Stamford Arts Centre's fifth festival of poetry and spoken word

It is in the interest of safety and all of our audiences, poets and staff wellbeing concerning Coronavirus (COVID-19),  SKDC have taken the decision to close Stamford Arts Centre until 1 June, and therefore Verse Festival 2020 has been cancelled.

 We are so sad to see it go, this would have been Stamford's fifth festival of poetry and spoken word, and early sales were better than they have ever been. Verse will be back, so keep an eye on our social media for updates, until then we apologise for the inconvenience, but believe it is in the best interests of all.

29 April – 3 May 2020

Verse Festival returns once again this April as Stamford continues to establish itself on the UK Poetry scene. There are lots of great events and workshops taking place across the weekend in the Arts Centre and around the town.

At the Arts Centre, there’s a collection of incredible poets taking to the stage in the theatre and Cellar Bar, as well as music in the ballroom.

Around the town, they’ll be some great workshops in the newly launched Stamford Contemporary Arts Gallery on Maiden Lane. Join us for poetry readings and requests hosted by Richard Barter at the gorgeous Walkers Bookshop, on Sat 2 May from 11am to 2pm. Plus, back by popular demand, Desert Island Poems will be in the Stamford Library on Fri 1 May at 4pm and Sat 2 May at 12.20pm – a superb way to spend the afternoon.

Join Stamford Sights and Secrets Tours as they team up with some fantastic local poets for a 90 minute guided walking tour, you’ll be well-versed and entertained as they bring history to life with the revealing history behind Stamford’s most fascinating doors. Starting from Stamford Arts Centre, Entrances and Exits walking tours will meet Wed 29 Apr at 11am and Sun 3 May at 1pm.

Headline acts include the irrepressible Luke Wright performing his new show Luke Wright, Poet Laureate – Luke is on a mission to write poems to unite a nation divided by austerity and Brexit, asking the question of whether one poet can represent an entire nation. A Fringe First and Stage Award winner, Wright is truly a wordsmith and raconteur at the top of his game and will be performing in the theatre on Thurs 30 April at 7.30pm.

The Arts Centre Ballroom will be jumping on Friday night to the tunes of Band of Burns…a 10 piece folk line up performing the ballads of Rabbie Burns, expect pipes, kilts and a bit of a hoolie! A truly fantastic ensemble that are sure to get your feet stomping and the chandeliers shaking, this is one party you won’t forget!

UK poetry favourite Mark Grist will be bringing his children’s show Down with the Poetry King to the Cellar Bar on Sat 2 May at 2pm. Featuring odes to stinky pirates, deadly mouthwash and some very silly sheep, the show is jam-packed full of rhymes, games & audience interaction & has a narrative that’s shaped by you as an audience. It’s the perfect treat for all the family. Plus, don’t forget to make your crown to wear for the show at the Poetry King/Queen Workshop – led by poet Sally Mitchell, this workshop is fun and creative and open to all. No experience in poetry or being royal necessary, just pop to the Stamford Contemporary Arts Gallery at 11am to join in the fun!

Mark the Storyteller has arrived in Stamford because this is where the imps live, along with a wolf, trolls, giants, wizards and a goblin ice cream maker! Mark will be telling original stories and traditional tales for younger children (aged 3-6) in the Stamford Library from 11am on Sat 2 May. He’ll also be in Walkers Bookshop later on in the day with stories suitable for older children (5-11) or for anyone who enjoys a good tale or two.

There’s lots of local talent to come along and support across the festival. Sandy Wardrop brings a half an hour of his work-in-progress show The Unspoken Word Show to the Cellar Bar on Sat 2 May at 5pm. His show explores things we’d rather not say out loud through the medium of (hastily and rhythmically typed) stand-up and poetry. Then why not join Georgie Jones in the theatre from 6pm for her show ish - Laced with warmth and hilarity, ish is part party, part epic poem. Spoken word, stand up and storytelling are set to a soundtrack of nostalgic 90’s bangers in celebration of the simultaneously grotesque and glorious experience that is womanhood.

Our headline Saturday night act is the brilliant Hollie McNish, winner of the Ted Hughes award and a huge star on the UK spoken word scene. With fans ranging from Emma Watson, Pink and Benjamin Zephaniah, her readings are not to be missed! Hollie takes to the stage, supported by local poet Sally Mitchell, on Sat 2 May at 8pm.

New to Verse 2020, visit our Verse Poetry Pop-Up shop, based in the Stamford Contemporary Arts Gallery on Maiden Lane, where you can find poetry on prescription! Whether you are suffering from the stresses of the modern world or the pain of a broken heart or simply need a tonic for the spirits, rest assured that our resident Dr Poet will have a poetic remedy for you!

Our headline Sunday night is Martin Figura with his show Doctor Zeeman’s Catastrophe Machine at 7.30pm, with support from Mike Alderson. Figura comes to terms with love, loss and when to let go in a witty and moving theatrical performance fusing words, sounds and visuals - He turns to mathematics guru Sir Christopher Zeeman’s iconic machine, the moon and photographs to see if there’s a mathematical equation for love and the behaviour of a beating heart.

As always, we aim to offer something for everyone with plenty of fringe events to enjoy across the festival. You can explore the Poetry of Iberia and Latin America whilst drinking Rioja in Stamford Wine Bar on Thursday. Or why not come along and enjoy afternoon tea with Wendy Cope in our gallery on Sunday with a seriously good ironic moan about life’s little irritations.

Combining the macabre with the mundane, join published poet, illustrator and writer, Melody Clark in the Stamford Contemporary Arts Gallery. Her workshop, The Spectres under the Kitchen Sink promises to exorcise the demons of dull poetry workshops!

Not to forget, on Friday 1 May there’s also screenings of two of the best films about poetry in recent years with A Quiet Passion (12A) at 2pm and Neruda (15) at 8pm – with tickets just £5 for each film!

Stamford punches well above its weight within the poetry world and with this line up it’s not hard to see why…

Book Tickets

  • Wed 29 April -3 May

Lots of poetry themed events taking place in the Arts Centre and all across town!

Click on the links for more information on individual events


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