A Festival for Poetry – and So Much More

photo of Shirley Wright speaking at the opening ceremony with Debbie Young

Shirley Wright praises the village school’s Poetry Anthology at the opening ceremony (Photo by Angela Fitch)

Award-winning Shirley Wright, who has been part of every HULF to date, added another win to her name when she made a welcome return this year. Inspired by her enthusiasm and support, and her skill for making poetry accessible to everyone, we have expanded the poetry element since the Festival’s inception, and this will continue next year. Now read on to share her experience of HULF 2019, including our first ever Poetry Slam.


April 2019 saw me heading back to Hawkesbury Upton to take part in my fifth HULF. I’ve been so privileged to be involved since the very beginning, watching as it’s grown and flourished under the indefatigable leadership of Debbie Young.

Launch of School Poetry Anthology

One of this year’s innovations was the village school’s Poetry Anthology, containing a poem from every single child at the school. I was lucky enough to be asked by Debbie to write a Foreword to the book and to say a few words at the launch, first thing on Saturday morning. So … note to self, don’t be late. So … I arrive ridiculously early! But this gave me the chance for a proper annual catch up with people I only see at HULF, to down a coffee or two, sort out what to do with my own books, get a programme for the day and get my head sorted before the proceedings began!

photo of small boy proudly reading his poem

A young pupil at Hawkesbury Primary School proudly reads his poem to the Festival crowd (photo by Angela Fitch)

After a quick few words from me on why I was deeply impressed with the poetry collection, it was lovely to hear some of the children read their poems out loud to the gathered crowd. You could spot the mums and dads from the width of the grins on their faces! What an inspirational, inclusive project, proving that everyone can write poetry and that it’s an uplifting thing.

Then to the events of the day. Inspired by the above, I started by going to the children’s writing session and listening to authors talk about and read extracts from their fiction for children. Then more coffee and cake. There’s always plenty of good food and home cooking at HULF – something not to be taken lightly!

Poetry Workshop

My poetry workshop later in the morning was full of eager writers. We started by chatting  about climate change and how this urgent topic could best be conveyed through poetry. Then everyone settled down to writing acrostics on the theme. As always, some fabulous poems emerged from the session and everyone had something to take away with them to think about or to work on at home.

Poetry Slam

After lunch (good soup!) I took part in another HULF innovation for 2019 – the first ever Poetry Slam. We had a good, appreciative audience, and lots of participants. As Slams ought to be, it was fun, competitive and well organised. (Read judge Barry Faulkner’s entertaining take on the Poetry Slam in his post here – an experience that has now got him hooked on reading poetry!)

Beyond Poetry

But HULF is about more than poetry. There’s all the things I haven’t mentioned – art exhibitions, talks, readings and discussion groups in venues all around the village on topics such as non-fiction, historical fiction, favourite authors …

And the focus every time is on the festival-goers rather than the invited guests, about inclusiveness and genuine interest from everybody.

Can’t wait for next year!


Shirley Wright’s Books

cover of Sticks and Stones by Shirley Wright

Shirley Wright’s latest poetry collection

Shirley Wright has published two poetry collections and a novel:

  • The Last Green Field and Sticks and Stones – poetry collections published by Indigo Dreams
  • Time Out of Mind – a ghost story published by Thornberry

You can buy them all from Amazon here.

 

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