Poetry in Leicester



Sally Festing, chair of the Leicester Poetry Society, celebrates the city's diverse poetry scene

For the poetry-lover, Leicester is full of opportunity and its Poetry Society is a good place to begin. Leicester Poetry Society (LPS) has some fifty members, about half of whom write poems. Coming from as far as Oakham, they assemble at the Adult Education College in Wellington Street and other venues to share workshops, readings by both visiting and member poets, and other events. Two or three social occasions are held each year, at one of which they liaise with other Poetry Societies.


The Society was started in the 1950s and vitalised soon after by poet and critic George Fraser. Since then it has hosted a trail of leading poets. Building on this reputation, LPS would like to be seen as an open-minded and interactive group with interest in poetry from other cultures and some contemporary zest. Full membership of £20 (£14 concessionary and £6 associate) includes a season ticket to all events, mailings and Stanza, a termly newsletter of poems by members, reviews of readings and relevant articles. Eight of the nine committee members are published poets, several of whom have printed collections, as do other members who have produced between them twenty poetry books and pamphlets. At workshops participants have the opportunity to read aloud and discuss each others' poems.


Following the AGM on 16 September, there will be seven workshops each term. Dates for Autumn will be 23, 30 September, 14, 28 October, 4, 18 November and 2 December. On 14 October, Philip Draycott, who has lectured in media studies and directed television programmes, will be interviewed for Desert Island Discs. On 11 November, Jack Mapanje, the Malawian poet, linguist, educationist and human rights activist will give a reading in the Clephan Building at De Montfort University and on 9 December, Alice Beer, Tim Jones and D.A. Prince will take part in a Members' Reading.


Other events for the forthcoming 2005/6 academic year include an open poetry reading on 17 March 2006 that will feature as a part of the Leicester Comedy Festival. On 13 January, Adrian Buckner, editor of Poetry Nottingham, will read with Rob Evans, a member of Late Shift which has given performances at the Edinburgh Festival. And on 17 March, Daljit Nagra will read in Belgrave library. All events start at 7.30pm except workshops which start at 7pm. From time to time LPS, like Soundswrite, produces anthologies of members' work. For more information see poetryleicester.co.uk which contains also the last five issues of Stanza.

Elswhere, Mehfil-E-Shayeri says "come along to St Barnabas Library in French Road on the first Saturday of every month to experience multi-lingual poetry from across Leicester's communities. Poets who write in any language can come along and share their work" – contact Inderjit Gugnani on 0116 2995450.


Performance-orientated groups in the city include Complex Trout, a Midlands-based group of poets and comedians led by experienced community artist and workshop leader, Steve Carroll. Its aim is to bringing quality acts to the stage and warm-up audiences, preparing them for participating in events. Word, which takes place on the first Wednesday of every month with a headline act and open mic is held at Bambu Bar, Welford Road and organised by Complex Trout and Apples&Snakes. Silver Tongues is a small, intimate poetry night on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month at the Black Horse Pub, Braunstone Gate. For these and smaller poetry groups and events please contact Damien Walter, City Literature Officer 0116 2527347 or [email protected]


Soundswrite is a Leicester-based open forum for women who enjoy all aspects of poetry. Participants meet fortnightly at Vaughan College to discuss poetry, share their own writing, take turns leading workshop activities etc. Soundswrite was formed in 2000, and will shortly launch its first anthology, under its own imprint Soundswrite Press. For further details email [email protected]


Leicester Adult Education College in Wellington Street (01162 334343) and Vaughan College (1162 517368) run both day-time and evening courses in poetry and creative writing. De Montfort University's first-year literature incorporates creative writing and the Department of Humanities run an open Cultural xChange week of lively, informative and sometimes controversial arts talks and readings in February/March. This always includes poetry.

No magazines or small presses are based in Leicester City although there are a number with whom the Leicester poetry community have close links, notably Poetry Nottingham, Poetry Monthly, The Coffee House and Staple magazines. Shoestring and Leafe Press publish many Leicestershire poets.


For updates about creative literature email the word "Leicester" to: [email protected]. For a new enterprise covering Leics, Derby & Nottingham, look at www.threecitiescreate.org.uk. Pick up copies of Wordstar from local libraries or search the web at www.Leicester.gov.uk/libraries.