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A guide to Cheltenham Poetry Festival

By RupertJ  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

  • A performance at Cheltenham Town Hall for last year's festival

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If you’re a fan of poetry – or even if you’re not – then this year’s Cheltenham Poetry Festival could well have something exciting in store for you.

Running from Saturday April 20 to Sunday April 28 the festival, sponsored for 2013 by Tailor-Made Travel, is now in its third year.

It originally started in 2011 when executive director and poet Anna Saunders, who has been promoting poetry events in Cheltenham for 10 years now, decided the wealth of talent and appetite for poetry in the area deserved a more extensive showcase.

Now the event encompasses every aspect of the art form, from serious poetry to performance battles and stand-up comedy.

It is also supported by Cheltenham Borough council on an outreach programme which takes art to the community and improves the health and well being for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, homeless, or disabled.

The full event programme for 2013 will be finalised and released by the beginning of March but many acts are already booked and the festival organisation is in full swing.

Pubs, restaurants, cafes and bookshops all over the town will open their doors during the eight days, for readings, recitals, talks and workshops in many poetic art forms.

Star attractions include renowned poets such as Jeremy Reed, Fiona Sampson, Tom Warner, Andrew MulletProof Graves and Angela France.

And with poetry at its most effective for small audiences in compact settings, each event promises to be a unique and intimate experience.

Organisers are expecting this year’s festival to be the biggest ever both in terms of the performances and offer and ticket sales, which are expected to hit up to 6,000.

And extra effort is being made to attract a diverse audience; not just the older generation, writers and poets but also youngsters who can come and have their first experience of performance poetry.

So there will be a number of events featuring film, animation, urban music and competitive “slam” poetry, to attract a more youthful audience.

The festival’s executive director Anna Saunders said: “There’s so much these days which comes under the banner of poetry – exciting spoken word that explores contemporary issues like politics and society. You can find it on the bus, on the internet or read it at home. It’s not just for books and recitals any more.

“It’s really exciting for the organisers because we can be very creative with our programming and we are also able to bring to Cheltenham some acclaimed names from many different art forms.

“Now that the profile of the festival is rising, we think that we are going to get some even better audiences than last year.”

The festival is arranged and managed by a number of poets from around Cheltenham, primarily Anna alongside co-directors Robin Gilver and Ross Cogan. Further support comes from a team of volunteers – mainly students and other local poets – who help out during the eight days of the festival.

“We have a lot of help from the community,” said Anna. “But we are always looking for more people if anyone wants to contact us.”

For more information on how to help, or for any further enquiries about the Taylor Made Travel Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2013, visit Cheltenhampoetryfest.co.uk


Tickets will be available from the festival box office at Cheltenham Town Hall, by calling 0844 576 2210, or via the festival website, from Friday February 1 onwards.

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