Words in the City

Words in the City Coordinator, Jenny Harris, shares her experiences of the weekend.

Early June saw us heading to Bradford City Centre for a second edition of our new poetry weekend, Words in the City. We were sad to miss the Curry Festival this year, which was postponed, but it’s always a real treat to head to Bradford, with its amazing spaces. Alongside the popular City Park, with its stunning water feature, you have one of the most beautiful bookshops in the country, housed in the former Wool Exchange and the Grade 1 listed City Hall, with its Florentine-inspired clock tower. There’s also a new and well-used library in City Park and the beautiful Impressions Gallery with whom we worked for the first time this year.

One of the great things about a weekend dedicated to poetry and spoken word is that we can bring living legends to the city, and at the same time showcase local established and emerging talent. It was a great honour to welcome Tony Harrison, who has a real affinity with Bradford and was very happy to visit despite ill health. We also enjoyed a spread of local poets, including the Beehive Poets and even a reading by the Watersone’s manager Ian! A new find for me however was the musician Malaika Shaw who performed as part of the house band in the Sunday Practise and blew us all away with her beautiful voice. She’s currently on tour with Jamie Cullem in Canada and is clearly one to watch. The Sunday Practise was a reminder, if we needed one, of the power and urgency of poetry’s younger voices and it was great to welcome The Practise to their first gig in Bradford.

Of course, outdoor events are always subject to the whims of British weather and this year was no exception! After a busy Friday in City Park for our drop in poetry activities as part of the BBC’s Music Day, we awoke on Saturday to dangerously blustery wind and marquee on the verge of flight! Fortunately most of our activity could be relocated to our accommodating venue partners, and we were able to reinstate the marquee on Sunday as a beautiful cloud landscape for more drop in family poetry.

This year’s poetry slam saw a range of talented voices take the stage with Chijioke Ojukwu and Patricia Dillon winning first prize and runner up respectively. They will now be performing their word at the Festival in October.

So, on to planning for next year and lots for us to think about in terms of developing Words in the City and our links with poets and spoken word performers in the city. If you have any thoughts do let us know.