Ledbury Poetry Festival 2017 full programme announced

Ledbury Poetry Festival 2017:

Paddy Ashdown, Richard Dawkins, Simon Armitage, Bejan Matur join all-star cast ‘from all over the world’ to celebrate 21 years of the UK’s biggest poetry festival

30 June – 9 July 2017

‘One of the most exciting and important literary festivals in England’  Carol Ann Duffy

‘The Ledbury Poetry Festival is the best in the country’
Andrew Motion

 Paddy Ashdown and headliners

Former leader of the Liberal Democrats Paddy Ashdown, leading scientist and author Richard Dawkins, multi-award winning poet Simon Armitage, comedian and poet Sean Hughes, acclaimed Kurdish poet Bejan Matur, legendary Romanian poet Ana Blandiana and novelist and journalist Andrew O’Hagan are among the new artists announced for Ledbury Poetry Festival 2017 (30 June – 9  July), as the full programme is released today, Wednesday 26 April 2017. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Saturday 20 May 2017.


Founded in 1997, by a group of local enthusiasts, Ledbury Poetry Festival is today recognized as the nation’s pre-eminent and biggest poetry festival. In 2000, only four years in, Carol Ann Duffy called Ledbury ‘one of the most exciting and important literary festivals in England’ which ‘exclusively features real writers’. In 2017, Ledbury Poetry Festival remains rooted in its local community, bringing audiences some of the most exciting names in poetry, politics and popular culture from across the world in the intimate venues, streets and parks of Ledbury, the picturesque rural market town near the Malvern Hills.


With over 135 events in 10 days, Ledbury Poetry Festival 2017 offers new and dedicated poetry fans the chance to fully immerse themselves in the diverse world of poetry. Ledbury Poetry Festival 2017 will take poetry off the page via talks, readings, performances, slams, sign language, translations, competitions, workshops, prescriptions, residencies, theatre, song, dance, puppetry, comedy, art, walks and bike rides.


The Desert Island Poems strand of events at the festival will see Paddy Ashdown, actor Hugh Dennis, actor Ann Mitchell and pottery entrepreneur Emma Bridgewater, share the poems that have shaped their lives. Richard Dawkins will also share his favourite poems with Lalla Ward in Rhyme and Reason and Festival Patron and BAFTA nominated actor Juliet Stevenson will read the poems of American poet, radical and feminist Adrienne Rich. Actor and I’m a Celebrity star Larry Lamb will read poems nominated by the audience in Poetry Jukebox.


One of the hallmarks of 2017 programme is Outdoor Magic, as the Festival will explode like a party popper over the streets of Ledbury via a host of outdoor events and community initiatives including wrapping the town in poetry, outdoor poetry chairs, events in the walled garden and poetry-inspired shop window displays. Fair Field will re-imagine Piers Plowman by local poet William Langland for the twenty-first century through a series of site-responsive performances in Ledbury and secret locations in the Malvern Hills. 7AIRS will offer ground-breaking site-specific performances combining physical theatre, music and poetry spanning the stages of life as two poets, one from the UK and one from Europe, create one piece. On the final day of the festival, Sunday 9 July the whole of Ledbury high street will close to mark the festival’s 21st birthday and the 400th anniversary of the town’s iconic Market House, for a full day of poetry, music, entertainment, food and drink.


International poetry is ever a strong feature of the programme, with a focus on Romanian Women Poets lead by the Festival poet in residence Fiona Sampson including legendary poet Ana Blandiana. Acclaimed Kurdish poet Bejan Matur reads with T.S. Eliot award winner Jen Hadfield, American poets Thomas Lynch and Tony Hoagland read together and poet Choman Hardi, a Kurdish poet who sought asylum in the UK in 1993 will perform from her new collection. Annual festival highlight Versopolis will showcase emerging European poets, in performance and translation including Charlotte Van de Broeck (Belgium), Nikolina Andova (Macedonia), Veronika Dintinjana (Slovenia) with two of their UK counterparts, Kayo Chingonyi and Helen Mort.


A series of workshops offer aspiring and burgeoning poets practical advice on writing and editing poetry lead by poets ranging from 2016 Forward Prize Winner Vahni Capildeo to Katharine Towers, poet in residence at the Cloud Appreciation Society. The festival also provides ample chance to hear from some of the newest voices in poetry with  20 minutes with…introductory events with emerging poets such as Sam Buchan-Watts and  Suzannah Evans plus events featuring the winners of schemes such as Faber New Poets, the National Poetry Competition and the Eric Gregory Award. This year the Festival has also supported opportunities for new writing with the Ledbury Poetry Festival Poetry Competition 2017 and the Ledbury Forte Poetry Prize for second collections – winners of each will be announced during the festival.


Chloe Garner, Ledbury Poetry Festival’s Artistic Director says ‘happy 21st Ledbury! The celebrations spill onto the streets, into unexpected locations and places. To surprise all sorts of people who might not expect to, but find they do in fact enjoy poetry. This is a Festival in many languages, welcoming poets from all over the world. It celebrates translation, collaboration, exchange and sharing – of words, experiences, places, feelings, convictions, stories, histories, pleasures.’

Tickets available from Ledbury Poetry Festival Box Office from the following dates:

Priority booking 18 May for Friends Membership only £25, apply here

20 May tickets available to general public

www.poetry-festival.co.uk / 01531 636232

For media enquiries about Ledbury Poetry Festival please contact :
Becky Fincham at Bigmouth Book Events & PR on becky@bigmouthpresents.com / 07545 760590 or Phillippa Slinger, Festival Manager on manager@poetryfestival.co.uk /  01531 636232