Feast of poetry as festival launches

A VARIETY of literary events will be held in eight venues around Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge to celebrate one of the area’s most famous sons.

The Ted Hughes Festival, organised by the Elmet Trust, will run from Friday until Sunday and this year it has the theme of “letters”.

The festival celebrates Ted Hughes’ connection with the locality he grew up in, which played a central role in his poetry.

Patron Simon Armitage said: “Hughes had a rare gift and a unique voice, both crafted and forged in West Yorkshire.

“Our former Poet Laureate’s impact on the literary landscape remains as strong as ever and I think the Calder Valley was his biggest influence, a template for all his mature writing.

“By holding the Ted Hughes Festival in Mytholmroyd - the village of Hughes’ upbringing - readings, events and discussions take on a special significance.

“The trust continues to explore and celebrate the connections between this very rare poet and this special part of the world. The festival gives us a chance to re-live the poems over and over again.”

The festival gets underway at St Michael’s Church Hall on Friday at 3.30pm. Children from three local schools will read poetry, followed by a reading from ukulele playing poet Paul Cookson.

Later that night, former Children’s Laureate Anne Fine will read from her anthologies of poetry at the Ted Hughes Theatre at 7pm. She will also present prizes to the winners of the Ted Hughes Young Poets’ Award.

On Saturday, Mytholmroyd Library hosts “Spinning Stories” with author Margaret McAllister at 10am.

Ecologist and botanist Johnny Turner will lead a walk titled “Stories from the soil”, setting off from the library at 10am.

There will also be a guided poetry walk showing the outcome of Andrew McMillan’s Watershed Landscape Residency. Meet in St George’s Square, Hebden Bridge, at 11.15am.

Andrew will read from his new pamplet, “The moon is a supporting player”, at the Erringden Room, Mytholmroyd, at 1pm.

The Erringden Room hosts several other events on Saturday afternoon. There will be a poetry reading with Carola Luther at 2pm.

Gaia Holmes will read from her new collection, “Occasional China”, at 3pm, followed by a talk by Keith Sagar, a friend of Ted Hughes for nearly 30 years, at 4pm.

At 5pm Helen Broderick, curator of the modern literary manuscripts at the British Library, will give a talk titled “What letters can tell us: the place of correspondence in Ted Hughes’ literary archive”.

Other festival events on Saturday include an afternoon of gnoming in Nutclough from 3-5pm, hosted by storyteller Ursula Holden Gill.

Liz Lochhead, who earlier this year was declared Scotland’s national poet, will present prizes to the winners of the Elmet Poetry Prize at the Ted Hughes Theatre at 7.30pm.

The poet, performer, playwright, broadcaster, theatre director and creative writing teacher will also read from her own work.

Brighton based performance poet Rosie Carrick will host a poetry slam at 1 Aspinall Street, Mytholmroyd, the house where Ted Hughes was born.

Her eccentric style, dense musical rhyme structures and forceful imagery have won her international acclaim.

On Sunday, Hebden Bridge Library will host a poetry day, chaired by James Nash.

Following registration at 9.15am, there will be readings by poets Clare Shaw, Jude Cowan, Kim Moore and Paul Sutherland at 9.45am.

Each of the four poets will lead a different themed workshop from 10.45am until 12.45pm.

After a break for lunch, there will be readings by Rosy Carrick, Geraldine Green, Ivy Alvarez, Andrew Forster and guest reader Brian Johnstone, from Trio Verso, at 1.45pm.

From 3-5pm, there will be a choice of four different themed workshops to attend.

Other events on Sunday include a walk to Crimsworth Dean with film-maker and historian Nick Wilding at 11am, following in the foosteps of a young Ted Hughes in the 1930s.

Storyteller Ursula Holden Gill hosts another afternoon of gnoming in Nutclough from 3-5pm.

“The artist and the poet”, a documentary by Noel Chanan based on a previously unreleased audio recording made in 1983 between Ted Hughes and American artist Leonard Baskin, will be screened in the Erringden Room at 6pm.

The final event of the festival will be a poetry and music concert with Trio Verso at St Michael’s Church, Mytholmroyd, at 7.30pm. The group interprets and refocuses the 1950s poetry and jazz movement for a 21st century audience.

For more information or to book tickets for any of the festival events, pop in to Hebden Bridge Visitor and Canal Centre, call 01422 843831 or visit www.theelmettrust.co.uk or www.wegottickets.com.