This week, Bea Hutchings brings us a report from this year’s Torbay Poetry Festival, the end of an era. Then, looking forward, she tells us about two upcoming plays she is involved in.
The Torbay Poetry Festival 2000-2019
In the Beginning. A Brief History of The Torbay Poetry Festival.
The TPF, (Torbay Poetry Festival), began in the year 2000. William Oxley had spent the year as Poet-in-Residence for Torbay for the national Year-of-the Artist, initiated by Arts Council England, and he wanted something to round off the year. The idea of a festival seemed as good as any. During William’s year of office, which ran from 1st June 2000 to 31st May 2001, and with the help of his wife, Patricia Oxley, editor of literary magazine Acumen, he put on several events – poetry readings, poetry debates, etc, and the idea of a weekend of poetry developed into the first Torbay weekend Festival of Poetry. Nineteen wonderful years later, the Torbay Poetry Festival has sadly, like all good things, had to come to an end.
Many people described Torbay as the friendliest festival in Britain, an accolade which the committee were very proud of, and we can look back at the great achievements made during the nineteen years with a sense of enormous pride and fondness.
This Year’s Festival
The final festival, Our Swan Song, featured twenty poets, workshops, readings and a presentation on the life and works of John Betjemen. Poets and musicians Marc Woodward, Andy Woodward, and Andy Brown started off this year’s festival on Friday 18th October, with a festive array of poetry and music. Over the following two days we heard from Louisa Adjoa Parker and Alan Jenkins; Sheila Aldous; Dinah Livingstone and Michael Swan; Laura Potts and Colin Pink; Imtiaz Dharker; Pamela Williams; Danielle Hope; Nancy Mattson and Michael Bartholomew Biggs; and Anne Stewart. There were the ever-popular open mic sessions, run by me, and the Festival Challenge run by Danielle Hope and David Perman, to write a poem on a theme in 24 lines. This year, of course, the theme was Swan Song, and the challenge was won by Totnes poet Simon Williams.
I joined the committee in 2008, and this year had the honour of being judge for the Danny Pyle Memorial Competition. Danny, (1932 – 2017), served on the TPF committee from the beginning, first as secretary, then as President. He loved humorous poems. So, as a performance poet, and stand-up comedian who also loves humorous poems I had the pleasure of judging over 208 poems. If it had been 2008, I might have been worried! I also had the task of closing the very last festival…the final celebration of a wonderful event which I will never forget.
If you’d like to read a history of the Torbay Poetry Festival in greater detail, Patricia and William Oxley have written a book about it called For Poetry’s Sake. Details/ enquiries can be found at www.acumen-poetry.co.uk.
A Night At The Theatre
There are a couple of plays coming up this month in Torbay, if you are looking for a night out;
Grow Up Grandad by Gordon Steel (Directed by Jill Farrant)
A Comedy Drama: Poppy is eleven and has attitude. When she finds herself living with her cantankerous grandfather, a man she neither likes or loves, all hell breaks loose. Something of a hermit, a man living in the past who sees very little good in anything or anybody, Ken is suddenly and unexpectedly confronted by a tornado of energy who can’t sit still and asks too many questions. He is a man with no television, no computer and no patience, and while their relationship is volatile it’s also very funny and strewn with moments of real tenderness.
The Little Theatre, Torquay. Monday 11th to Saturday 16th November; 7.30 pm each night plus a Saturday matinee at 2.30 pm. Details via the box office: 01803 299 330; www.toadstheatre.co.uk
Snake in the Grass by Alan Ayckbourn (Directed by John Miles)
Two sisters, a nurse who knows too much and a father’s ghostly presence…ALL IS NOT WELL!
Palace Theatre, Paignton. Tuesday 26th to Friday 29th November, 7.30 pm each evening. You can get all the details via the Box Office: 01803 665800; www.palacetheatrepaignton.co.uk.