From Tony “Longfella” Walsh’s electrifying performance in the wake of the Manchester terrorist atrocity in May to the rise of powerfully expressive acts such as Kate Tempest, poetry is enjoying a sudden upsurge in popularity — in particular performance poetry, which is now a staple of the festival scene.
It’s partly in recognition of the poetry zeitgeist that the BBC has just announced the biggest poetry festival devoted to new work in the UK, a four-day spoken-word extravaganza at the end of September that will be centred on Hull —City of Culture 2017 — and embrace both radio and TV.
Contains Strong Language — which begins on 28th September which is National Poetry Day — will comprise more than 50 events across eight venues in Hull. There will be live broadcasts hosted by, among others, Radio 2’s Jo Whiley, 6 Music’s Cerys Matthews, John Wilson of Radio 4’s Front Row, and poet Ian McMillan, whose Friday-night Radio 3 show The Verb has become a hit with language-lovers and put many a new poetry voice on air. Kate Tempest, John Cooper Clarke and celebrated folk band the Unthanks are among the acts performing live in Hull.
“Poetry has never been more vital nor diverse,” said Jonty Claypole, the BBC’s director of arts, at the Contains Strong Language launch in London today [Monday July 24th]. “Traditional boundaries and forms of distribution are breaking down, and Contains Strong Language will capture modern poetry in all its variety — page poets, performance poets, and artists of all backgrounds experimenting and creating with the spoken word.”
The BBC has commissioned 17 poets to form “the Hull 17”, who will perform new work and feature in Stand-Up Poets on BBC2. Other TV programmes include Child In Mind, which combines the poetry of Simon Armitage with documentary footage of British mothers who have had their children taken into care; a documentary exploring the relevance of WH Auden in the 21st century; a programme celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of the ground-breaking poetry volume The Mersey Sound; and a new profile of Philip Larkin, Hull’s most famous poetry voice.
Contains Strong Language runs from Thursday 28 September to Sunday 1 October