This is a new festival which ran over the Bank Holiday Weekend at Burley Fields Lake with a full range of music on the main stage . Performance and arts activities were provided for in a tent for poetry on each of the three days organised by Nick Short and Anna Saunders from the Cheltenham Poetry Festival. The first thing that struck me was the friendly vibe, with the majority of people camping rather than using day tickets. Inevitably ,with the weather changeable, there was the ubiquitous festival mud.
One of the pleasures of travelling further afield is taking in new performers, and one stood out as the best of Saturday night, and amongst the most exciting emerging poetic talents of the year, Joy-Amy Wigman. Flame haired and oozing attitude and personality she dominated the stage with a well rehearsed set. Toy Boys defiantly celebrated the joys of the younger man for the older woman, whilst Dismay was a brilliant satirical dissection of Fifty Shades of Grey. Joy- Amy recently came runner up to Brenda Read- Brown as poet laureate for Gloucester, 2012/13, and I am sure we will be hearing much more from her.
Dan Cooper performed a shortish set of stream of consciousness material which was a shame, as I would have liked to have heard more. Opening the evening had been Guy Williams whose material was diverse and interesting but whose set was a little unfocussed. Cookery Programmes and Porn was his best, Don’t You Hate it When That Happens overworked a nice idea.
I love poetry at Festivals. The audience will always be a mix of the curious and committed with the discipline of having to perform material which engage and delights, otherwise the audience wonders off, a test which is character building and instructive. The tent itself was about the best place to perform in, covered, warm and dry, straw ensured the floor was secure underfoot and kept the mud nicely at bay, the sound system was fine and the lights work during the day too! The roster of poetes scheduled to appear on Sunday and Monday augurs well for the commitment of the organisers to spoken word performance.