While we’ll be revealing the programme for our next StAnza festival later this month, our sister festival in Aldeburgh starts later this week. We’re delighted to be sharing this message from their new Festival Director, Ellen McAteer, for whom this will be her first festival in post.
I left Scotland to take over the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival just after a revolution. At least that’s how it felt to be there during the referendum, whatever the result and whatever you voted for. People were speaking up for what they believed in. They were exercising their right to freedom.
At last year’s Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, Kathleen Jamie broke the silence on what had happened in Scotland the month before by reading a series of poems on what the year leading up to the referendum had meant for her. She left the crowd cheering by pointing out that those in England had the same freedom to express their concerns to Westminster: ‘that was just a bunch of sweaty overexcited jocks,’ she joked, ‘imagine what you can do!’
A year later and the 27th Aldeburgh Poetry Festival is upon us, with a theme of Poetry and Freedom. There will be a good representative number of Scots born, raised and by adoption there – John Burnside, Kei Miller, Gerry Loose, Morven Gregor, Christie Williamson, Anna Crowe, Hazel Frew, JL Williams – and course Jim Carruth is shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize – the first Scottish poet published by a Scottish publisher to be so, as far as I know! But there will also be voices for freedom from across the UK and around the globe: Mexican poet Pedro Serrano, Kurdish poet Choman Hardi, Jane Duran from Cuba via Canada, Kim Addonizio and Tony Hoagland from the US, and Valerie Rouzeau from France, as well as YouTube sensation and speaker on freedoms from immigration to breast feeding Hollie McNish, and speaker in various tongues Zaffar Kunial. Joanne Limburg will be turning children and adults Bookside Down, Dorothea Smarrt will be telling tales of ‘queer goings on’, Jack Rooke will be putting the ‘good’ back into ‘grief’ and Jeremy Reed will be keeping it rock and roll.
This has been a year of terrifying freedom and change at the Poetry Trust, and the outcome of the consequent revolution is still to be decided. Come and join the conversation. Vote with your feet. There will be debates, discussions and an open mic – we are all about freedom of speech this year. From across the (un-)United Kingdom and further borders drawn and re-drawn, a gathering of poets will come to the Suffolk Coast on November 6th-8th to demonstrate that poetry IS freedom, in its purest expression.
Aldeburgh Festival Director