Torbay Poetry Festival is always one of the highlights of the autumn, and this year was no exception, so I’m going to share a few snapshots and other recollections of the weekend.
Unfortunately I had to miss the first day of the festival, so was not in Torquay for the dramatisation of Report from Judenplatz by Sue Boyle. I am told that the presentation by John Miles and his company was professional and moving; and having seen their Under Milkwood production later in the weekend, I can believe it.
The two major evening events were the festival supper, with a reading by Maurice Riordan, and a reading on the Sunday evening by Roger McGough. These were, not surprisingly, very different events, but both were hugely enjoyable, providing food for thought as well as wine and, in the case of the supper, good food. The poetry was good, of course; but other less poetry-related aspects of their performances were also appreciated: for instance, I had not heard Maurice read before and was charmed by his Irish accent; and Roger who was, as ever, extremely amusing, sported a pair of bright red shoes.
This year’s Torbay poetry competition was judged by R V Bailey, and at the prize-giving we were able to read the short-listed poems that were posted all round the walls, and give coloured dots to indicate where we would have awarded the prizes. The winner turned out to be Carole Bromley – a result that delighted me as I have been reading, and greatly enjoying, Carole’ poetry over the last few months.
The other event that featured Rosie Bailey was a launch of the large anthology entitled ‘Love and Loss’ that she and June Hall have edited over the last year.
It is a beautiful book, containing poems by well-known poets, including the Poet Laureate, as well as many lesser-known poets, a number whom were attending the festival. I was pleased to have a couple of poems in the book myself, and therefore took part in the reading.
I had intended to have a swim from the hotel steps, but there was never a spare moment. There were readings, talks and staged conversations that presented Susan Taylor and Simon Williams, Katrina Naomi, William Oxley, Jeremy Young , Wendy French and others.
There were also workshops led by Danielle Hope, Katherine Gallagher and June Hall, but I wasn’t able to get to any of those.
As our festival weekend coincided with the centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas, there was a dramatic reading of Under Milkwood on the Sunday morning, presented by John Miles and his company. As I know the work practically word for word, I wondered whether this would be a disappointment. On the contrary, however, it was a wonderful performance, bringing out the music, humour and charm of the work.
On the final morning we transferred to the Living Coasts centre at the other end of Torquay for a reading by Moor Poets. In a room directly beside the waves we had readings by poets who are represented in the latest Moor Poets anthology. At this event I was pleased of the opportunity to include some poems from my new collection, Notes from a Camper van (available from me for £7).
With me in this photograph are the Oversteps poets, Jennie Osborne, Rose Cook and Mark Totterdell, who read at the Moor Poets event. Other Oversteps poets appearing at the festival were R V Bailey, Susan Taylor and Simon Williams.
Patricia Oxley, who organises the festival and is also the Editor of Acumen, always offers enormous encouragement, support and respect to poets at all stages of their careers; and we have good reason to be grateful to her for all she does with such grace, generosity and professionalism.