Stratford Poetry Festival promises rap, space and the Bard

Actors Paapa Essiedu and Natalie Simpson, pictured in the RSC’s recent Hamlet, and rapper Juice Aleem, inset, will take part in the 63rd Stratford Poetry Festival

THE UK’s longest-running poetry festival returns to Stratford from Sunday, 18th September, with a line-up of readings, performances and workshops featuring world-class poets and artists.

Organised by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the 63rd Stratford Poetry Festival celebrates 400 years of Shakespeare’s creative legacy with a programme of contemporary, diverse and inspirational poetry. Highlights include readings from acclaimed Shakespearean actors Paapa Essiedu and Natalie Simpson (recently seen at the RSC as Hamlet and Ophelia), an experimental evening of hip-hop, poetry and performance with Birmingham-based rapper Juice Aleem, and bookbinding and creative writing workshops. There will also be a poetry choir with a programme of classical and contemporary choral work, an open-mic night, and a cheese and wine evening with readings from Venus and Adonis in Shakespeare’s Schoolroom.

Children and the young at heart can also join in the fun, with a lively, ‘intergalactic’ musical poetry workshop featuring Shakespeare in Space. Poetry can happen anywhere, at any time. This year, ten world-class poets have been invited to be poets-in-residence at venues across Stratford as part of the Unexpected Encounters programme. Supported by Arts Council England and the Danish Arts Council, Unexpected Encounters features a diverse range of distinguished poets including Jo Bell, Matt Black, Roy McFarlane, Gregory Leadbetter and Arjunan Manuelpillai, taking inspiration from observations and interactions with people and their surroundings to produce new pieces. Special guest poet-in-residence, in partnership with Hosking Houses Trust, is Danish poet Cindy Lynn Brown, who will be writing poems inspired by Hamlet. At the end of the festival the poets will perform their work and share experiences at a special showcase evening on Saturday, 24th September.

Dr Paul Edmondson, poetry festival director and head of research at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said: “We’re really excited by the variety and diversity of this year’s programme, bringing a fresh, contemporary approach to poetry for the enjoyment of people of all ages.

“Featuring works by established artists alongside plenty of new writing from up and coming talents, there will be plenty of opportunity for people to take inspiration and try their hand at creative writing. We look forward to welcoming people from near and far to enjoy this fantastic celebration of poetry in the hometown of one of the greatest poets of all.” WHERE & WHEN: The 63rd Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival runs from Sunday 18th to Sunday, 25th September. For tickets, visit