Leeds Poetry Festival 2022 – preview

Poppy-Lee Jennings, organiser of Leeds Poetry Festival, provides a preview of this year’s event.

Leeds Poetry Festival is back this August for another amazing week of poetry and spoken word. It’s the second year and we’re bringing another series of workshops, live performances and collaborative events to Left Bank, Hyde Park Book Club and Leeds Art Gallery.

We were so happy with how last year played out. Despite the ongoing pandemic, people joined us in person and online, showing support for our line-up of local artists. This year, we wanted to design a programme that reflects how supportive and energetic the poetry community is here. We have Burning Eye Books and Bent Key Publishing, joining us to talk about indie publishing, spoken word & poetry, as well as showcasing some of their artists. We also have spoken word label Nymphs & Thugs returning this year with another brilliant LIVEwire event, joined by Louise Fazackerley, Taiwo Ogunyinka and Carla Mellor.

A huge focus of ours this year is collaboration. It’s our foundation and it’s what we love to see in the community. People collaborate, work together and create stunning projects and artworks that might otherwise not exist, and we wanted to reflect on that this summer. One of those collaborations is a new podcast that I’ll be running with Jack Collins, local poet, teacher and host from Leeds. It’ll be called, Poetry of the Aire, a little nod to our beautiful city, and we’ll be interviewing and chatting with local poets and spoken word artists about their inspirations, influences and new projects. Our first four episodes will air the week of Leeds Poetry Festival and we’ll be joined by Rebecca Kenny, founder of Bent Key Publishing, Nasser Hussain, poet and lecturer from Leeds Beckett University, Abbie Nolan, Elijah East, Rachel Hall and more. We’re having some brilliant conversations and listening to some incredible poetry, and you can too, very soon.

We have an event coming up with Leeds Art Gallery that explores a poetic and musical response to their two exhibitions, The Wisdom Tree and Shifting Perspectives. Rommi Smith and Christella Litras will be collaborating to create a really beautiful performance that celebrates generations of Black women, taking influence from Charmaine Watkiss’s stunning art as well as the collected works in Shifting Perspectives.

The Collaboration, which will be at Hyde Park Book Club, is an event that pairs poets with another art form, visual, video, musical or dance, celebrating the beauty of multi-disciplinary art; there will be performances from Izzy Brittain, Lence, Laura Dickinson, Jonny Aubrey Bentley and many others. There are some amazing showcase events with local poets and spoken word artists, including ‘How Do!?’ with Carla Mellor, Laura Graham and Jack Collins, ‘Bodies in Bloom’ with Kayleigh Campbell, Nivetha Tilakkumar and Betty Doyle, ‘Fractured Roots’ with Sarah Wimbush, Matthew Hedley Stoppard and Jane Burn, and more.

There’s a power in poetry and the artists that compose it, and there really is something for everyone this year: explorations of myth and folklore, celebrations of queerness, the realities and repercussions of the patriarchy for women and non-binary folks, and more. For those who want to explore different ways to write poetry when they’re not too busy enjoying the performances, we have a series of workshops lined up with Joe Williams, Vic Leeson, Jack Collins, NSFW Club, Blue Balloon and myself. You can explore writing through different exercises and themes, all designed for beginners and experienced writers alike, for those interested in the Brontës, therapeutic practices, zines or new ways of writing.

Along with our workshops and events, we have the launch of our second anthology, Taking Up Space. The collection is filled with the Longlisted poems from our 2022 Poetry Competition and they are truly wonderful and inventive in their exploration of the theme. We wanted to have a theme that offered inspiration for everyone, and after the past few years that we’ve had, ‘space’ was definitely on everybody’s mind. There are stories about astronauts and space travellers, forgotten furniture and family homes, and concepts of space that will sit with you after reading. Some of our Shortlisted poets will be performing on the night to celebrate the book’s publication and we’ll be revealing the winners of the competition too. Our anthology is available for pre-order on the website but if you come along to Left Bank during the festival, you’ll be able to grab a copy at our pop-up bookshop.

There’s so much more going on that you can check out in this year’s programme and I hope you decide to pop down and experience some of the incredible poetry yourself!

Leeds Poetry Festival takes place 1st-7th August; find out what’s on at this year’s event here.