Kendal Poetry Festival (2021)

Like a lot of festivals in 2020/2021, Kendal Poetry Festival moved online. This allowed for a much bigger festival (spread out over 9 days instead of the usual 3, and with increased audience capacity). But it also meant it was harder to get that feeling of connection that so often comes with a poetry festival. That real-world presence. That sense of being there and in the mix and physically part of something.

Enter: guerrilla poetry.

Festival Survival Kits

I created Survival Kits for Kendal Poetry Festival back in 2018, which were distributed during the festival weekend. This year, the Survival Kits were bigger, more extravagant, and sent out via post – to the first 200 UK-based people to book a ticket.

The idea was that the kit contained everything you’d need to keep you going during the festival:

  • Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake (for energy)
  • a Farrer’s teabag (in case all that cheering leaves you thirsty)
  • a plaster (for those sharp rhymes)
  • a badge (of honour, naturally)
  • and an exclusive copy of the Festival Pamphlet (for a little extra reading in the downtime)

The Festival Survival Kit was funded by the Hadfield Trust and Arts Council England, with sponsorship from Farrer’s and Romney’s. We’re also very grateful to the Hadfield Trust and the family of Alan Forsyth, for funding the Festival pamphlet.

The pamphlet contains work by members of Dove Cottage Young Poets, by the Festival’s Young Artist in Residence, and by Alan himself. Alan was a much loved and respected local poet and artist who was passionate about the creativity of young people and putting poetry in unexpected places. We hope he would approve of this pamphlet, and our wider Guerrilla Poetry Project, with its focus on putting poetry at the heart of Kendal Town Centre.

Copies of the Festival pamphlet were sent out in all the Festival Survival Kits.

Poems around Town

As well as sending poetry goodies through the post, I also put poems up around town. Again, these were poems by young Cumbrian writers, and they were displayed in the downstairs of Westmorland Shopping Centre, outside the library, and in windows of Kendal businesses. The installation also featured a window of poems created by students at Queen Elizabeth School, Kirkby Lonsdale.

There’s something about the festival being almost entirely digital which somehow made it feel even more important to give the poems a physical presence in and around town. A way of connecting, despite everything.

The poems were on display for two weeks, from 16th February – 2nd March.