. It asks us to look closely, to think carefully, to feel deeply. It asks us to be open and honest and brave.

We believe that poetry has a part to play in the fight against systemic racism, and we proudly and unambiguously support Black Lives Matter.

Like many people, we were appalled at the death of George Floyd in America. However, we cannot be complacent or displace racism as something that happens only in other places, in other communities. 

We recognise that systemic racism affects poetry, too. BAME people are under-represented in publishing, anthologies, journals, festivals, readings, and other aspects of the poetry community; BAME people are misrepresented in poetry which reproduces racist attitudes and beliefs; BAME people are betrayed by a poetry community that does not speak and act for change.

We recognise that the process of change demands commitment and that we need to be open, informed and reflective. Guided by resources such as Dr Muna Abdi’s “Advice for Being an Ally”, we are committed to actively questioning our own attitudes and actions. As well as continuing our work in ensuring diverse line-ups, we would like to open an online consultation process to determine what we and other poetry festivals can do to support BAME poets. If you have ideas or thoughts on how we can actively support BAME poets, please email us at

We are listening.

We encourage all literary organisations and groups, big and small, to stand with Black Lives Matter.

On the 27th June,7pm-9pm, Kendal Poetry Festival will host ‘Change is going to come’ – an online Open Mic, taking its title from a poem ‘I Can’t Breathe’ by one of our 2020 Festival poets Hafsah Aneela Bashir.

You can watch the performance of her poem here

Please email us via our Contact Page  if you would like to read a poem on the open mic around the theme of ‘Change’. Tickets will be £5 and all profits will be donated to ‘Artists Supporting Artists’, an initiative put together by the poet Sabrina Mahfouz to distribute funds to artists in need with the focus this time of distributing funds to Black Artists

If you would like to attend but cannot afford the ticket price, please email us. We have some free tickets available. 

The Open Mic will take place on Zoom. Please be online ten minutes before the start of the event – the waiting room for the event will be open. 

You can get tickets from Eventbrite here – please leave your email when booking tickets – the zoom link will be sent out by email two hours before the event starts.

Opening Doors – Opportunities for Poets


Here at Kendal Poetry Festival headquarters, we have been plotting and planning – please read on for information about our new project – and spread the word to anyone you know who might be interested!

Opening Doors

Are you a writer who would like to attend the festival but can’t afford to financially?

We are running a pilot project this year where we are offering the chance for two writers to attend the 2018 festival.  Each writer will receive a Festival Pass which will enable them to attend any of the readings, discussions during the weekend, plus the Saturday open-mic.   Both writers will be hosted by a member of Brewery Poets in their home from Thursday 6th September to Sunday 9th September.

We would like to offer this opportunity to writers who would benefit from a weekend of immersion in poetry, but who would not be able to attend without some financial assistance.

Things to note:

  1. Travel is not included.
  2. Writers need to have their own transport or be physically able to walk. The festival venue is about a 40 minute walk from where you will be staying.
  3. You will have your own bedroom but will be sharing a bathroom. Bedrooms are at the top of the house, so you will need to be able to climb stairs.
  4. Your host will provide a help-yourself-breakfast, but you will need to provide your own lunch/dinner.  Tea, coffee and sandwich making facilities will be available.
  5. There is the opportunity to perform at our ‘Writing Summit’ Open Mic event on Thursday 6th September but this is not compulsory.

To apply please send an email to with the following information:

  1. One document with your name, date of birth, email address and a short biography (100 words).
  2. A 200 word statement outlining why it would be difficult for you to attend without a bursary and how you would benefit from the opportunity.
  3. Contact details (Email) of a referee – someone who knows your work and knows you personally.
  4. Please include all of this information in one Microsoft Word document.

Deadline for submission is May 31st.  Decisions will be made by mid-June and we will reply by email to all applicants.

2018 Programme

We are really excited to reveal our line up for the 2018 Kendal Poetry Festival.

We enjoyed ourselves so much last year we decided to add an extra night! On Thursday 6th February we are running a ‘Writing Summit’ Open Mic night at the Waterside Cafe in Kendal, in association with Kendal Mountain Festival and hosted by Dove Cottage Young Poets.  The Open Mic is another chance for festival goers to read their own work. This third instalment of the festival will be full of our usual mix of readings, open mics, workshops and discussions.

We also have a limited number of Festival Passes availabe at £45 each, if you like to go to lots of events. A Festival Pass will give you entry to most of the events over the weekend, excluding the Afternoon Tea with Brewery Poets, workshops which should be booked separately and the Thursday Night Writing Summit Open Mic. Events can also be booked separately and prices range from £5-£8.

We have appointed a new Young Poet in Residence, Matthew Sowerby, who made his debut appearance at Kendal Poetry Festival in the Open Mic session, and has been a member of Dove Cottage Young Poets ever since.  Our Young Musician in Residence is Alistair Burton, a brilliant young violinist who is a student at the Junior Royal Northern College of Music.  Hannah Hodgson will once again be our Young Blogger in Residence, so watch this space for interviews and poems from our 2018 Festival Poets.

We hope you enjoy browsing the events, and look forward to seeing you in Kendal in September.

Kendal Poetry Festival, 7th-9th September 2018

It’s been a while, but the team behind Kendal Poetry Festival (ie Pauline and I) have quietly yet frantically been working away behind the scenes.  We’ve spent the last few months putting together grant applications to fund the 2018 Kendal Poetry Festival, and it is with great relief and excitement that we can say we have been successful and have secured full funding from the Arts Council and the Sir John Fisher Foundation for the third consecutive year.

At the top of this post you will see some photos – these  are of our new venue, the Castle Green Hotel in Kendal.  After two successful and sold-out years at the Abbot Hall Art Gallery, we had to take the difficult decision to move the festival elsewhere, because our wonderful audiences kept expanding and there was no room for you all!

We are really delighted with our new venue though – the Castle Green Hotel is a 4 star hotel on the outskirts of Kendal (just about within walking distance if you like hills!) and 15 minutes away from the motorway.  There is a pub, bar and restaurant on-site, as well as a gym and swimming pool.  Most of the 2018 festival will take place at the hotel, with a few events taking place in town centre venues such as Kendal Library, the Waterside Cafe and Waterstones.  The hotel is fully accessible with hearing loop, and the larger rooms will allow us to accommodate our growing audience.

This year, we will have Festival Passes available – these are limited in number so keep an eye out here for when tickets and festival passes become available.  A Festival Pass will allow entry into our open mic session, our seven Main Readings and three Discussion sessions.  Extra things happening this year include two readings aimed at nursery and primary school children and a session which will involve having Afternoon Tea whilst listening to poetry!

The hotel have offered a 10% discount on their usual room rates for any festival goers – to take advantage of this special offer, please ring the hotel and quote ‘Kendal Poetry Festival’ to the reception team on 01539 734000.  This offer is detailed below

Friday – £126.00 single – £153.00 double occupancy
Saturday – £153.00 single- £180.00 double occupancy
Sunday – £126.00 single – £153.00 double occupancy

There are also other accommodation options available in Kendal – for a list of bed and breakfast options and hotels, you could have a look at



Five Minutes With…Kathryn Maris


Our next 5 Minute Interview with Festival poet Kathryn Maris, interviewed by our Young Blogger-in-Residence Hannah Hodgson


Kathryn Maris has two collections published. Her most recent collection God Loves You was published by Seren in 2013. A selection of her poetry will appear alongside the work of Frederick Seidel and Sam Riviere in Penguin Modern Poets 5 (July 2017).  Her third collection, The House with Only an Attic and a Basement, will be published by Penguin UK in 2018.  Kathryn will be running a workshop on the Saturday morning of the festival exploring ‘The New Fragment’ (only 6 places left!). She will also be reading alongside Tim Liardet in the Saturday night Main Reading.

How do you get yourself into the right place or ‘zone’ to write in?

The ‘zone’ gets into me, not vice versa, so I don’t have an exciting answer to that question. Potentially I can write anywhere, but equally I can be at a residency or artists’ colony with ‘ideal’ conditions and not be able to write. Lately, for whatever reason, I’ve had some luck on trains.

What is the last collection of poetry that you read and what did you think of it?

I have just finished Widening Income Inequality by Frederick Seidel. I love the ugly and almost vaudevillian performativity of his work, and the offensiveness that is simultaneously gratuitous, meaningful, political and self-aware.

Do you have any writing essentials e.g. a posh pen/notebook?

I haven’t used a posh notebook since the 1980s or 90s when, thankfully, word processing and personal computers were invented. Derek Walcott, my professor at Boston University, was against typing one’s poem in the first instance because he believed you weren’t truly ‘writing’ if you were using a keyboard. I’m not saying he was wrong, but—at least for me—typing is a way to access my imagination. As Nietzsche said, ‘Our writing tools are working on our thoughts.’

What is the strangest place you have ever written a poem?

Once at a social event with a lot of bankers, I locked myself in the public loo and wrote ‘Gangster’ (using paper and pen on that occasion). My exit from the party wasn’t a gesture of protest or boredom, I just had an idea and a ‘music’ I didn’t want to lose.

 What tips would you give to someone who is new to writing poetry?

Assuming you want to be published in conventional platforms, find a way to be able to absorb and manage the copious rejections you will receive, in various forms, for as long as you continue in poetry; and, though sometimes bad things will happen through unfair circumstances, don’t fall into the trap of believing you are special or singled out when you don’t get that thing you wanted (and the opposite is true, too, because there is arbitrariness also involved in ‘success’). With this in mind, read as though your life depended on it, and prioritize your actual writing over and above the life you think you want your writing to have in the world.


Darling, Would You Please Pick Up Those Books?
Kathryn Maris

How many times do I have to say
get rid of the books off the goddamn floor
do you have any idea how it feels
to step over books you wrote about her
bloody hell you sadist what kind of man
are you all day long those fecking books

in my way for 3 years your acclaimed books
tell me now what do you have to say
for yourself you think you’re such a man
silent brooding pondering at the floor
pretending you’re bored when I mention her
fine change the subject ask “Do I feel

like I need more medication” NO I don’t feel
like I need more medication
 it’s the books
don’t you see don’t you see it’s her
why don’t you listen to anything I say
and for god’s sake books on the floor
are a safety hazard remember that man

from Cork who nearly died fine that man
fell over a hurley not a book but I don’t feel
you’re getting the point the point is that a floor
is not an intelligent place for books
books I have to see and books that say
exactly where and how you shagged her

what shirt she wore before you shagged her
I can write a book too about some man
better still about you I can say
something to demonize you how would you feel
about that ha ha why don’t I write a book
about how I hoover your sodding floor

and how you’ve never once hoovered your floor
why can’t I be a muse why can’t I be a “her”
what does one have to do to be in a book
around here do I have to be dead for a man
to write me a poem how do you think it feels
to be non muse material can’t you say

you feel for me what you felt for her
can’t you say I’m better than that woman
can’t you get those books off the floor?


Five Minutes with Chrissy Williams


Hannah Hodgson, our Young Blogger-in-Residence will be conducting a series of five minute interviews in the run up to the festival.  Under the spotlight today is the fantastic Chrissy Williams, whose long-awaited first collection Bear will be published by Bloodaxe on the 25th May 2017.  Chrissy will be reading on Saturday 17th June at 11am alongside Inua Ellams.  You can book tickets for this event here.  She will also be running a workshop, inspired by the Julian Cooper Exhibition at Abbot Hall Art Gallery on Saturday between 5pm-6.45pm – tickets can be booked here.

Congratulations on your new collection! How does it feel to have a collection coming out?

Thank you! It feels pretty exciting! I’ve had various pamphlets published over the last five years, but BEAR is going to be my first “full collection”, so it feels like a meatier, grizzlier proposition. It also feels pretty terrifying, but a good kind of terror I think.

How long did the process of acceptance for publication to seeing it in book form for the first time take?

I sent my manuscript to Bloodaxe in December 2015, and the editor Neil Astley sent me an email the following March saying he would like to publish it. The finished book will come out at the end of May (though I should get some advance copies through in the post imminently!). So overall it’ll have been a little over a year since it was first accepted. I think that’s pretty fast for poetry, from what I understand.

What would you highlight as the main themes in your collection, and what would you say inspired them?

The individual subjects of the poems include all sorts of things – Angela Lansbury, bears, Groundhog Day, constellations, David Bowie, Trump… but then none of them are really “about” those things exactly. They’re using them to talk about something else, something about mortality, and sadness, but also hope. I don’t know how useful thinking about themes is for me to be honest. I do try to approach poems in a playful way though. (Maybe playfulness is the main theme, if you want?) I get inspired by different moments or thoughts colliding in my head in an unusual way. That makes me want to write something that then juxtaposes them, hopefully in an interesting way.

Where did you first get a poem published?

In a small but welcoming magazine called Dial 174, which gave me the confidence to keep going. I still remember how excited I was – a total stranger had read my poems and liked them enough to share them with other people. It was thrilling. The second poem I had published, or rather the second two poems, were in The Rialto, which came back with two twenty pound notes paperclipped to the magazine as payment. I thought I’d hit the big time, and bought my friends a round of drinks with my hard-earned poetry cash.

Have you got any tips for emerging writers?

You’re never not “emerging”, so don’t worry about that. You’re a poet and you know it. You’re constantly in a state of reading and writing new things, and trying to figure out what to do next. I would say that growing a thick skin about rejections is a useful thing to learn. And that if people take the time to critique you, they’re normally trying to help you. Also that it’s not so much about trying to “write the perfect poem to impress editor X”, but more about figuring out how to write the perfect poem by you, that no one else could possibly write. It’s also about learning that there’s no such thing as perfection, of course, but if you’re not aiming for it, there’s probably something wrong.

Thanks Chrissy! Below you will find a poem from Chrissy’s forthcoming collection BEAR which will be available to buy at her reading at Kendal Poetry Festival, or you can buy it before hand here direct from Bloodaxe.

in the Spring – by Chrissy Williams

We lean into the soft brake BLUES
as you flip the indicator on
JON at the corner where four roads meet
in front of the old farm. SPENCER
Mountains slouch behind, BLUES
reluctant to shake out their white pleats
JON despite the strength of this early May heat.
At the shady crossroads tall trees SPENCER
lean in to watch our tiny car arrive, BLUES
then all decide to pollinate at once.
EXPLOSION Every seed they have swims in the sky,
EXPLOSION so many flowers curling down
EXPLOSION toward the acacia snowglobe ground.
The breeze whips a yellow flood JON
in through the window SPENCER
across our knees BLUES and my cousin tells me
how wonderful the flowers are
battered, fried, then eaten whole.