Latitude embraces the poetry crowd
The Laureates of Latitude
By Linda Walker
Having rolled out the multicoloured sheep for its third successful year, the Latitude Festival has shown its determination to be known as far more than a musical festival, with literature, theatre and poetry becoming increasingly popular.
For the third year in a row Norwich based poet Luke Wright was curator and host of 2008's poetical offerings, which saw 62 poets and over 50 hours of performances in what is being hailed as the largest live poetry arena in Europe.
"In April 2006 I got an email from Tania Harrison, she's the person behind all the non-music programming here, and she said that I'd been recommended as a good person to book the poetry acts for the arena here," said Luke.
"She kind of took a huge leap of faith and she just sort of left me to get on with it really. I programmed something like 45 hours of poetry over the three days and it all went really well.
"The Poetry Tent was all pretty small back then with about 400 people and no-one really expected much they were like 'oh why are you doing poetry', but everyone really loved it.
"So we came back last year bigger and better and added the Thursday night so we had over 50 hours of poetry."
Luke himself is well established as a performer and a writer, having won the 2007 4Talent Award, hosted the Cabaret Stage at the Glastonbury Festival and successfully founding Aisle 16, a much sought after poetry collective.
In 2006, Aisle 16 were commissioned to write a show for John Betjeman's centenary celebrations.
Luke and his long time collaborator Joel Stickley also successfully performed the stage version of his first book, Who Writes This Crap?, to sell out crowds at the 2008 Pulse Festival in Ipswich.
Luke's experience and connections have opened several doors within the poetry world which have led to a number of widely-recognised names gracing the Latitude stage.
"We had some real breaks in the first years with people like Patti Smith coming to the festival and as this is the third year now I'm feeling pretty confident in my role. I don't think anyone is going to turf me out."
Luke attributes the growing success of the Poetry Arena at the festival to a number of factors, not least the general diversity of acts on offer across the entertainment board which attracts a different kind of audience.
"I think people have a lot of preconceptions about poetry and what it's all about and I think we go along way towards re-writing those.
"Of course now we've had people coming just for the poetry and it's really heartening to go onto the Latitude message boards and seeing people say that they aren't all that fussed about the music but are going to come and watch the theatre and the poetry.
"There is this imagined divide in poetry between page and stage and it is an infantile one, I mean there is good poetry and bad poetry and the very best poetry translates between page and stage.
It's standing-room only in the Poetry Tent
"That's what I think is important here. I've had people like Hugo Williams, who's won his first TS Elliot Award, and people like Carol Ann Duffy, but I've also got people like Dockers MC who has been touring with Kate Nash.
"The fact of the matter is that it is all well written and it communicates something."
Luke's position as a writer and performer gives him the advantage of being able to gain inspiration from the events of the festival, hone his performance and also push new and emerging artists such as Rose 'Ruby and her Whorses' Goddard.
He hopes that his emerging career will allow him to bring a bigger and better collection of performers to Latitude Festival 2009.
"What you saw at the Pulse Festival with Who Writes This Crap? was the first time we'd done that show and we were shocked to sell out because we were still reading through the script really.
"The show is now going to Edinburgh and I'm really excited about that - it's my big summer thing.
"I'm also spending a week of that run by doing a new show of poems. I've kind of surprised myself by doing a whole new hour of material which I'm really pleased with.
"When I come back Joel and I are hoping that some script work will come out of Who Writes This Crap? and open some doors, so fingers crossed.
"Now if I'm ever unhappy it's because I'm not writing, I just love writing and the process of writing. I mean I love performing, but performing is only great because I'm using my stuff.
"What inspires me is just the desire to communicate something."
last updated: 30/07/2008 at 17:08
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