The High Wolds Poetry Festival

Last year, on Saturday 2nd October 2021, I recited some of my poetry for the first time in front of a live audience. It was a daunting experience for me; not just because it involved being on a stage, projecting my voice into a microphone in front of people, but because the words being said were my own creative works and I was nervous about whether they’d be accepted by the audience as bona fide poems! I’d only been writing for a few months so I was very much ‘testing the water’.

The High Wolds Poetry Festival, North Dalton, 2021

The occasion was the High Wolds Poetry Festival, held at North Dalton Village Hall, East Yorkshire, and having entered a poem into the Festival, based on its theme of the ‘Poetry Kitchen‘, I felt it would’ve been remiss not to have accepted the customary invitation from Festival Director Julian Woodford, for me to read my culinary piece on the day (even though the thought of doing so was far from a ‘piece of cake’!). Of course, this invitation was extended to all poets entering work into the Festival, as this is the essence of the event: It’s a wonderful opportunity for anyone who writes poems to get together and share their work with each other and the wider community. Everyone is welcomed and given the chance to have a platform, irrespective of how long they’ve been writing, or whether they’ve been published. For me, this was my first chance to share with an audience and gauge their reaction!

Poets take turns to read their work.

It was an all-day event, and my slot was in the last hour between 6-7pm. There were some excellent poems being read, among which were some from seasoned poets with several collections to their name, so as my turn became imminent, I tried very hard to block out the terrifying thought that I was about to read my poems to these people! Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was a foolish terror, as the audience were very supportive; the whole point of the event being to encourage and promote all kinds of poetry, though I imagine my apprehension was probably shared by many others taking to the stage for the first time.

As the venue was North Dalton, on the Yorkshire Wolds, I decided to read the poem I wrote about nearby Millington Dale, called ‘Blue-Sky Refuge‘ and I also threw in my climate change poem ‘On Beautiful Sky‘ for good measure. My main recital however was ‘Lemon Biscuits‘ reflecting the food-related theme of the Festival, and based on an old recipe from the East Yorkshire area, dating back to 1754. I naturally tend to write according to inspiration rather than prescription, so I had to challenge myself to come up with something especially for the event itself. I resolved to base it on my attempts to bake the said ‘lemon biscuits’ during lockdown; a baking adventure with mixed results! To my great relief, all three poems seemed to be well-received and I left the stage thinking: a)What on earth possessed me to do that in the first place?” and b)I might just be able to do that again!“.

One of the best aspects of the Festival though, is that all entrants receive publication (in print!) in The High Wolds Poetry Collection. This means that you immediately become a ‘published poet’ in the anthology, and I think it’s a brilliant way of encouraging people (such as myself) to continue writing. My copy now sits proudly on my bookshelf!

The ‘High Wolds Poetry Collection 2021
‘Lemon Biscuits’
‘Lemon Biscuits’ (illustration by Robin Dermond Horspool).

I would highly recommend The High Wolds Poetry Festival to anyone who writes or enjoys reading or hearing poetry, but particularly to budding poets who have just started writing. It’s such a supportive and encouraging community, and a vital cultural outlet for a quiet rural area such as the Yorkshire Wolds.

by Sam Bartle

See the Festival’s instagram for related images: