It was immensely pleasing to be invited to be Westgate Literary Festival’s first Poet in Residence and I am greatly looking forward to embracing the role. In previous PIR positions I have haunted the likes of a quirkily end of season Dreamland in Margate & buzzed within the tourist & school pupil hysteria of Canterbury’s Roman Museum. Both were excellent experiences & what made them particularly enjoyable was the interaction with the public & the accidental atmosphere of the venues. A residency creates writing that would never come forth at any other time & that is important. I am sure WFL will be wonderfully inspiring & create unique pieces driven by the wide variety of events & people. There will also be a special vibe as it is the inaugural festival year.
For WLF, rather than being rooted to one spot, I intend to be here, there & everywhere. My starting point will be Westgate Town Council Offices, wherein I intend to muse on & chat about what it means to be PIR; what expectations I feel there are of me; & how the public think of both writers & the festival. Although I am a big fan of The Carlton Cinema in particular & Westgate in general, I have never been to CC’s so I’m excited by the possibility of discovering a new place, new people & their stories.
Having two full days at the festival I will also divide my time between Doing: running workshops in poetry & short prose; and Absorbing: seeing as many other events as possible. In the latter situation, it is my intention to drop in on readings & discussions by guest speakers, soaking up the atmosphere & language of each situation & writing on the spot. Throughout all of this, eaves-dropping & conversation with both the public & organisers will be a big part of what I write as sometimes it is a simple turn of phrase or passion of another writer that inspires me. Recently I have written at people’s request & whilst hosting a poetry event; watching a great singer-song writer; & even during a film-screening, so I am excited by the great range of opportunities on offer in Westgate.
There is a real bonus that comes with a literary festival & that is workshops. As a teacher, event curator & facilitator myself, I am usually the one who thinks on their feet/adapts; feeds others information; & prompts them into writing. At WFL however, I intend to temporarily shut down that aspect of my writing life by attending a workshop led by another professional. By doing so I will become the pupil again & follow someone else’ lead. This is something I seldom get a chance to do & I relish the opportunity to be inspired by another professional; create something from outside my predilections; & to reflect on what it is like to be a participant in a group, not the one in charge.
It would be very odd if I was PIR yet did not share some of the writing I create & therefore it is a great delight that, apart from any impromptu readings I might do, I plan to perform at the festival’s Open Mic on Sunday afternoon. It will doubtless be fun!
And finally: I would not be able to do this without the cooperation of the public & organizers. As a Thank You, whenever possible I will share copies of any relevant pieces of writing with anyone who inspires me. This will be my personal contribution to what will doubtless be,the festival’s lasting legacy. So without further ado, let’s have a great time!