Ledbury Poetry Festival

REF 2021: Transforming the Reception and Aesthetics of Contemporary British Poetry

Research by the Ledbury Emerging Critics scheme has raised the profile of a range of poets and critics.

The Challenge

Until recently contemporary British poetry has suffered from a lack of diversity. Without a historically and critically alert framework for reading, BAME authors were not only underrepresented but often read in ways which perpetuated stereotypes of race and otherness. Through its research, mentoring and innovative programming, the Centre for New and International Writing has worked to change the cultural reception and publishing contexts for a wide range of BAME and women writers.

Research Action

The Centre has offered a variety of platforms that have played a central role in creating a sea-change in British poetry, its aesthetics, range and audiences. The Centre's Miriam Allott Visiting Writers Series has introduced new and world-leading poets to the UK poetry scene to produce live events as well as a digital archive of new writing and interviews with poets. It has also worked with a range of cultural organisations to develop their commissioning and programming (e.g. the Liverpool Biennial, the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival, the Ledbury Poetry Festival, and the Tate).

Working in partnerships

Two central international initiatives, driven by Rees-Jones and Parmar's research, reviewing and editing, have driven this change. The establishment of Pavilion Poetry (2014), (with Liverpool University Press), has fostered new and prize-winning writing by women from diverse backgrounds; poets have gone on to win and be shortlisted for some of the most prestigious national and international poetry prizes in Britain and the US. In turn these poets have worked nationally and internationally to develop writing in diverse communities.

Outputs and outcomes

The Ledbury Emerging Critics scheme (2017), (with the Ledbury Poetry Festival and Kings College, London) has raised the profile of a range of poets and critics, fostering creative and critical writing through reviewing, publishing and editing. Since 2017 the scheme has more than doubled the number of BAME poetry reviewers writing for national publications. In 2019, the Ledbury scheme will expand to the United States and be based for its pilot-year in Atlanta, Georgia. By working with American poetry organisations and critics, the Centre's work will expand discussions about diversity and inclusion into an international dialogue, with a view towards a rethinking of contexts for reading across the Anglophone world.

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