British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

All Ears for The Poetry Channel

For twenty-five years The Poetry Trust in Suffolk has been celebrating national and international poetry. Now many of their live events are available online. Naomi Jaffa and Dean Parkin explore the development of the Trust’s Poetry Channel.

About the authors: Naomi Jaffa is Director of The Poetry trust; Dean Parkin is Creative Director) at The Poetry Trust:

The Poetry Trust began life in 1988 as a registered charity set up by a small group of Suffolk poets wanting to hear world-class poets without always having to go to London. Benjamin Britten had established an international music festival in rural Suffolk in 1948 and they wanted to create something similar for poetry. The very first Aldeburgh Poetry Festival took place in 1989 and quickly became recognised as the UK’s pre-eminent annual celebration of national and international contemporary poetry.

The Poetry Trust is an organisation driven by the conviction that poetry as an art form can make a significant contribution to the quality of our cultural life”  – Andrew Motion

Renowned for the depth and creativity of its programme, the Festival has built a reputation for independence, quality and diversity, for the attractiveness of its location, and for the exceptional size of its audiences. The first weekend each November attracts people from all over the UK and overseas to the east Suffolk coast and last year, after outgrowing its original Aldeburgh venues, the Festival expanded six miles inland to the larger and better-equipped performance spaces at Snape Maltings. Overall attendance of 6,000+ broke all previous records and with the Festival’s 25th ‘silver’ anniversary this year, even bigger crowds are expected over the weekend of 8-10 November 2013.

Kay Ryan & Naomi Jaffa, APF 2011 (Photo by Peter Everard Smith)

The Trust is passionate about the quality presentation of poetry – on stage, in print and online – and has always believed that clarity of sound is fundamental to a good reading. We agree with Robert Frost that “the ear is the only true writer and the only true reader” but live poetry demands ‘active’ listening – you can’t zone in and out of a poem the way you can with music – and it’s crucial to be able to hear every word. Consequently the Festival has always employed professional sound engineers to ensure the best possible amplification for poets and most satisfying audio experience for audiences, and because most events have been recorded over the past two decades, the Trust has amassed a substantial and unique audio archive.

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