Review: Southampton Literature Festival, MAST Mayflower Studios, March 10-12

Review: Southampton Literature Festival, MAST Mayflower Studios, March 10-12

by Anita Foxall.

Southampton has a Literature Festival, and it was brought to the MAST Mayflower Studios by ArtfulScribe, with the support of Arts Council England and University of Southampton. The festival took place between the 10th and the 12th of March and was organised by ArtfulScribe’s poet/producer Antosh Wojcik, who doubtlessly put together a weekend of literary brilliance.

Friday evening, the opening of the festival, started with ‘Keynote: Writing from the Outside In’ which saw guests Dr Sarah Hayden, Professor Pete Middleton and Professor Will May each chose a writer who they thought had potentially not received the attention they had deserved: these were Mina Loy, Allen Fisher and Stevie Smith respectively.

The presentations and insights into these writers lives and work were wonderfully compelling and surely raised an interest in reading them.

Antosh Wojcik

This was followed by the Derek Jarman Anthology launch, which is a collaborative project led by editor Joanna Barnard, where local poets and writers wrote pieces in response to Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature, a book in diary format about his garden and meditation on his own life.

Some of the pieces followed a similar diary format, but there were also stories and poems.

Friday evening finished with a Cabaret, combining theatre, music, poetry and comedy in a burlesque mood.

Saturday, the 11th of March, started with three exceptional masterclasses: Writing Personal Metaphors with Kandace Siobhan Walker, Writing Sonnets with Anthony Joseph (pictured top) and How to Play a Poem Like a Song with Tongue Fu.

Sadly, I was unable to attend them all, but had the incredible honour of taking part in the Sonnet Writing masterclass facilitated by Anthony Joseph, the 2022 TS Eliot prize winner. He guided us through the history of the sonnet, its structure, and rules, then on the second half of the workshop we wrote sonnets together, firstly as a group and then in pairs.

Saturday evening was performance time, with a Write a Note Showcase and Tongue Fu. As organiser and host of Write a Note, I felt incredibly flattered to be invited to take part in the festival by bringing some of the regular poets to have an actual space to perform and demonstrate their talent. My invited poets were: Emma Bailey, Harley Truslove, Jo Fisher, Ri Baroche and The Village Boy, and they were absolutely outstanding.

Tongue Fu followed straight after, and if you have never attended a Tongue Fu show this is what you should expect: there are three national poets and two local poets, who are invited to read poems as the band improvise music to go with the theme or mood of the poem that is going to be read. At national level we had Kareem Parkins-Brown, Cecilia Knapp and Anthony Joseph, and the local poets were Lawrence Nicholas and Carrie Mishkin, who were absolutely incredible and surely made a widely positive impression on everybody. I am also proud to say that both Lawrence and Carrie have been regular Write a Note poets.

Sunday started with another masterclass, Translating Poetry: Aims into Practice by Mamata Nanda, and the day continued with showcases by the ArtfulScribe writing groups. They performed in age order, so the event started with the junior writers group delighting everybody with a piece they worked together, with guidance and support of  Susmita Bhattacharya. The other groups followed: the young writers, writing for page and stage and So:Write Women.

There was so much to attend and enjoy over this weekend, but the most impressive was certainly how the community was invited to take part and be actively involved. ArtfulScribe are brilliant all year round supporting and encouraging anyone who wants to write and create together, and this weekend enabled these groups to show how much was achieved. 

Antosh Wojcik and ArtfulScribe certainly did an incredible job in putting all this together, all the events were very well attended and it was a major success.


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