Introduction

Birmingham’s very own Verve Festival of Poetry and Spoken Word has made the Hippodrome its new home!

Now in its fourth year, Verve has become synonymous with a lively and celebratory approach to programming poetry of every kind.

From raucous performance poetry and quiet reading events to studious workshops and open mic, the programme encourages audiences to see their favourite poets and to try something new – to join in, create, listen and learn.

Whether new to poetry or an old hand, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at Verve!

 

Festival Passes

There are three types of pass available for the festival.

Festival Pass

Includes entry to all Patrick Studio events throughout the festival (Thu 20 – Sun 23 Feb). Does not include workshops.

£40 (concessions £27.50)

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Saturday Pass

Includes entry to all Patrick Studio events on Sat 22 Feb. Does not include workshops.

£22.50 (concessions £16.50)

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Sunday Pass

Includes entry to all Patrick Studio events on Sun 23 Feb. Does not include workshops.

£22.50 (concessions £16.50)

Book now

Concession tickets are available to senior citizens, school pupils, students, people registered as disabled or unemployed.
Thu 20 Feb

A Verve Spoken Word Super Night

Thu 20 Feb, 7.30 – 10.30pm, Patrick Studio

Opening Verve 2020 is a Spoken Word Night to remember – a night of nights – a Spoken Word SUPER night.

Four of the best nights around the country were each asked to bring a poet of their choosing. Word Wise from Derby, hosted by Jamie Thrasivolou, will bring Matthew Clegg. Verbose from Manchester, repped by Zoe Turner, are featuring Reshma Ruia. Milk from Bristol with host Malaika Kegode are bringing Birdspeed. Edinburgh’s Loud Poets and their host Kevin McLean will present Katie Ailes. The night is hosted by Verve’s Sean Colletti. With open mic slots available, you don’t want to miss this lively opener to the festival.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Concession tickets are available to senior citizens, school pupils, students, people registered as disabled or unemployed.
Fri 21 Feb

Rachael Allen, Vidyan Ravinthiran & Jacqueline Saphra

Fri 21 Feb, 6.30 – 8pm, Patrick Studio

Verve’s regular Friday Evening poetry event features three incredible contemporary UK poets.

Rachael Allen‘s debut collection Kingdomland (Faber, 2019) was a Poetry Book Society Choice. Vidyan Ravinthiran‘s second collection The Million-Petalled Flower of Being Here (Bloodaxe, 2019) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection and the T.S. Eliot Prize. Jacqueline Saphra‘s latest collection Dad, Remember You Are Dead (Nine Arches Press, 2019) is the companion collection to her T.S. Eliot Prize Shortlisted All My Mad Mothers. Hosting these three wonderful poets for readings and discussion is Emma Dai’an Wright, publisher and founder of Birmingham based indie, The Emma Press.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Azaad Arts presents Mehfil

Fri 21 Feb, 8.30 – 10.30pm, Patrick Studio

Traditionally, a Mehfil is an evening of entertainment in the form of poetry and music.

This showcase features five individuals from the South Asian arts scene: musician Vibs Bhatia, award-winning spoken word artist Jaspreet Kaur, wordsmith Hafsah Aneela Bashir author of The Celoxand the Clot (Burning Eye, 2018), Panjabi folk singer Chaman Sandhu and Rupinder Kaur author of Rooh (Verve Poetry Press, 2018). The evening will explore traditional Panjabi folk music as well as contemporary South Asian poetry. The night is hosted by Rupinder Kaur and Harjap Kaur and features open mic slots.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Concession tickets are available to senior citizens, school pupils, students, people registered as disabled or unemployed.
Sat 22 Feb

Liz Berry Workshop: Poetry Readings – Make Your Own Kind of Magic

Sat 22 Feb, 10am – 12 noon

How can we make our live readings feel joyful and electric, connect with audiences and do our poems justice?

Join Liz Berry for a supportive, practical workshop on how to bring your poems to life and make your own kind of magic on the stage. Suitable for all poets, especially those new to performing.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £15)
15 places available

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Jo Bell Workshop: Straight to the Point

Sat 22 Feb, 10.30am – 12.30pm

In an intensive, lively two-hour session, poetry dynamo Jo Bell (Kith, How To Be A Poet) presents surefire techniques to correct common weaknesses in poetry.

Make your poems powerful and clear without losing strength or subtlety; be bold in editing and refine your bag of tricks to hold the reader’s interest.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £15)

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Hippodrome & Barbican Young Poets Showcase

Sat 22 Feb, 11am – 12.30pm, Patrick Studio

Join Jacob Sam-La Rose, Rachel Long and Jasmine Gardosi as well as two young poets from the Barbican and Hippodrome Young Poets collectives as they discuss their aims and achievements, and read some of their incredible poetry.

You’ll be witnessing some of the poets of the future!

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Caroline Bird Workshop: The Brightness of a New Page

Sat 22 Feb,
12.30 – 2.30pm

“The brightness of a new page where everything yet can happen” – Rainer Maria Rilke

People talk about the fear of the blank page. Turn this thought upside down – the blankness is the best bit. The blankness is vital, it’s the “continuous I don’t know” that births the poem. How do we trust nothingness? Unlearn in order to encounter? Come and discover some new poems inside the radiant blankness.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £15)

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Jaspreet Kaur and Rupinder Kaur Workshop: Punjabi Poetry Here and There

Sat 22 Feb,1 – 3pm

Two workshops for the price of one!

Jaspreet Kaur will look at how the struggles of modern society inform her contemporary poetry and can inform your own. Rupinder Kaur will look at traditional Punjabi and South Asian approaches to poetry, and help you to write your own.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £15)

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Poetry Performance-Lecture: Yomi Sode

Sat 22 Feb, 1 – 2pm, Patrick Studio

Acts of violence permeate our culture, existing on the lower frequencies of our awareness as micro-aggressions and micro-linguistic forms of social control.

In this year’s Verve Performance Lecture, poet Yomi Sode explores a new response to the unconscious and unintentional (yet profoundly insidious) biases of our culture. Drawing inspiration from art history, iconicity – conveying a feeling, narrative or idea in the stillness of a visual image or sign – can be better utilised to understand imbalances of power, and tell more compelling stories about them.

In this second annual performance lecture, poet and playwright Yomi Sode will ask what poetry can mean in an age where social media affords poets the opportunity to collect and collate visual material, symbols, and signs like never before; where active hashtags refresh every 5–10 seconds to collate millions of re-imagined responses and connect diverse communities around the world to engage with the subject? And most importantly, in this digital age, can the conventions of publishing loosen up to make some room?

This event is co-produced by Poetry School.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Stirchley Speaks Verve Special

Sat 22 Feb, 2.30 – 4pm, Patrick Studio

A small jewel of a night on the Birmingham Scene. We wondered what would happen if we gave them a nice big stage at Verve!

Hosted by Jess Davies and Callum Bates, hear poets Megan Scott and Fathima Zahra and to enjoy musical sounds from Rainy Day Woman. See what they can do when allowed to spread out. There will be a handful of open mics on the door and a lovely audience for you to join.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Vidyan Ravinthiran Workshop: Short and Perfectly Formed

Sat 22 Feb, 3 – 5pm

A workshop on reading, writing and loving the very short poem.

Join Forward and T.S. Eliot shortlisted poet Vidyan Ravinthiran sharing his love for and the secrets of crafting these poetry gems.

As he says, “short poems can function as one-off punchlines, or they can be surprisingly deep, with universes to discover in a single grain of sand. Because they’ve so few words, they often allude to a cultural situation which the reader has to intuit; and this means that writing them can be an exploratory and possibility-filled experience”.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £15)

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Salena Godden and Matt Abbott Workshop: Find your Inner LIVEwire

Sat 22 Feb, 3.30 – 5.30pm

Join Nymphs & Thugs artists Salena Godden and Matt Abbott for an alternative poetry writing workshop to hone your skills and develop your craft.

Using a range of writing prompts, restrictions and tools, you’ll be encouraged to write raw, visceral and renegade poetry to find your inner ‘LIVEwire’.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £15)

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From the Margins to the Centre: Black British Poets from the Midlands

Sat 22 Feb, 4.30 –  5.30pm, Patrick Studio

Langston Hughes once said, “Art is to be an intensification or enlargement of life, or to give comment on what living is like in the poet’s own time”.

Here are five poets who, through verse, lyricism and music talk about the Black British experience across generations. A celebration of identity, black affirmation and love, and a reminder that Birmingham is multicultural, a place of many people in search of a common language of unity. Featuring Roy McFarlane, Sue Brown, Marcia Calame, Siana Bangura and Adrian B Earle. Come and dance and be uplifted by words and music.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Jay Bernard, Caroline Bird and Mary Jean Chan

Sat 22 Feb, 6 – 7.30pm, Patrick Studio

Our regular Saturday Evening poetry headline is always a festival highlight.

This year, we feature three incredible poets who are contributing groundbreaking new work to the contemporary UK poetry scene. Jay Bernard‘s debut full collection Surge (Chatto & Windus, 2019) has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize First Collection Award. Caroline Bird‘s sixth collection, The Air Year (Carcanet, 2020) is brand new for Verve 2020. Her previous collection, In These Days of Prohibition, was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and Ted Hughes Award. Mary Jean Chan‘s debut collection, Fleche (Faber, 2019) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her poem, The Window, was shortlisted for The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. Hosting these three amazing poets for readings and discussion is Jo Bell, renowned poet and co-author of How to be a Poet (Nine Arches Press, 2017).

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LIVEwire with Salena Godden, Toria Garbot, oakley and Suhaiymah Mazoor-Khan

Sat 22 Feb, 8 – 10pm, Patrick Studio

The UK’s leading spoken word record label present a night of electric spoken word poetry.

Part of a string of nationwide ‘LIVEwire’ events, Nymphs & Thugs are programming some of the country’s most exciting poets and presenting them in a lively and dynamic environment. Salena Godden, Toria Garbutt, oakley and Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan will be hosted by Nymphs & Thugs founder Matt Abbott, at what promises to be one of the stand-out spoken word poetry events of 2020. Don’t miss this unique combination of raucous, renegade poets – and find out what ‘LIVEwire’ is all about.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Concession tickets are available to senior citizens, school pupils, students, people registered as disabled or unemployed.
Sun 23 Feb

The Emma Press presents Publication and Beyond Workshop

Sun 23 Feb, 10.30am – 12.30pm

First you get your manuscript ready. Then you try to find a publisher, Then, once you’ve found a publisher, you get ready to be published. Then when your book is out, there’s even more to think about.

Editor Emma Dai’an Wright, founder of The Emma Press, will take you on a whistle-stop tour of all the stages of this process and different ways to navigate them. The focus will be on the small press world and poetry, and there will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £15)

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The Verve Poetry Festival Competition Event: Diversity

Sun 23 Feb, 11am – 12.30pm

The Verve Competition on the theme of Diversity was open for entries in the Summer of 2019, and judged by poetry ace Andrew McMillan.

This FREE event will feature all the winners and commended poets, as well as four commissioned poets, who will read their poems on the subject and help launch the annual festival anthology. The event will fun and lively and is hosted by Andrew himself. Poets for us all to delight in!

Tickets FREE

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Deryn Rees Jones Workshop: Nature, Climate and the Poet

Sun 23 Feb, 12.30 – 2.30pm

This workshop will explore ways of writing and thinking about the natural world, particularly in the context of the climate emergency.

It will look at a wide range of contemporary poems which offer detailed descriptions of landscape and animals, and will ask participants to think about the  value of the ways in which we might locate ourselves through our relationship with nature. Come prepared to read closely and to focus on experimentation – with voice and form.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £15)

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Jonathan Edwards Workshop: ‘So this is how we love’ – Poems about People

Sun 23 Feb, 1 – 3pm

“So this is how we love – by these doodles”. So runs the definition of writing poems which appears in Glyn Maxwell’s wonderful book On Poetry.

From Seamus Heaney’s Follower to Carol Ann Duffy’s Rapture, many of the best and most emotive poems are written for and about those people the writers love. We will begin with a close reading of Simon Armitage’s brilliant poem Not the Furniture Game, as a way of exploring how metaphor can be used effectively in character sketches. By working through a couple of different writing exercises and strategies, we will work towards writing a poem about someone we love – our parents, children, spouses – hopefully emerging into the afternoon sunshine, waving our finished doodles above our heads in triumph.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £15)

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Heather Phillipson presents Whip-hot & Grippy

Sun 23 Feb, 1 – 1.45pm, Patrick Studio

Next Generation 2014 poet and artist Heather Phillipson will perform an extended reading of her latest collection, Whip-hot & Grippy (Bloodaxe, 2019) incorporating elements of sound and video in a Verve exclusive performance.

You don’t want to miss the incredible poet taking her own work to a completely new level.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Emma Press Showcase

Sun 23 Feb, 2.15 – 3.45pm, Patrick Studio

Birmingham-based publishing house The Emma Press is one of the UK’s leading poetry pamphlet producers.

This showcase features four pamphlet poets from 2019-20, giving an overview of the range of styles and voices championed by The Emma Press: Sascha Aurora Akhtar, author of The Whimsy of Dank Ju-Ju, Conor Cleary, author of Priced Out, Kathy Pimlott, author of Goose Fair Night and Elastic Glue, and Maarja Pärtna, author of Vivarium (translated from Estonian by Jayde Will), whose appearance has been made possible by the Traducta programme of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia. The event will be hosted by publisher Emma Dai’an Wright.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Sandeep Parmar Workshop: How to be a Poetry Critic

Sun 23 Feb, 3 – 5pm

What is the role of the poetry critic? Join Sandeep Parmar, co-founder of the Ledbury Emerging Poetry Critics scheme for BAME reviewers, for a special masterclass workshop on poetry reviewing, the value of poetry in society, and how to be a poetry critic.

We will discuss approaches to reviewing, explore questions of style and voice, and modes of critical reading.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £15)

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Andrew McMillan Workshop: Queering the Page

Sun 23 Feb, 3.30 – 5.30pm

This workshop invites you to take inspiration from great queer poets of the past to write about the contemporary moment and the contemporary body.

Join Verve competition judge Andrew McMillan for a workshop that will open eyes and minds and help you to produce some amazing poetry.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £15)

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A Beautiful Way to Be Crazy: Genevieve Carver and The Unsung

Sun 23 Feb, 4.15 – 5.30pm, Patrick Studio

Based on interviews with women in the music industry, A Beautiful Way to Be Crazy (Verve Poetry Press, 2020) is a tale of growing up and finding a voice.

Weaving together poetry, storytelling, live music, audio clips from the interviews, and some genuine teenage diary entries, Genevieve Carver and her multi-instrumental live band explore what it means to be a girl in the business of music.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Jonathan Edwards, Deryn Rees-Jones and Mimi Khalvati

Sun 23 Feb, 6 – 7.30pm, Patrick Studio

Our final headline event of the weekend brings three vital poets together to read and talk about their work.

Jonathan Edwards‘ latest collection, Gen (Seren, 2018), follows his acclaimed and Costa Book Award for Poetry winning My Family and Other Superheroes. Deryn Rees-Jones‘ latest collection Erato (Seren, 2019) is shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Award and follows her recent selected poems, What It’s Like to be Alive. Mimi Khalvait‘s latest collection, Afterwardsness (Carcanet, 2019) follows previous gems such as The Meanest Flower, Child and The Weather Wheel, all with Caracanet. This wonderful line-up id hosted by Jonathan Davidson from Writing West Midlands and founder of Birmingham Literature Festival.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Concession tickets are available to senior citizens, school pupils, students, people registered as disabled or unemployed.