Third festival to honour memory of Ted Hughes

By Antony Clay | 26/05/2017

Third festival to honour memory of Ted Hughes

A FESTIVAL to honour a former Poet Laureate will take place in Mexborough next month.

The third annual Ted Hughes Poetry Festival will focus on Mexborough Business Centre on College Road but satellite events will take place further afield.

The festival — which will be held between Friday, June 23, and Sunday, June 25 — will feature poets and academics discussing Hughes, who lived in Mexborough between the ages of eight and 21.

It is organised by the Ted Hughes Project (South Yorkshire) and promises something for all fans of the popular poet, who died in 1998.

Ted Hughes Project (South Yorkshire) chairperson Steve Ely said: “We have a fabulous line-up of performers and activities programmed for this year.” 

On the Friday, the headliner is poet and broadcaster Simon Armitage, professor of poetry at Oxford and Sheffield Universities.

Appearing with him will be Forward Prize-winning poet Vahni Capildeo and local poet and performer Mike O’Brien.

Saturday’s programme will be opened by poet and scholar Andy Armitage with a creative writing workshop based on the writings of Ted Hughes’s first wife, Sylvia Plath, and the Plath theme will be continued in the early afternoon by short readings from three award-winning younger female poets — Melissa Lee-Houghton, Kim Moore and Charlotte Wetton. 

After the readings the poets will be joined by Andy Armitage and American scholar Heather Clark, the world’s leading expert on Sylvia Plath whose biography of the poet will be published next year, for a panel discussion on the relevance of her work to younger women poets today.

Ms Clark will round off the Sylvia Plath Afternoon with a talk on Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.  

Creative producer Dominic Somers will lead poetry-related activities and giveaways on Mexborough High Street between 11am and 1pm and the poet, songwriter and creative writing tutor Ray Hearne will run a children’s workshop in Mexborough Library between 1pm and 3pm.

The Saturday evening session is headlined by the dub poet and social activist Linton Kwesi Johnson who will appear alongside London poets Tim Wells and Janine Booth with Middlesbrough-based folk band Peg Powler completing the bill.

The main festival weekend ends on the Sunday morning with the Ted Hughes’s Paper Round performance trail led by Steve Ely and Dominic Somers, which is based on the poet’s childhood paper round.

A number of satellite events will take place at other venues. The launch of Steve Ely’s book of poems Incendium Amoris will take place at St Laurence’s Church in Adwick-le-Street on Thursday, June 8, with readings from the writer, Chris Jones and a talk on Richard Rolle, the Hermit of Hampole by rector Ann Walton.

On Sunday, June 11, award-winning poet Helen Mort will lead a poetry walk from Denaby Ings to Sprotborough and on Saturday, July 1, poet, publisher and auteur Brian Lewis will lead a poetry and landscape event at RSPB Adwick-on-Dearne Washlands.

The festival will also have an art exhibition and competition on the Hughesian theme of transformation led by artist Peter Olding.

Mr Ely said: “This the third Ted Hughes Poetry Festival we have organised in Mexborough and we believe it will build on and surpass the achievement of the previous two, in which we programmed performers of the stature of Ian McMillan, Ian Clayton, David Morley and Ted Hughes’s daughter, Frieda. 

“Ted Hughes was one of the greatest 20th century English poets and we are proud to celebrate the fact that he was made in Mexborough, attending Schofield Street Junior School and Mexborough Grammar School, where he wrote his first poems, by developing a literary festival of national stature in the town in which he was formed as a poet.”

Tickets for the festival can be bought at

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