The Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival returns for the 65th year with a poignant and diverse programme commemorating the centenary of the end of the First World War, with poetry and readings reflecting the ongoing need for peace and reconciliation – in the world, and in ourselves.

Organised by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, this year’s Poetry Festival runs from 17 – 24 June and is supported by Arts Council England as part of a wider programme of creative and community outreach events.

The festival opens on Sunday, 17th June at 7.00pm with recitals by Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack.

They will present an evening of poetry inspired by the final words printed in the First Folio of Shakespeare’s works (Cymbeline), “Washed with such a Peace”.

The programme, as well as including some Shakespeare, features old favourites as well as lesser-known works, and explores how peace can be found in different aspects of our life experience (childhood, the natural world, relationships, outlook.)

Dr. Paul Edmondson, Poetry Festival Artistic Director and Head of Research at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust said: “Poetry continues to provide peace in our broken world. We’re also marking the centenary of the death of the First World War poet, the great Wilfred Owen, so peace and reconciliation are very much the golden threads through from that time to ours: a gold we need constantly to mine, and for which we will always long.”

Other festival highlights include:

• An evening with Tony Harrison. One of the most distinguished poets of his generation, Tony’s poetry has changed the entire landscape of British poetry. Tony will be talking about his art and life – controversial, working-class and ever fresh and urgent. Signed copies of some of his books will be available to purchase.

• Of all the First World War poets, Wilfred Owen is often regarded as the one who embodied most substantially the horror and pity of the conflict. The poems that made him famous, and some of his remarkable letters, are presented in a programme devised especially for the festival by poetry expert Roger Pringle.

• Award-winning poet Alice Oswald will read her inspirational poems reflecting the music of nature. Alice was awarded the Costa Poetry Award in 2016 and, in 2017, the International Griffin Poetry Prize for her new collection, ‘Falling Awake’.

• Celebrate Midsummer’s Day with an evening of songs, poetry and merriment around the bonfire in the beautiful grounds of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Enjoy. Don’t forget to pack a picnic blanket – refreshments available to purchase.

• War Girls – a celebration of the remarkable, often deeply moving and largely unsung experiences of women in the First World War. Compiled and read by Ruth Sillers.

• Poetry Open Mic Night hosted by Wendy Freeman, an opportunity to read your own poetry, a favourite poem, or just to enjoy listening to what others present. Free admission.

• Poetry Mass in the Guild Chapel, a service of thanksgiving and Holy Communion formed around poems for peace. This special event is presented in collaboration with Coventry Cathedral. Free admission.

The Reverend Kathryn Flemming, Coventry Cathedral: “Faith and poetry are natural companions, striving to express and interpret the bigger picture of the world around us. Both touch places that the baldly factual cannot reach, so that poetry itself becomes a sort of sacrament, pointing to something beyond words.”

This year’s programme also features original works by local school children, community groups and poetry enthusiasts as part of the Black Box Poetry project supported by Arts Council England.

Over 100 young people have teamed up to create inspirational poetry through the words of peace, culminating in a performance on Saturday, 23rd June.

A new poetry competition is now open for entries. Writers of all ages are invited to honour the end of the First World War with poems on the theme of Peace and Reconciliation.

Entries must be no longer than 200 words and should fit on a single side of A4 paper. Please send entries to: Closing date is 28th May 2018.

Supported by Stratforward BID, the winning entry will receive £300 cash prize, and up to 10 runners-up will have their poems displayed in selected shop windows in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The 65th Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival runs from 17-24 June 2018. For the full programme and to book tickets, visit:

Tickets can also be purchased from any of the Shakespeare houses.

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