The Ted Hughes Poetry Festival 2018 – Preview

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The Ted Hughes Poetry Festival 2018 poster

The Ted Hughes Poetry Festival 2018


by Sarah Morgan

Ask a poetry expert where Ted Hughes came from and chances are they will reply “Mytholmroyd”. Oh how that makes my blood boil!

Okay, so he was born there in 1930, but at the age of eight, his family moved to Mexborough, where his parents ran a shop on Main Street; he stayed until he began his National Service in 1949 before studying at Cambridge. I grew up in Mexborough too and, like Hughes, attended the secondary school on College Road and only leaving the town when I went to uni.

It’s a place close to my heart, which is why it’s so frustrating that biographers have largely glossed over his experiences in South Yorkshire, where he developed his love of the countryside, fishing, poetry (thanks to his inspirational teachers) and published his first poem, in the grammar school’s magazine.

The Ted Hughes Poetry Festival 2018 moor mother

US-based poet and visual artist Camae Avewa, known as Moor Mother, will be appearing at The Ted Hughes Poetry Festival 2018

“Rising reputations”

So imagine my delight at learning that The Ted Hughes Project is working hard to reclaim the former poet laureate for the town. From September 7th to the 9th, it’s hosting the fourth Ted Hughes Poetry Festival (South Yorkshire), which will be held at the Mexborough Business Centre, based in what was the grammar school in Hughes’ day.

This is the most impressive and diverse of the Society’s events to date, featuring high quality poets and performers with both established and rising reputations.

Among the highlights is a partnership with Breaking Beats, a Doncaster-based organisation teaching spray painting, music production and beatboxing to the area’s young people; their aim is to fuse Hughes’ heritage with urban art forms.

The Ted Hughes Poetry Festival 2018 mike garry

Poet Mike Garry brings poetry to unusual places

“Positive sense of identity”

There will also be performances from the inspirational poet and visual artist Camae Avewa (Moor Mother), who is swapping the mean streets of Philadelphia for those of Mexborough, Manchester-based Mike Garry, who is passionate about bringing poetry to places it wouldn’t usually be heard, and Kate Fox, who is described as a stand-up poet; she’s a familiar Radio 4 voice and has been poet in residence for the Great North Run and Glastonbury Festival. Rising talents from South Yorkshire are lined up to appear too.

Festival director Michele Becks says: “Mexborough is in the lowest 10 per cent of deprivation nationally and suffers from un/underemployment, low wages, a high crime rate, anti-social behaviour, substance misuse issues, limited cultural opportunities and a culture of low aspiration. The festival’s ethos is to develop a more positive sense of identity arising from the town’s connection with a figure of the stature of Ted Hughes – and opportunities for active involvement as audience members, participants, or artists.”

And that can only be applauded. Hughes himself would, I’m sure, be proud.

The festival will be held on the 7-9 September at the Mexborough Business Centre, College Rd, Mexborough, S64 9JP. Phone: +44 1709 590005 (Apart from the workshop with Moor Mother & Breaking Beats which will be held in Mexborough Centre next to the market).

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