Learning from Ledbury

April 8, 2019

How to set up a poetry festival?

Ledbury is a lively and picturesque market town, close to the Malvern Hills.  With its black and white architecture, gorgeous setting, pubs and cafes it’s a lovely place to visit.

But what makes Ledbury famous is its poetry festival.

Each July Ledbury hosts a 10 day poetry festival, with an acclaimed line up of poets from across the world. With live readings, performances, workshops, open mics, music, exhibitions, films, family events, street events and a slam, the festival brings everyone together!


In case you are inspired, and fancy establishing your town on the poetry map, we asked Ledbury Artistic Director Chloe Garner for her top tips on setting up and running a poetry festival. Here’s what she told us:


– Ask for help! Running a Festival is such a mammoth task it makes sense to share the load as widely as possible and people do like to be asked and included.


– Delegate! Give people who are willing genuine responsibility to take on useful tasks. Everyone involved in the Festival is also a potential advocate for the Festival and the more involved they are, the more enthusiastically they will spread the word.


– Accept that things will go wrong and trust that they will get sorted. Most things go unnoticed by audiences in any case. It can help stem the amount of worrying you do, if you can accept this reality.


– Look after your performers as best you can with a friendly welcome, an offer of refreshments, a thank you after the event. Travel and accommodation arrangements are extremely important, but the smaller things do make a difference. You want people to enjoy themselves.


– Make the Festival as visual and colourful as possible on the streets, in shops, in your venues, to enhance the sense of celebration and so people feel part of something special.


– Ensure you have good sound and lighting. Poets need to be able to read their texts. Sound checks are vital to ensure performers are comfortable with the microphone.


– You want people to keep coming back to your festival, so give them reasons to return by ensuring that events are friendly and welcoming and that it is easy to book and find the information they need.


– Give audiences opportunities to participate, through questions, or shared readings, or open mics, or workshops.


– Consider all the elements that frame an event. Will you offer food? How can you create the right atmosphere for the event?


– Build up a good archive of audiences enjoying themselves at your Festival for publicity. It is also important to relish those good memories!


You can find out who is appearing at this year’s Ledbury Poetry Festival here.


Let us know if you are setting up a poetry festival, no matter how small.  We can provide publicity resources and help. Check out our Poetry Toolkit for more help and inspiration.