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



Tickets! Tickets! Tickets!

Kim Moore and Pauline Yarwood

This was us just a couple of weeks before last year’s festival.  We look surprisingly relaxed and cheerful which is strange looking back, as I think we were both quite nervous about a) having our photo taken b) setting up a festival from scratch and c) whether there would be a riot as people tried to get into the many sold out readings.  There wasn’t a riot of course, poets are too well-behaved for all of that business, although there were some sad faces when people couldn’t get into the sold-out workshops.

This year we have another dream team of poets, gathered from all corners of the UK, and our first international poet, Linda Gregerson will be giving both a talk and a reading at the festival.

Last year the feedback was basically more of everything! So we have expanded our events this year.  There are now three workshops available as opposed to the two workshops last year – one with Kathryn Maris on Saturday morning, one with Chrissy Williams on Saturday afternoon and one with Katrina Naomi on Sunday morning.

Last year people loved the ‘Tuning-In‘ event with Jane Routh, in fact it was listed as one of the highlights of the festival by many people.  This year, we’ve got the wonderful Martin Kratz coming to give a whistle-stop tour around the festival poets.  Kim has been working with Martin for the last year and has been blown away by his knowledge and passion for contemporary poetry, so we thought he would be the perfect successor to Jane.  We’ve also taken a risk this year and programmed a few events at the same time as the workshops – this is a risk for us as it means splitting our audience, however we are hoping that those people who weren’t quick enough to book a place on the workshops, or didn’t fancy a workshop will come and support the readings and talks that are going on at the same time – and then no more disappointed poets!

Dove Cottage Young Poets has grown and we now have 12 members, as well as our members from last year, who come back to take part in the sessions during their holidays from university.  The young poets will once again be an integral part of the festival, and will be reading alongside our festival poets.

We’re also really pleased to be working in partnership this year with Cumbria Libraries and Read Regional to bring the wonderful poet Jack Mapanje to this year’s festival as part of the 2017 Read Regional scheme.  Ja

We are offering a 10% discount if you book 5 or more events before the 6th May – so please head over to The Brewery and book your tickets.  Within one day of the tickets going on sale, we sold nearly a quarter of the tickets we have available for the festival.  If you were one of the people who rushed to buy a ticket as soon as they went online, thank you very much.  We really appreciate your support.

So please head over to the festival, and start booking your tickets! Hannah Hodgson, our Young Poet in Residence from last year will be doing some blogging this year,  so keep your eye out for her first post which will be a short interview with one of our Festival Poets.


Preparations Underway for 2017!

The 2016 Kendal Poetry Festival seems a long way away now.  Pauline Yarwood and I had a fabulous and busy time putting the festival together.  In fact we had such a good time, we only gave ourselves a month off before we started planning the next one!

The 2017 Kendal Poetry Festival will take place from the 16th-18th June.  We’ve finalised our ‘Dream Team’ of poets, who have all agreed to come, subject to funding.  This is, of course Top Secret until we get confirmation of funding, but we can tell you that the festival has an international flavour this year, and that you really should put the date in BLACK INK in your diary.

We’ve also started putting together our funding bids, and we’re waiting to hear back from the first two applications we’ve put together.

The feedback about the Dove Cottage Young Poets, a group of young writers that Kim Moore worked with last year was brilliant.  We think having young people involved at the heart of the festival made it really special, and we’d like to continue that this year.

However, many of the Dove Cottage Young Poets have left to go to university, so Kim is on the lookout for some more young writers.

If you know any young people that would like to have a go at writing poetry, please get in touch.  They don’t need to have any previous experience.  Dove Cottage Young Poets meet every other Friday at The Brewery Arts Centre from 3.45-5.45pm.  It’s completely free and members will get the opportunity to read at the festival in 2017.  Dove Cottage Young Poets is open to young people from the age of 13-25.

Please share this around to any young people you know, and if you’d like any more information, please get in touch.

Two New Poems by Helen Mort


We are very excited today because the lovely Helen Mort has sent us two new poems from her forthcoming collection No Map Could Show Them.  Helen will be launching her collection at the festival, and we asked her to say a bit about the two poems she has sent through.  She says:

“Over the past few years, I’ve been writing a sequence of poems addressed to pioneering female mountaineers from the late 1800s to the present. As I wrote, I became interested in writing to other inspiring women too and these poems come from a sequence dedicated to the memory of Hull’s Lillian Bilocca, the subject of a brilliant book called ‘The Headscarf Revolutionaries’ by Brian Lavery.  In 1968, three trawlers from Hull’s fishing fleet sank in rapid sucession in stormy conditions.  Fishwife Lillian put down her filleting knife and embarked upon a campaign for better safety, marshalling support from the docks of Hull to Downing Street.  She succeeded in changing the legislation, but along the way she was sacked from work, blacklisted by the fishing industry, mocked for her accent and sent death threats.  The second poem tries to send up the way the newspapers treated Lil, emphasising her weight rather than her actions.  The sequence about Lil appears in my new book ‘No Map Could Show Them’ which I’ll be reading from in Kendal.”

Big Lil
i.m. Lillian Bilocca and the Hull triple trawler disaster, 1968.

Lil’s dream

I dreamed Hessle Road was a river
thundering by night to the North Sea

and all the men I’d tried to warn
were channelled from their pubs and houses

fists still clutching glasses, papers,
kitchen knives. I lay down in the waters

like a boat, but I was buffeted,
I zig-zagged after them, face-down,

my body bloated in the stream. I could still see
and knew the shoals beneath weren’t fish

but scraps of hulls and decks,
dead radios. The riverbed was lined

with messages, scribbled goodbyes
to everything we’d not yet lost

to all we could not carry, would not need
where water planned on taking us.


What the papers said

We’ll fight for our lads said 17-stone Lil,
proud on the docks like a 17-stone anchor.
Each ship needs a working radio, said the fishwife,
raising herself to her full height
and full 17 stone.

Lil is meeting Harold Wilson next week
and at 17 stone, she’s bound to make an impact.
The 17-stone Hull woman has called for a reform
of fishing laws in her distinctive Yorkshire accent,
standing at 17 stone and 5 foot 5.

With 17 stone behind her, she’s looking squarely
to the future. I’m proud of her said her husband
10-stone Charlie, gazing out to sea.


Helen will be reading on the 24th June at 7.30pm with Mir Mahfuz Ali and Dove Cottage Young Poets Chimwemwe Chirwa and Emily Humble.  For tickets, please ring The Brewery Arts Centre on 01539725133 or go to The Brewery Arts Centre website

We’ve got about a month to go before the festival begins, and preparations are going well.  There are just 2 Weekend Passes left for the Festival.  A Weekend Pass is £33 and will get you into four Main Readings and three Talks/Discussions at the festival, saving you a total of £11.

The Poetry Business Workshop on Saturday morning has now sold out, but there are four spaces left on Hilda Sheehan’s free Sunday morning workshop, which will be based around the Laura Ford exhibition at Abbot Hall Art gallery.

Spaces are limited at the gallery, and although we have plenty of tickets left for individual events, it would help the organisers and the gallery hugely, if you are able to buy tickets in advance.  If you would like to come to the launch on Friday evening, please book a free ticket.  This will really help us with knowing how many people to cater for.

Even it up Poetry Challenge: The Winners!

We were really excited today to learn that our Young Poet in Residence, Hannah Hodgson was a winner in the 15-18 category of the ‘Even it Up Poetry Challenge’, run by The Poetry Society.   The theme of the competition was writing about global inequality.  You can read more about the competition by heading over to the Young Poets Network where you will find all of the winning poems.  Congratulations to all the winners but especially to our Hannah!

Clare Shaw at Kendal Poetry Festival


When we applied for Arts Council funding last year, our venue, the Abbot Hall Art Gallery had a small cafe on site.  However, Kendal  suffered terribly in the floods, and the cafe at Abbot Hall is now unusable.  Pauline and I have been working hard to research alternative arrangements for food and Blackwells have come to our rescue, offering to deliver freshly-baked cakes and tray bakes for visitors to the festival over the weekend.  We will also have a tea and coffee urn on site, staffed by some enthusiastic and willing volunteers.  The venue is very close to the town centre, with plenty of restaurants and cafes within walking distance.

As part of the run up to the festival, we will be featuring poems from the poets that are appearing at the festival at regular intervals on this blog.  Our first poet on the blog is the wonderful Clare Shaw, who will be reading at the festival with Hilda Sheehan on Saturday 25th June at our 2pm Main Reading.

One of the most enjoyable experiences of putting together a poetry festival was deciding which poets we would like to make up our ‘dream team’ for this first festival.  Clare Shaw, described by the Arvon Foundation as ‘one of Britain’s most dynamic and powerful young poets’ was high up on both of our lists as someone we had to invite.

Clare is currently working on a new collection, and has generously allowed us to pick a new poem to feature on our blog this week.  As flooding has been at the forefront of our minds in the last week as we chased down alternative catering arrangements for the festival, we decided to choose a poem from a sequence that Clare is working on called ‘Measures of Impact’ which explores the impact of flooding.  Living in Hebden Bridge has meant that Clare has had terrible floods of her own to deal with.

We think this is a wonderful poem, conjuring up both the anger and the weariness felt by having to deal with flooding over and over again in the last couple of years through its use of repetition and the litany of the names of rivers.  Anybody that saw footage of the floods and the people affected by them will know exactly what that line means ‘Enough of friends with shut-down faces’.   Apart from anger and weariness, the poem also illustrates perfectly that feeling of waiting and watching to see if more rain was going to fall.

Clare says

“Living in an area that has flooded repeatedly and disastrously means that floods have entered my consciousness – and my poetry. Its hard to imagine the damage that floods inflict – and they function as a powerful metaphors for personal trauma.   “Measures of Impact” is a sequence of poems based on meteorological scales – such as the Beaufort and Mercalli – which measure natural phenomena according to the impact they have on people and the natural and built environment.  It follows the interwoven narrative of two catastrophes – a flood, and the end of a relationship”

 “Measures of Impact” by Clare Shaw
Continue reading

Introducing Hannah Hodgson, our Young Poet in Residence

Our programme went live just over a week ago, and we’ve been really pleased by the reaction and messages of support that we’ve received over the last week.  Sales are going really well.  The Poetry Business Workshop on Saturday morning has now sold out, but for those of you who didn’t manage to get a ticket for this workshop, there are still tickets left for Jane Routh’s ‘Tuning In’ discussion at 11am.  If you are a hardened poetry festival fan who likes going to everything before passing out from exhaustion, then have a look at our Weekend Passes, which will get you entry into all four Main Readings and the three Discussions.  There are only 15 of these Weekend Passes left, and we won’t be releasing any more once they have gone, so please book quickly if you would like to take advantage of this offer.

One thing that we believe makes our festival unique is the inclusion of young writers throughout the festival.  Members of Dove Cottage Young Poets meet once a fortnight to read and discuss poetry and write their own poetry with Kim Moore, one of the Kendal Poetry Festival Directors.  The group is funded by The Wordsworth Trust and this year they’ve already performed with Ian McMillan at the ‘Picture the Poet’ exhibition.

We believe they will bring a unique energy and enthusiasm to the festival, and at least one Dove Cottage Young Poet will be performing at every Main Reading.  If you’re wondering what young people write about, we can tell you their subjects range far and wide.  They’re writing about sexism and feminism, politics and relationships, family and the impact of the media.

When we were putting together the programme for the festival, we considered giving the Dove Cottage Young Poets a separate event but we decided we wanted them to feel part of the whole festival, and part of the wider writing community in Kendal.

This is one strand of the festival that we’re really looking forward to developing and growing over the next few years (assuming we’re crazy enough to do this all again!)  We asked Dove Cottage Young Poets to send in an application to be our Young Poet-in-Residence this year, and friend of the festival David Tait read through their poems and personal statements, and after much deliberation selected Hannah Hodgson, pictured at the top of this post.  Hannah will perform at the Launch of the Festival, and will also perform alongside Clare Shaw and Hilda Sheehan on Saturday afternoon.  She will also receive mentoring from Clare Shaw as part of her residency.

In the judges report David Tait said:

Hannah Hodgson’s poems here are sparsely furnished, small artefacts with odd yet particular details: alphabet spaghetti, a wish that the brain could talk, words slipping through a back gate, Alzheimer’s and what a ring should and shouldn’t mean. I like that the poems tackle big themes but remain small. Each word is weighted just so. There’s a lot of potential here.

We asked Hannah to send us a poem to feature on the blog and to write a couple of paragraphs talking about what inspired her to write the poem.  Here is Hannah’s poem, followed by her own words on the thought process behind the poem.

Hair – Hannah Hodgson

I am a farmer with a plough,
as strands fall like beads of perfume. I notice
it balling up on the brush, and take these
tumbleweeds to see the doctor.
They check my scalp, and I feel like a
weeded garden patch. Each morning I notice my
ponytail shrinking like a sun set, and wonder
how many of us there are. How many
stare at combs like exam results. How many
feel like autumn trees.

The inspiration for this poem is actually very personal. I have an ongoing chronic medical condition that means I have fluctuating health. Recently I had a dip. I noticed that my hair was falling out as I brushed it or as I styled it. Thankfully, this has stopped now, but it did get me thinking. No matter how much you say you aren’t bothered about how you look, you really do. It shocked me that the fact  my hair was falling out upset me more than the fact I was so unwell.

Hair is something that is so personal. You can show your personality so easily, cut it and shape it however you want to, curl it, straighten it, dye it. You can even challenge stereotypes with it. I am toying with the idea dying my hair with pink streaks for the summer. Everyone I have told has been shocked, even going as far as saying it was so unlike me. My hairdresser even refused to do it for me, saying she didn’t think I was ‘that kind’ of person. What does that even mean? My hair belongs to me, and your hair belongs to you.

Losing some hair really put into perspective the emotional impact of illness. People with cancer or alopecia go through so much physically, but also mentally. I think sometimes this part of illness – the personal part – is often ignored. Who would have thought that something as simple as brushing your hair would be a the most anxious part of your day? I never understood how it felt to have that part of your personality under threat until it happened to me. I wrote this poem to try and give people who suffer from hair loss a voice.