New festival for free and easy Teignmouth


- Credit: Archant

Teignmouth is rapidly becoming the place to be for all things artistic. There’s yet more proof later this month, when the first ever Teignmouth Poetry Festival gets under way.

Driving force behind it is Ronnie Aaronson, who says poetry has become a big part of the town’s Arts scene. “A Spring poetry festival will be an annual event from now on. We are already looking towards 2018, the 200th anniversary of John Keats coming to live in Teignmouth. This first festival is a path-finding experience - each year it will grow bigger and better.”

Over a long weekend, 21st – 23rd March, some top names on the poetry scene will deliver their work to audiences hungry for entertainment and – perhaps – some thoughtful poetic enlightenment. In the best tradition of festivals, there will be fringe events too, including an art exhibition, music and story-telling.

Brian Patten, poetic superstar and leading light of the ‘60s Mersey Sound, will kick-start the festivities on a Friday all-ticket reading at the town’s Teign Heritage Centre.

Saturday’s readings begin at 3pm in the Heritage Centre with a free non-ticket event – students from the town’s secondary schools will present work written as part of a recent poetry project. That’s followed at 4 o’clock by Roselle Angwin, one of Devon’s best known and respected writers and writing tutors. After presenting her own poetry she will host a question and answer session with an audience treated to tea and cake.

Saturday evening sees two more special events in the Teign Heritage Centre. First, an innovative session where ten readers will present poems in other languages: Welsh, Finnish and Chinese are included, as well as the more common European languages. Translations will be provided, the organisers promise! Later that evening, Andy Brown, a nationally recognised poet and Director of Creative Writing at Exeter University, will read a selection of work from his acclaimed poetry collections.

On Sunday afternoon there’s a chance for local and visiting poets to entertain a café audience in an open-mic event at the Oystercatcher, in Teignmouth’s Northumberland Place. MC Ian Chamberlain says, “We’re expecting the Oystercatcher to be packed for the 3.30 start - it’s a great opportunity for Festival people to present their own poetic work in this free-and-easy setting.”

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Some places in that open-mic session have been reserved for people who take part in the two poetry workshops included in the festival. On Saturday morning, 22nd March, Ian Chamberlain will lead a dozen writers in a 2½ hour workshop entitled ‘Sunflowers in December’. He says, “I’m aiming to encourage a late flowering from baby-boomers, and a blast of digitally-enhanced colour from Generation Y. People who don’t accept labels of any sort will be specially welcome!” Well-known Devon poet Jennie Osborne is running the Sunday morning workshop with the theme, ‘Rifling the Memory Chest‘. She will encourage her fellow writers “to look into their own store of scents, clothes, songs, toys… So many aspects of our lives have hidden stories to tell,” she says.

Ronnie Aaronson explains her determination to get the festival up and running: “I rediscovered a need for poetry when I settled in South Devon - I wanted poetry in my life and on my doorstep, so I started to do something about it. We set up ‘Poetry Teignmouth’ a year ago, just a low-key group of enthusiasts, but the interest grew and grew. Within a few months it seemed obvious that Teignmouth needed a poetry festival as a natural extension to its other Arts-based events.”

Fringe activities include a free ‘Unravelling Hearts’ session of music, poetry and story-telling on Sunday evening, 23rd March, 7pm at TAAG, the Teignmouth Arts Action Group HQ in Northumberland Place.

And for two weeks around the festival, the TAAG gallery will be exhibiting artwork related to poetry and literature, some of it showcasing more work from local secondary schools. And on Friday 28th March, an evening of poetry in the gallery will celebrate the way that poets can be influenced by art – and how visual artists can respond to the written word.

Major events are by advance ticket only – 07815 112535 for ticket sales and information.

For more details download the brochure from the website: . Or call Ian on 01626 773093, or Ronnie on 07815 112535. Leaflets also available from TAAG, Oystercatcher Café, Teignmouth TIC and many South Devon libraries, cafés and galleries.