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Beeston International Poetry Festival

16 October 10 words: Pippa Hennessy
From October 16 - 28, Beeston proves it is more than just a posh hangout for wealthy students
 Two of Nottingham's finest legends, John Lucas and Derrick Buttress 

“What’s that?” I hear you say. “An international poetry festival in Beeston? That’s the small town just outside Nottingham famous for students and charity shops, right?” Well, yes. For twelve days, Beeston will have the great good fortune to be invaded by poets from all fifteen and a half corners of the globe. And why not?

Beeston has a long tradition of nurturing and encouraging fine poetry. Between 1980 and 2000 Beeston Poets hosted readings from luminaries such as UA Fanthorpe and Peter Porter. More recently, the Shoestring Press series of readings at the Flying Goose in Beeston have been well-attended and well-loved, and have featured a wide range of poets and authors. Over the last couple of years I’ve enjoyed readings by Anne Stevenson, WN Herbert, Andy Croft, Eireann Lorsung, Cathy Grindrod, Derrick Buttress, Nicola Monaghan, Dan Tunstall, Wayne Burrows...

The legendary John Lucas is the brains behind the festival. He runs Shoestring Press, which specialises in publishing poetry by “established but unfashionable” poets, and introducing poets who may be well known elsewhere to British readers for the first time. The idea for the festival came directly from the tradition of bringing excellent poetry to the region.

This is a truly international affair, with poets from Australia, America, Africa, Asia, Mexico, Greece, France and of course, the UK.

John and his co-conspirators Sue Dymoke and David Belbin (who revealed to me that, coincidentally, their first date was Peter Porter’s Beeston Poets reading!) worked together to create a programme of events to excite, inspire and enthuse poetry-lovers, and to drive home the point that Beeston is not insular and narrow, but a centre for poetry with and from an international perspective. They deliberately fostered a non-doctrinaire approach, inviting poets ranging from the deeply traditional to the experimental and modern.

As John said at the launch of his new books, Next Year Will Be Better and Things to Say, (both from Five Leaves Publications), “We wanted to spread the word that there’s a lot of good poetry out there in the world, and why shouldn’t people hear about it? And why shouldn’t it be in Beeston, if nowhere else is doing it?”

John has used his extensive contacts to attract poets to the festival from Australia, America, Africa, Asia, Mexico, Greece, France and the UK. This combination will give lucky Nottingham residents a unique opportunity to immerse ourselves in a huge variety of poetry which most people in the UK just don’t have access to, like Andrew Sant, who is one of Australia’s best-known poets, Mexican Ernesto Priego, and Vassilis Pavlides from Greece.

 Deborah Tyler-Bennett runs the poetry magazine the Coffee House and is performing on Tuesday 19 Oct.

Sue and David highlighted how the events have been deliberately programmed to emphasise the breadth of the poetry on offer. For example, the three poets reading at the Flying Goose on October 21st are Andrew Sant and Vassilis Pavlides, along with Alan Dent, who is a poet and editor of the radical journal “Penniless Press” and has produced a classic translation of French poet Francis Coombes’ “Common Cause”. Other events include the launch of Sheila Smith’s new collection Woman Surprised by a Young Boy, a clutch of Smokestack Books poets (Deborah Tyler-Bennett, Andy Croft, NS Thompson and Mike Wilson), a pair of Carcanet poets (Michael Schmidt and Gregory Woods) and readings from Kathryn Daszkiewicz, Cathy Grindrod, Wayne Burrows, Rosie Garner, CJ Allen, Paul Binding, Ernesto Priego and Mahendra Solanki.

The festival kicked off with a party at the Commercial Inn in Beeston on Saturday night and continues over the next couple of weeks with events at a variety of venues before finishing off on Thursday 28 October with Roy Fisher, widely regarded as one of the greatest living poets, and Matthew Welton, a member of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio whose The Book of Matthew was highly praised in the broadsheets.

Many influential poetry publishers will be represented at the festival, including Bloodaxe, Carcanet, Smokestack Books, Shoestring Press and Five Leaves. So if you’re a budding poet, this is your chance to get out there and start networking whilst supporting small, independent presses. For the more ambitious poets out there, this could be a great opportunity to break into running events as although it is being billed as the First Beeston International Poetry Festival, there is a possibility it may also be the last, as John Lucas wishes to concentrate on other matters. Maybe you could be the person to take over the project…

For more info, please see David Belbin's website for the full programme or contact John Lucas on 0115 9251827  


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