“If you want something badly enough, you can make it happen.” These wise words from Maggie Doyle, former Poet Laureate of Worcestershire, best describe the Worcestershire Literary Festival that is back again this year despite having no external funding. It relies solely on donations, fundraisers and other local support but regardless of this, the Festival is even bigger this year with what I can safely say was a brilliant turn out to their first event.
Filled with anticipation, the quiet descended as the Cllr Pat Agar, Mayor of Worcester, took the stage to present what was to be the opening of the Worcestershire Literary Festival 2013. The hall was filled, (no easy feat giving the size of the place) and even I with my official ‘Press’ lanyard swinging in front struggled to find a seat. After some lovely words for the Festival and a small speech from Lisa Ventura, Spoz, a former poet laureate for Birmingham, took the stage to do the final introductions and let the ‘shenanigans’ commence.
The evening started with the announcing of the Young Writers’ Competition. The theme for this year was ’13’ and there was some incredible talent on display, each child encompassing the fantastical and wonderful with often darker elements of today’s society such as the ‘workaholic fairy’ and supernatural terrorist attacks. Not to mention the horrors of being ‘at least 13!’ The imagination of their stories was superb and in the words of Cllr Pat Agar (Mayor) “If they’re doing this today, where will they be tomorrow?!“
Congratulations to Claire Spink from Worcester Sixth Form College for coming 1st in the Advanced Category with her dark alternative world where child sacrifice is merely protocol. A big well done is also in order to all runners up as well as winners in the younger categories as all their works were truly brilliant.
After all the colourful certificates and awards were presented, the focus again shifted back to the battle to become Worcestershire’s Poet Laureate. Under the bright light of the sparkling chandeliers and framed by the lavish paintwork of the ceiling, 10 poets went head to head, each reading two poems of their own composition and each hoping that that would be enough to earn them the position of next poet laureate for Worcestershire.
As reconfirmed by everyone I spoke to on the night, the talent was phenomenal, reaching way beyond the expectations of all. We got topics such as, the issue of dog muck in the countryside, the hidden secrets to a mother’s success, the difficulty of class divisions for a child and a very dark look at poverty in the 1st world. These are just snippets of some of the many brilliant poems we heard that night which were all well worth a listen.
After hearing every poet, a short break ensued for the judges to make their decision, whilst we scrambled to reach the last of the refreshments. There was a definite buzz in the air as nerves and excitement built up in a flurry. Happy chatter filled the hall as audience and performers discussed the ‘high standards’ of the evening and the undeniable ‘literary surge’ (to use the words of Maggie Doyle) that was taking place this year in Worcester. Spoz declared that he was ‘glad he wasn’t a judge, as he’d be tossing a coin by now’.
On the judges return an excited hush swept the room and the winners were announced.
2nd and 3rd place were given to Lizzie Moretti and Claire Walker whilst the all important 1st went to Tim Cranmore for his imaginative, if slightly disturbing piece on a rather cannibalistic inclined Chinese restaurant!
Congratulations again Tim. On receiving his award, and title of Poet Laureate, Tim declared he was ‘pretty speechless’ as the whole ‘surreal experience’ had left him ‘slightly boggled’.
All in all I found it to be a truly been a fantastic evening, a whirlwind of poetry and excitement that was definitely not to be missed. I managed to grab a few words with Jane, one of the judges, just before the end of the evening, who confirmed that it had been a very tough decision which had involved a ‘good intensive debate’ (and definitely no flipping of coins) where they had to consider the ‘balance of both the writing and the performing’.
To conclude the prize giving ceremony, the outgoing Worcestershire poet Laureate (Maggie Doyle) was presented with the Worcestershire Poet Laureate Emeritus award to show the appreciation from the entire WLF committee for all her sterling work over her Laureateship. Everyone agreed that we hope she will continue in this role for as long as she wishes.
Article by Kate Lakie