Monday, September 12, 2011

My Festival #2: Jo Bell

Each week, we invite Manchester and North West-based writers to tell us what they're most looking forward to at Manchester Literature Festival 2011.

In the second in this series, poet and poetry promoter Jo Bell gives us her picks. Jo is the director of National Poetry Day and co-programmer of the Ledbury Poetry Festival 2011. She will read at the Southbank Centre in London with Simon Armitage, Jo Shapcott and others as part of Poetry Day Live! on Thursday 6 October. At last year's MLF, she launched the Bugged: Writings From Overhearings anthology and she is currently working on a live show, Riverlands, celebrating the river Nene.

In its spare, elegant pages, the Festival programme holds a really enticing mix of the international and the local. For me, the most anticipated event of the whole series will be Gerry Potter’s performance of his The Men Pomes. Formerly a hero/ine of the poetry circuit as his alter ego Chloe Poems, Gerry now takes to the stage in his own right. This is poetry like nothing you’ve heard before – asking with a wry smile what it means to be male, Scouse, working class and gay. You don’t have to be any of these to find The Men Pomes heartbreaking and heart-mending, with a roar of anger one minute and a roar of laughter the next: a statement of pride, joyfulness and scorn in the face of bigotry. Gerry Potter is a world-class performer at the height of his powers, delivering intelligent, humane and searching poetry that makes us all ask who we are and who we want to be.

On my travels around the summer festivals I've encountered the Poetry Takeaway a few times. It works just like a normal takeaway van: roll up, order a poem on any subject you like and see it written in front of your very eyes. Come back a few minutes later for your fresh, personalised poem, cooked up by some of the UK’s best-known performance poets. The long queues are a testament to the appetite for poetry, served up with wit and a glimpse into the writing process.

The death of Linda Chase earlier this year makes Not Many Love Poems her last collection, and turns its launch into a celebration of her life. Linda was a great force for good in the poetry community, promoting other poets' events through her Poets & Players series and the legendary Dear List, both of which survive her. Although Linda’s New York accent and bright red hair will be missing, this will be a great chance to hear her own work and rejoice in her generous spirit.

Jo's Festival favourites

The Men Pomes Friday 21st October, 7.30pm, Contact (£6/£4 concs)
Poetry Takeaway Saturday 22nd October, 11.30am-4.30pm, Whitworth Art Gallery (free)
Not Many Love Poems Thursday 20th October, 7.30pm, International Anthony Burgess Foundation (free, but booking is advised)

For full details of all events at MLF 2011 and how to book, visit the website at

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