Litton Poetry Festival – small but perfectly formed

364742_0_john-hegley_400The tiny village of Litton is staging its first poetry festival this weekend.

It has being billed as possibly the smallest poetry festival ever held but even so it has some mighty names taking part.

Headlining last night was John Hegley with three Derbyshire Poet Laureates, and Nell Farrell, Kathy Towers and Conor O’Callaghan.

The village was buzzing with festival fever early in the evening as the event was launched at the village hall opposite the green and then everyone walked the short distance to the village church for the performance.

It was a true community event – at the launch there was a flashmob poetry performance by Derbyshire’s poet Laureate Matt Black with children from the primary school and at the end of the evening a very special soundscape incorporating poetry read by villagers was premiered in the garden of the church. It was a magical event made even more special by the falling darkness, the Peak District hills surrounding us and the flickering candlelight in the church grounds. The soundscape can be heard all day today at the church.

The poetry in the church a little earlier was just as evocative and John Hegley lived up to his reputation and relished performing to the small audience – one of the best things about the show was the sense of a communal experience.

Hegley stamped his personality all over the show and his gentle humour and good natured banter charmed those in the pews.

There was plenty of audience participation and at the end a Q&A session which prompted some inquiries to which he always had a witty response.

He was nobly supported by the three former poet laureates who each had their own distinctive styles.

O’Callaghan kept it brief and had to be forced back on stage to give us a second poem for an encore; Nell Farrell gave us among others A Drink With Camus After the Match and Chaos Pussy Boy Wrecks the Shed – both taking a wry look at everyday life and Kathy Towers read ten short poems on the theme of flower remedies for everyday maladies.

The poetry festival is the brainchild of the current Derbyshire Poet Laureate Matt Black, Rosie Ford, who lives and writes in Litton and Conor who is a Sheffield poet.

They wanted to stage the event in memory of Ann Atkinson, a former Derbyshire Poet Laureate, who died of a brain tumour just over a year ago and was a close friend of Rosie.

They have gained support from Derbyshire Arts and the Kitley Trust and other people have donated funds and practical assistance to get it off the ground. It is now officially part of the Buxton Fringe Festival.

Today there will be a poetry book swap in the village hall between 10am and 11am and a bookstall until 2pm.

For those interested in performing there will be a free session plus an open mic in the church from 11am until noon.

There will be a Write and Walk session with Chris Jones between 11am and 1pm and the film Bright Star – the story of  the romantic relationship between John Keats and Fanny Brawne – will be shown in the village hall at the same time.

The afternoon has been set aside for a variety of workshops including a ‘starting to write’ session with Nell Farrell in the village hall and a poetry and performance session with Mark Gwynne Jones in the church.

The three Poet Laureates, Matt, River Wolton and Cathy Grindrod will be taking centre stage between 7.30pm and 9.30pm and the evening will be rounded off with a ceilidh with the band Fine Fettle.

On the final day of the festival tomorrow Sunday there will be a poetry grand slam and bookstall in the village hall from 10.30-noon.

There is plenty for youngsters to do on Saturday with a children’s workshop and monster workshop with David Harmer at the village school between 2.30pm and 4pm and children’s poetry reading between 4 and 4.30pm.

There is also a poetry session for toddlers between 11am and noon on a special bus being provided by Andrews of Tideswell.

There are refreshments available and pubs in the village but you are able to take your own alcohol along to the evening events.

For more information go to