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Page last updated at 17:19 GMT, Thursday, 5 November 2009
Aldeburgh Poetry Festival's 21st
Cartoon by Peter Blegvad
Cartoonist and musician Peter Blegvad appears on Friday and Saturday

John Hegley, Roger Lloyd Pack and Geoffrey Hill are just some of the names celebrating the 21st Aldeburgh Poetry Festival.

Organiser The Poetry Trust says it's the oldest festival dedicated to contemporary verse in the UK.

There are 49 events over the weekend of 6-8 November 2009.

"Come and have fish & chips, go to one of the free events and dip your toe in the water," said Naomi Jaffa, poet and festival director.

If you thought live poetry wasn't that popular, then you may be surprised to learn that since it launched in 1989, the festival has sold some 45,000 tickets.

John Hegley

"It's that mix of Suffolk seaside magic and this international cultural identity that Aldeburgh gives off to the world," said Naomi.

"Around two-thirds of the audience come back and a third is new each year."

In 2009, they'll be here to see Albert Goldbath ('one of American's best kept secrets'), Roger Lloyd Pack (of Only Fools & Horses and Vicar Of Dibley fame), Geoffrey Hill (billed as 'England's greatest living poet'), Philip Levine (portraits of US working class life) as well as workshops and an open-mic session.

New faces

"I like to think of it as a ladder of opportunity. We start on Friday with Suffolk young poets who've been submitting hundreds of poems through the year and we select the ones we think are the best.

"The children come and read their poems and it might be a four year old!

"We've got development seminars going on through the year for people who aren't published yet but are at 'first book stage'.

"Then we've got the First Collection Prize and then poets who're a bit more established with two or three books and finally on to the luminaries like Geoffrey Hill who's been publishing for half a century.

"So right from the bottom to the top of the ladder."

Final rung

Someone who is, if not at the top, then certainly approaching the top of the ladder is John Hegley who's been a fixture of radio, television, the gig circuit and Luton Town's stands for nearly three decades - starting out at London's legendary Comedy Store in 1980.

Naomi Jaffa
Naomi Jaffa has been director of The Poetry Trust since 1999

He's been a regular in Suffolk over the years including performances at the Latitude Festival, which has also put poetry centre-stage.

"Last time I came [to Aldeburgh in 1999] but after half an hour signing books I had to go back to London. This time I'll actually see a bit of the town.

"Southwold and Walberswick fish & chips I've had, but not Aldeburgh.

"I was a singer to start with and then I was busking in Covent Garden and because it was so cold I couldn't play the guitar.

"I was holding a tambourine, but because my a cappella singing's not very good, I ended up chanting the lyrics."

John will be on with the youngsters on Friday at 6pm and in conversation with Peggy Hughes about his artistic journey at 11am on Saturday.

He's got simple advice for being on stage: "Don't be bashful about it and feel happy to fail a little bit with it.

"Just go on and do it with confidence and do it with verve."

For full details visit the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival website or ring the box office on 01728 687110.

John Hegley is also at Thornham Parva Community Centre on 5 December 2009.

John Hegley reads an Ipswich poem
05 Nov 09 |  Arts & Culture
Maggi Hambling and the North Sea
23 Sep 09 |  Arts & Culture
The Comedy Store at 30
09 Jun 09 |  Arts & Culture
Poetic appeal to transform Luton
01 Apr 07 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts



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