Winchester Poetry Festival 2016 reveals a star-studded line-up, plus a major new international poetry competition!

At a special launch event, chairman Stephen Boyce announced that poets Simon Armitage, Sinead Morrissey, Roger McGough andBernard O’Donoghue will attend the Festival, which features around 40 poets and speakers.

Advance booking for tickets opens on Monday 25 April 2016, for more than 26 events, readings and workshops, of which eight are free

This is the second Winchester Poetry Festival and takes place across three days from October 7-9 with an innovative programme, unique new commissions and special anniversary commemorations.


Specially commissioned work is a highlight of the Festival. Simon Armitage has been invited to write a new poem, which will be showcased for the first time in the Festival brochure. Armitage will be talking at the Festival about his unique collaboration with stonecutter Pip Hall onStanza Stones, a site-specific art installation along the Pennine Way.

Seven poets whose lives and imaginations have been shaped by chalk landscape of the South Downs have also been invited to contribute new poems, commissioned by the Festival and co-funded by South Downs National Park Authority.


The first Winchester Poetry Prize – an open poetry competition to be judged by the distinguished and much admired poet Mimi Khalvati, is launched in partnership with Hampshire Cultural Trust. The winning poet will win £1000. More information.


Uprisings and rebellion are commemorated this year. Some of Britain’s favourite poets have been invited to reflect on the Easter Rising (100 years ago in 1916) and the October Revolution (Russia, 1917).

And 200 years ago, John Keats took a more modest but nonetheless revolutionary decision to quit a career in medicine for a life in poetry. To celebrate this, the Festival has invited three poets to deliver journal letters reflecting on their craft, life and preoccupations. Professor Nick Roe, author of John Keats: A New Life, will also give a talk on Keats in Winchester.


The Festival features a clutch of rising stars, all with an exciting and distinctive style: Sarah Howe, winner of the latest TS Eliot prize for Loop of Jade, Helen Mort, Shazea Quraishi, Kim Moore, Kei Miller and Inua Ellams.

Sasha Dugdale also joins the team:  she was created artistic co-director in 2015. Sasha is a poet and translator, she is the acclaimed editor of Modern Poetry in Translation. 

ALSO NEW for 2016: events for children, including a ballad-writing competition.


Winchester Poetry Festival has a strong international strand. The 2016 line up includes writers whose cultural reference points include Iraq, the Caribbean, Ireland, Hong Kong, Pakistan and Nigeria. The Festival will celebrate the art of translation with a particular focus on contemporary German poetry, which includes a reading by Jan Wagner one of the most important German-language poets of his generation.

Stephen Boyce, poet and chair of Winchester Poetry Festival said today: “Our aim is to surprise and delight, so we have sought to be inventive across the entire programme. Our aim when we launched the Festival two years ago was to put Winchester on the poetry map and judging by the enthusiastic response from both audiences and poets we are doing just that. This year’s Festival is even more ambitious.”


For further information about the Festival and Competitions, please visit the Festival Website

(Pic) Simon Armitage by Paul Wolfgang Webster