Kendal Poetry Festival

Part of our Online events guide

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor
Hafsah Aneela Bashir
Poet and performer Hafsah Aneela Bashir.

Kendal Poetry Festival, online, 19–28 February 2021, from £5 - Book now

For its fifth appearance in our calendars, Kendal Poetry Festival heads online and international from 19 to 28 February, expanding from three days to nine to showcase workshops, talks and performances from over 50 writers.

Other Manchester regulars appearing at KPF21 include newly elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature Andrew McMillan, chatting to Michael Symmons Roberts, in Association with the Poetry Book Society.

Join award-winning poet, playwright and performer Hafsah Aneela Bashir on the first Saturday at a free event as part of New Writing North’s 2020 Read Regional project, in association with Kendal Library. The founder of the Poetry Health Service, Hafsah has just become a Manchester City of Literature Trustee and was recently commissioned by Manchester International Festival to write a response to Article 25 for World Human Rights Day. She’ll be reading from, and chatting about, her collection The Celox And The Clot (Burning Eye Books) – described by Helen Mort as: “A startling, bold debut from a voice that needs to be heard in contemporary poetry.”

Hafsah will also be leading a two-hour workshop (Monday 22, 10am, £16.50) introducing poetry which inspires, celebrates and comforts, and inviting participants to respond in a series of simple practical exercises. Workshops are filling up fast as places are limited, but some of the others not yet sold out as we put this guide together include with Jen Hadfield, on the theme of Manifesto! (four hours, £45), and Jonathan Davidson, on Hearing Poetry.

Fiona Benson is running a workshop (Friday 19, 4pm, free) for writers aged 14 to 23, looking at the dynamics of letting in different voices. Fiona’s second full-length collection, Vertigo & Ghost (Cape) won the Roehampton Poetry Prize and the Forward Prize for Best Collection in 2019, and was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. She is also sharing one of the Main Reading slots (Saturday 20) with another TS Eliot Prize shortlistee, Jay Bernard, 2020 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and winner of the Ted Hughes Award in 2017 with their collection Surge (Chatto).

Also on the first Saturday, poet and playwright Jackie Hagan dusts off her show This Is Not A Safe Space, commissioned and supported by Unlimited, celebrating the work of disabled artists. Other Manchester regulars appearing at KPF21 include newly elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature Andrew McMillan, chatting to Michael Symmons Roberts, in Association with the Poetry Book Society (Tuesday 23), and David Morley (whose collection Fury was published by Manchester’s Carcanet Press last year) reading at the closing event with Vicky Feaver, whose own poetry was described by Ted Hughes as “thin beautifully etched ice over such deep shocking water”.

We’re also excited to see among the Main Readings names those of Vahni Capildeo (Sunday 21) and Mary Jean Chan (Saturday 27) – who we saw together at the Words & Swords event airing from York Festival of Ideas Online last year – and also Ian Humphreys (Friday 26) and Roger Robinson (Friday 19). Main Readings take place every day from 8-9pm and cost £5, and all also include performances by Dove Cottage Young Poets. Young writers are also represented on the last Saturday afternoon, when three of the 2020 Poetry Business New Poets Pamphlet winners take to the “stage”: Lauren Hollingsworth-Smith, Lucy Holt and Gboyega Odubanjo.

Also happening daily (apart from the opening day), KPF21 directors Kim Moore and Clare Shaw will be taking it in turns to run an early-morning Writing Hour starting at 8.30am, when attendees will be given a simple prompt and told to run with it – “No excuses, no interruptions!”, we’re told. Advance booking is required for these sessions and all events can be pre-booked, where free, or purchased, where an entry fee applies, through the Brewery Arts Centre – links to each event are via the KPF21 website. Free tickets are available for all young people, disabled people and their carers, and local care home residents and staff, and there are ten free festival bursaries for those on low incomes – see the website for full details.

Fury by David Morley
Fury by David Morley

Kendal Poetry Festival, online

19–28 February 2021
From £5