Wells set for feast of poetry

WITH a bustling quayside bordered by soothing expanses of coastal countryside, it is not surprising the creative setting of Wells has nurtured one of Norfolk's most popular poetry events.

WITH a bustling quayside bordered by soothing expanses of coastal countryside, it is not surprising the creative setting of Wells has nurtured one of Norfolk's most popular poetry events.

Now in its 12th year, the Poetry-next-the-Sea festival will bring a host of internationally renowned writers to new audiences when it returns to the town in May.

But organisers are also keen for fledgling wordsmiths of all ages to get in on the act and express themselves in an open-floor event aimed at giving an appreciative platform for inexperienced readers.

This year's event, from May 8 to10, includes readings from such acclaimed poets as Fleur Adcock and Hugo Williams - both winners of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry.

Author Louis de Berni�res will talk about the poems which he would choose to console him on a desert island and will read some of his own lyrical works.

Meanwhile, a creative collage of school workshops, readings by East Anglian writers, musical performances and fringe events will take place throughout the weekend to expand people's passions in

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a cross-section of expressive


Caroline Gilfillan, chairman of the festival committee, said the event had gone from strength to strength since its launch in 1997.

'It has grown from just a few readers to a whole weekend,' she said. 'We started it really to celebrate poetry and to bring national and international writers to Wells, but it has grown to encourage local readers and children as well.

'It is a way of fostering a love of poetry and a love of words and enjoying it from all points of view.'

The festival committee also organised a poetry competition for anyone who had not had a full collection published, with the winners due to be announced at an open floor event on the final afternoon of the festival.

That event will also provide a supportive environment for inexperienced writers to read their first forays into poetry.

Ms Gilfillan said: 'Anyone can come along to the open floor event, read their poem and meet other poets - regardless of experience. It is just encouragement, really. You can't just stand up and read your poem to anyone at home.

'It gives them a warm and respectful listening audience - and that makes a big difference.

'It is not just about people mumbling into their beer, which is how poetry used to be viewed.'

Among the more famous names at the festival will be dramatist and playwright Michael Symmons Roberts and witty performance reader Annie Freud, daughter of the artist Lucian Freud.

Ms Gilfillan said the performers were attracted to Wells by a combination of its people and its setting.

'Wells has a lovely artistic community with the Granary Theatre and its history society,' she said. 'The people are very warm and welcoming, and the harbour and marshes are only five minutes

walk away, so it is a beautiful setting.

'It is an active community and the poets always feel very welcome. A lot of them arrive looking dusty and haggard after arriving from elsewhere in the country, but by the end of the weekend they don't want to leave.'

For more information about events at the festival, visit www.poetry-next-the-sea.com

Events timetable:

Friday, May 8

7.30pm - Desert Island Choice, �9.

Louis de Berni�res, right, tells Dame Gillian Beer which poems he would take to console him on a desert island, and reads some of his own poems.

Saturday, May 9

9.30am - Schools Reading by Morag Styles, �2.

Competition winners announced, and presentation of the Helen Flanagan Trophy

10am - Art Workshop led by Gillian Crossley-Holland, �30.

1pm - Talk by Dame Gillian Beer: Why we can't do without rhyme, �6.

2pm - Free Fringe event in Staithe Street.

2.30pm - Poetry Workshop led by Annie Freud, �15.

2.30pm - Voice Workshop led by Cecilia Evans, �12.

4pm - One-to-One Sessions with Andrea Porter, �10.

7pm - Poetry readings by Michael Symmons Roberts and Annie Freud, �9.

9.30pm - Young Poets: Helen Mort, Ben Morris and Ian Cartland, free, Ollie's Restaurant, Station Road.

Sunday, May 10

11am - Readings by East Anglian poets, �6.

Andrea Porter and Dean Parkin are joined by Norwich Caf� Writers Commission winners Meirion Jordan, Kelly Kanayama and Ben Parker.

1pm - Open Floor Event plus announcement of Poetry Competition winners, �3.

3.30pm - Poetry readings by Hugo Williams and Fleur Adcock.

7.30pm - Music event: Michael Chance (counter-tenor) and James Boyd (guitar) with Irene Noel Baker (spoken voice), featuring music composed especially for the festival by Anthony Powers, �9, St Nicholas Church.

All events take place in The Maltings, Staithe Street, Wells, unless otherwise stated.