A History of the Poetry Festival
The genesis of Poetry-next-the-Sea occurred in 1997, when John Coleridge reasoned that an annual poetry festival on the North Norfolk coast could be a viable addition to the already established festivals at Aldeburgh and King’s Lynn, and which would also be within reach of the literary and arts audiences in Norwich and East Anglia. He enlisted the help of poet and children’s author Kevin Crossley-Holland, and together they set about assembling a committee of like-minded enthusiasts to achieve this goal.
That committee first met in September 1997. The idea was simple in its aims: primarily, to invite the best poets and speakers to Wells, and secondly, to take poets into local schools, providing workshops which would enhance the education of all children in the locality. Alan Byford set about producing a superb festival journal, Tideline; Di Griffiths created the easily-recognised PNTS logo, and under this banner the first festival was launched.
The main speaker at that 1998 Festival was Ronald Blythe and, since then, we have seen many poets frequent the stage at The Maltings: Fleur Adcock, Simon Armitage, Gillian Clarke, David Constantine, Vicki Feaver, Sophie Hannah, Matthew Hollis, Kathleen Jamie, P.J. Kavanagh, Mimi Khalvati, Hugh Lupton, Esther Morgan, Andrew Motion, Brian Patten, Jacob Polley, Jo Shapcott, Penelope Shuttle, John Siddique, Jean Sprackland, Pauline Stainer, Jon Stallworthy, Michael Symmons Roberts, George Szirtes, Hugo Williams and Kit Wright, are just a few of the names that have been drawn to the unique atmosphere at Wells; Rose Tremain, Roger Lloyd Pack, Louis de Bernières, and John Julius Norwich, amongst others, have delighted us with their literary “Desert Island Choices”. Many poets have worked within the local primary schools and Alderman Peel High School including David Mason, Tony Mitton, Coral Rumble, John Siddique, and Philip Wells.
The simplicity and purity of those initial intentions still guides the spirit behind PNTS, and we continue to strive to fulfil the aspirations of those earliest years. In 2011 we became a Charitable Trust for our work in enhancing the enjoyment of poetry within the educational establishments and the community in general.
The present committee is immensely proud of the organisation’s past achievements, and is looking forward to the 2013 Poetry-next-the-Sea Festival.