Hot Lists Friday, July 1st

10 things to see and do at Ledbury Poetry Festival 2016

I don’t care if you abandoned poetry at GCSE, or think Shakespeare wrote those sonnets for his wife.

I’m not asking you to find comfort in the soft applause of a coffeehouse slam. I’m just saying that you (ardent fan on Herefordshire’s best bits) need to show Ledbury Poetry Festival some love. Especially with the EU referendum result having a potentially catastrophic effect on funding.

2016 marks 20 years of Ledbury's literary event, the biggest poetry festival in the UK.

That's two decades of world renowned writers, workshops, open mics, and spoken word in the street - enough to dispel dirty thoughts that poetry 'isn't for me'.

With that in mind we’ve picked out 10 things to see and do at this year’s festival, regardless of your poetry prowess.

Book online at or the box office on 01531 636 232.


Animal / Tongue Fu

Genre-bending Animal, being staged at the Market Theatre, blends live music and spoken word: "Action film crushes, pub science and awkward one-night stands meet in a show about learning to live with the choices we make and the animals that guide us". 

Straight after is Tongue Fu, one of the UK’s largest spoken word shows that hosts poets, rappers, storytellers, and live musicians. Created and hosted by poet Chris Redmond, it started in a room above The Betsy Trotwood in London’s Clerkenwell when Chris and bassist Riaan Vosloo called together poets, musicians and an audience to find out what would happen if they cast their better judgement aside and put on a show with no rehearsal. 

The show has gone on to receive rave reviews at The Barbican, Bristol Old Vic, Glastonbury, Bestival and Edinburgh Festival. 

When: Animal at 5.30pm, Tongue Fu at 8.30pm 

Where: Market Theatre

How much: £9 (or £16 for both Animal and Tongue Fu)

Phizz-whizzing fun in the wondercrump Walled Garden

Inside the Walled Garden on July 2 is a family-friendly celebration of the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth.

We've been promised a giant snozzcumber, a dream tree, crafts, a poetry path and the Word Wizard's Guide to making stuff up. If peckish afterwards, a handful of Ledbury cafes and restaurants are (for one day only) making Roald Dahl-inspired food and treats. We'll have a pint of Frobscottle.

When: 11am to 4pm, Saturday July 2

Where: Walled Garden, Church Lane, Ledbury, HR8 1PJ

How much: Free

Desert Island Poems


Names you'll recognise will pick their favourite poems throughout the festival starting with Peter Tatchell’s Desert Island Poems on Saturday 2 July (2.30pm, Community Hall, £12). Since 1967, Peter Tatchell has campaigned on issues of human rights, democracy, LGBT freedom and global justice. In 1994, he named 10 Anglican bishops and urged them to “Tell The Truth” about their sexuality; accusing them of homophobia and hypocrisy. In 1999, in London, he ambushed the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, attempting a citizen’s arrest on charges of torture. A repeat attempt in Brussels in 2001 resulted in him being beaten unconscious by Mugabe’s bodyguards. He co-ordinated the Equal Love campaign from 2010, which pioneered same-sex marriage. Peter Tatchell will chat with Hay Festival director Peter Florence about the poems that have travelled with him through his life. 

Renowned actress Dame Eileen Atkins (The Killing of Sister George, Doc Martin, Cranford) will discuss her favourites with Ursula Owen, founder director of Virago Press on Sunday, July 3; Hereford and north Herefordshire MP Jesse Norman, a director of Hay Festival and former board member at the Roundhouse in London (nicely described as "a keen but incompetent musician" in the festival programme"), will be talking poems on Saturday, July 9; and artist/writer Edmund de Waal, best known for his large scale installations of porcelain vessels, will do the same with Mark Fisher, on Thursday, July 7.

When: July 2, 3, 7 and 9

Where: Ledbury Community Hall, HR8 2AE

How much: £12

Ledbury Poetry Slam!

Pulsate to the rhythm of performance poetry as wordsmiths leap from page to stage to pit their verses against each other. Random judges will mark style and content, with slampères Elvis McGonagall and Sara-Jane Arbury directing the action

When: 8pm -10.30pm, Sunday 3 July. 

Where: The Market Theatre, Ledbury, HR8 2AQ

How much: £9

Juliet Stevenson reads Elizabeth Barrett Browning


Elizabeth Barrett Browning was brought up in Ledbury before she eloped with Robert Browning and lived out the rest of her life in Italy. The author of How Do I Love Thee? - a sonnet routinely voted one of Britain's favourites, was passionate and political. This one-off event features actress Juliet Stevenson reading Barrett Browning’s poems, intercut with the her life story narrated by Mark Fisher. 

When: 12.15pm - 1.15pm, Sunday 10 July

Where: Ledbury Community Hall, HR8 2AE

How much: £12 

Punk ‘n’ Poetry featuring Jonny Fluffypunk, Spoz, The Youth Within and Pablo Alto


Ledbury band The Youth Within are purveyors of loud, old school punk (read about them on the Hereford City Centric blog). They'll be live with "pastoral nihilist" Jonny Fluffypunk, former Birmingham’s Poet Laureate Spoz, a local post-punk 3-piece  Pablo Alto.

When: 7.30pm, Thursday 7 July

Where: Ledbury British Legion Club, Church Street, HR8 1DH

How much: £5

Festival Bike Ride

A 15-mile bike ride along country lanes of the Ledbury Loop, with pauses for poetry. Kids welcome and there's cycle hire available next to the railway station. 

When: 10.30am start, Sunday 10 July

Where: Meet under the Market House

How much: Free but ticketed

Iranian Poetry and Protest: Athena Farrokhzad, Ziba Karbassi and translator Stephen Watts

One themes of this year's festival is poetry as protest - English PEN is partnering with Ledbury Poetry Festival to highlight the writing of poets currently at risk around the world.

This event was conceived in response to news that Iranian poets Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mousavi, who have been sentenced to 11.5 and 9 years in prison respectively, were also sentenced to 99 lashes each for shaking hands with unrelated members of the opposite sex at a poetry festival in Sweden.

Athena Farrokhzad and Ziba Karbassi will be reading poems by Ekhtesari and Mousavi, as well as their own pieces followed by an open discussion on contemporary Iranian poetry and the fate of writers in Iran.

When: 12.45pm–1.45pm, Sunday, July 10

Where: Burgage Hall, Church Lane, Ledbury, HR8 1DW

How much: £9

Bards Without Borders


No poetry without Shakespeare. But this is with a twist.

At the Market Theatre on July 10, poets from refugee and migrant backgrounds will "speak back" to Shakespeare with newly written poems. 

When: 7.30pm–9.30pm, Sunday 10 July

Where: Market Theatre, Ledbury

How much: £9 

Gertrude Bell

Bell (1868- 1926) was a poet, traveller, archaeologist and mountaineer who played a major role in establishing the modern state of Iraq. A brilliant linguist, she translated the 14th century Divan of Hafiz, one of Persia’s most revered poets. Her 1897 rendering is widely recognized as the finest version, capturing all the sensual passion, emotion and sensitivity of the original. Jan Long tells the story of this phenomenal woman with poetry read by Sara-Jane Arbury. 

*an extra event has been organised due to demand

Read more: The Woman Who Made Iraq (from The Atlantic)

When: 5.30pm and again at 7.30pm 

Where: Ledbury Books and Maps, High Street, HR8 1DS

How much: £9 (price includes a glass of wine)

Book online at or the Ledbury Poetry Festival box office on 01531 636 232.

Also worth checking out:

  • Hwaet! marking 20 years of Ledbury Poetry Festival. The celebration of a new anthology which brings together 200 new poems written by poets who've graced Ledbury's stages over the years. 7pm | Friday July 1 | The Feathers Hotel, Ledbury | £18.
  • A gala evening of poetry and music: Carol Ann Duffy and Friends! 8pm | Saturday July 9 | Community Hall, Ledbury | £19.50.

  • She writes poetry on her arms... Women from the Close House Projects in Hereford have been working with Toni Cook to write and perform their own poetry for the first time. Supported by mediashypp and Herefordshire Libraries. 4.30pm | Thursday July 7 | Panelled Room, The Master’s House | Free.

  • Ted Hughes – The Unauthorised Life. With Sir Jonathan Bate. 5.30pm | Friday July 6 | Burgage Hall | £9

  • Festival Open Mic featuring Amy Key, hosted by festival director Chloe Garner. 6pm | Monday July 4 | Burgage Hall | £5 (includes a glass of cider).

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This feature was originally published on June 23


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