The festival started for me on Friday 7th September when I was invited in (the previous day) to the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire breakfast show to do a poem marking the end of their first week and to tie-in with the festival. That though was one of those evenings when I had just 45 minutes in which to write said poem. Fortunately, I had about twenty minutes before going on air to write another verse to mark the success of a local Paralympics athlete. Seemed to go well …
The festival was a mix of big names (Roger McGough, Wendy Cope, Sir Andrew Motion, John Hegley, Attila the Stockbroker and Clive James), up-and-coming names (Helen Mort, Luke Kennard and Dead Poets), local poets (Toby Wood, Keely Mills and Alex Tyler), a play around John Clare, talks, workshops and the final of the Poet Laureate of Peterborough competition.
Favourite bits? Sir Andrew Motion was really good. His new novel is a sequel to Treasure Island, with a big dollop of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness added to the mix. Clive James was brilliant and a real treat to hear him. The workshops I attended with Helen Mort and John Hegley were both very different, but both productive in their respective ways. Plus I found out one of the poets quiet liked my column ‘Pub Scrawl’ in the local pubzine ‘Rhythm and Booze’.
One poet refused to sign my copies of their books because I hadn’t bought the latest one. Fair enough, up to them, I thought. Other people (when I mentioned this) said things along the lines of grumpy old so-and-so. No, I’d respond, perhaps they think I’ll just eBay them, or maybe (as they’re getting on a bit) they can only sign so much or maybe there’s another reason. If they don’t want to sign stuff, it’s up to them. I enjoyed their event and would go to another if they ever came back, just because I’d bought the ticket does not automatically entitle me to their autograph. (You’ll note I’ve not named them).
The title of Poet Laureate of Peterborough (PLoP) was won by an old friend, Simon Stabler, and I hope he gets to do some interesting things in his year. Ten years ago I won the same title and it got me to read at a poetry festival in Oxford and write for an event in Ireland.
© Pete 'Cardinal' Cox