Get your cultural fix at the returning Poetry & Lyrics festival; a celebration for music and poetry lovers alike

Words Helen Brown

Poetry is intricately woven within our country’s rich culture. Throughout history we have told stories in verse and song. We have contemplated global experiences and explored political matters; all with a rhythm and a rhyme.

Poetry & Lyrics is an annual festival curated and produced by Poet in the City, an artistic associate at Kings Place. This year it takes place on 9th and 10th June. It highlights how poetry, literature, music and song have been interlaced throughout the past, and how they continue to interact in contemporary culture.

Over two days, Poetry & Lyrics will bring together music and poetry lovers alike in a celebration of the interplay between these art forms. The festival offers a blend of voices, from poets and spoken-word artists to talented advocates of folk, roots and experimental music. Last year’s inaugural Poetry & Lyrics Festival included events hosted by Cerys Matthews, Steve Lamacq and Dizraeli. This year’s event will continue to invite new audiences to experience the power of live performance. It’s sure to challenge your perceptions about contemporary music and verse.

2017 HIGHLIGHTS

Headlining this year’s Poetry & Lyrics are two iconic voices, who will be sharing a stage for the first time. PJ Harvey and Don Paterson are united by a shared passion for poetry and music. On Friday they will come together for an enthralling evening of readings and conversation. The inimitable Murray Lachlan Young will then be taking the helm on Saturday evening. Expect a showcase of his favourite poets and musicians.

Throughout the weekend festival-goers will be invited to examine the origins of song and language. It also provides a platform to discover new talent. From dynamic British poet Kayo Chingonyi to storyteller and songwriter Kristin McClement. Also new for 2017 are two innovative, immersive events which promise to draw you into a new “soundscape”.

We chatted to Festival Director and CEO of Poet in the City, Isobel Colchester, to discover where it all began…

How and why was Poetry & Lyrics started?

In today’s society we are often asked to make sometimes unnatural categorisations to help us to understand ideas. But when it comes to poetry and music, you will rarely find one without the other going back through history. This felt like an utterly cavernous opportunity to explore and so we decided to begin celebrating it on a festival platform.

What do you aim to get out of the festival this year?

The idea is to bring together people with very different interests and encourage them to try something new. This is one of the biggest challenges in a festival involving such an eclectic mix, and we’d love to see more crossover this year. 

Last year we started by looking at the very beginning of the story of poetry and lyrics and what it means to think about the two together. This year we’re going deeper and looking more specifically at how this story has played out for individual poets and musicians.

What has attracted you to the acts performing this year and how do you select them?

As part of a collaboration with the very excellent Nest Collective, we’ll be uncovering how ancient dialects and stories have informed contemporary folk and poetry. This idea of the origins of language is an important one for us this year. Our event on Cage’s Songbooks with Elaine Mitchener is another interesting opportunity to experience language at its limit. The Afrikan Revolution take this to another extreme with a riot of political storytelling and completely wild celebration spanning the African diaspora.

We’re sandwiching these stories with two headline events which platform celebrated contemporary poets. Don Paterson and PJ Harvey will be looking at the craft of words and their artistic journeys. Murray Lachlan Young will then nose around in the practice of the famed lyricist Don Black.

9th and 10th June, King’s Place; kingsplace.co.uk

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