Hwaet!: 20 Years of Ledbury Poetry Festival

November 1, 2020
Hwaet!: 20 Years of Ledbury Poetry Festival

Ledbury Poetry Festival celebrates its 20th birthday in July2016.Britain’s biggest and liveliest poetry festival happens over tendays each July in the Herefordshire market town of Ledbury. Poetsfrom all over the world join audiences drawn from near and far foran annual celebration of poetry in England’s rural heartland. Thereare live readings, performances, workshops, open mics, music,exhibitions, films, family events, schools visits, streethappenings, a slam, a poetry competition, and much more.‘Hwaet!’ (rhyming with cat) is the opening word of the greatAnglo-Saxon poem Beowulf and other poems of that time. It means‘Listen!’ or ‘How…’ or ‘So…’ – a calling for attention. Which iswhat hundreds of poets have been saying, both in their work as wellas in numerous, highly memorable readings to Ledbury audiences over20 years.Mark Fisher was delighted to be asked to open the first LedburyPoetry Festival in 1997 as Labour arts minister, and has maintainedhis support for the festival as an active Patron over many years.His anthology Hwaet! brings together 200 new poems by a wide rangeof poets who have delighted audiences at Ledbury Poetry Festivalover 20 years as well as poems by some unforgettable visitors nolonger with us who will always be remembered in Ledbury. Scatteredbetween the poems are anecdotes contributed by poets and othersoffering a sense of the diverse flavour of an international poetryfestival which is perhaps unusual in being created, nurtured andloved by the community in which it is based.The two hundred poets saying ‘Hwaet!’ include writers from allparts of Britain and Ireland, from North America, Europe, theMiddle East, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. They includewriters who’ve been poet-in-residence or worked on popularcommunity and schools projects in Ledbury along with winners of theLedbury Poetry Competition.‘A rare joining of place, poetry and people.’ – Carol AnnDuffy