Introduction

This production is currently on sale to Friends and Patrons of Birmingham Hippodrome. Become a Friend today.

Further tickets will go on sale as follows:
Mon 28 Nov, 11am – General sale

Birmingham’s very own Verve Festival of Poetry and Spoken Word returns to Birmingham Hippodrome!

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

Whether it be raucous performance poetry events, quiet reading events, studious workshops, mind-blowing dramatic poetry, collaborative work or open mic poetry – 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 events throughout the festival (excluding workshops).

£40 (concessions £30)


Saturday Pass

Includes entry to all events on Sat 19 Feb (excluding workshops and podium events).

£25 (concessions £18.50)


Sunday Pass

Includes entry to all events on Sun 20 Feb (excluding workshops and podium events).

£20 (concessions £15)

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Concession tickets are available to senior citizens, school pupils, students, people registered as disabled or unemployed.
Wed 15 Feb

Verve Birmingham Schools Slam Final

Wed 15 Feb, 7 – 9pm, Patrick Studio

Opening #VERVE2023 is our second Birmingam Schools Slam Final!

We’ve invited fifteen local Primary Schools to bring a team of their best poets to this exciting competition hosted and facilitated by Brummie gem and VERVE Poetry Press poet Giovanni ‘Spoz’ Esposito! But there’s more! Our judges will consist of two local poets well versed (get it!) in the art of children’s poetry – Emma Purshouse & Dreadlock Alien. Both poets will deliver a short and entertaining set of their work and act as judges. Come and support the poetry stars of the future through their first ever poetry slam!

In association with Poetry On Loan.

Tickets £5

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Thu 16 Feb

Verve Poetry Night Special – Spoke Word and Music Night

Thu 16 Feb, 7.30 – 10pm, Patrick Studio

Introducing the festival special of our quarterly VERVE Poetry Night, with all its usual fun, energy and bombast, its plentiful featured poets and its numerous open mic slots.

Joining regular host Sam J Grudgings are poetry powerhouses, Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, Muneera Pilgrim, Kirsty Taylor and Malaika Kegode. And this wouldn’t be a special without the special addition of some live music: We are thrilled to welcome Bostin Brass Band who’ll be blowing up an upbeat, jazz/funk/ska storm at regular intervals throughout the night. We know you’re gonna love this vibrant, lively night.

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 17 Feb

Helen Calcutt Workshop: Owning it

Fri 17 Feb, 1 – 3pm, Workshop Room 1

Participants will be invited to explore unique ways of structured storytelling that not only contemplates the narrative of the Universe, but also considers the influence of breath, shape, pulse, and sensation upon the page. All levels of experience welcome!

Tickets £16.50 (concessions £12.50)

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Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan Workshop: Writing as Resistance

Fri 17 Feb, 1.30 – 3.30pm, Workshop Room 2

Join Suhaiymah in a workshop where we will consider the power of writing as resistance. In this time of worldwide violence and oppression as the consequences of capitalism, racism, misogyny, militarism, hostile environments and more, resistance feels urgent and necessary, but it can also be difficult and overwhelming to know where to start. In this workshop we will explore writing as a medium of disrupting elite discourses; imagining alternatives worlds; and in making space for us to define ourselves for ourselves, instead of being “crunched into other people’s fantasies” of us (Audre Lorde).

Tickets £16.50 (concessions £12.50)

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Helen Mort Workshop – Metaphors We Live By: finding themes and images that inspire you

Fri 17 Feb, 3.30 – 5.30pm, Workshop Room 1

Helen Mort’s latest collection The Illustrated Woman (2022) uses the metaphor of tattooing to explore the agency we have over our bodies and the difference between how we want to be seen and how others may see us. In this workshop we will look at how successful metaphor and similies can do more than just bring your poems to life, they can help structure your thinking and the way you approach a sequence or a collection. We’ll read and discuss a range of contemporary work, from Natalie Diaz to Sunday Headliner Zaffar Kunial and explore creative prompts in a supportive environment.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £16.50)

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Will Harris Workshop – Sounds of Words / Words of Sounds

Fri 17 Feb, 4 – 6pm, Workshop Room 2

‘A communal workshop playing with – and stretching – the links between objects, words and sounds, in which we’ll share stories, listen closely to things, and stay as close as we can to the non-sense within. A workshop to enjoy with the Forward First Book Award winning author of RENDANG (Granta, 2020).

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £16.50)

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FRIDAY NIGHT HEADLINE EVENT: Hosted by Cynthia Miller

Fri 17 Feb, 7 – 8.30pm, Patrick Studio

Our regular Friday evening poetry headline event features three incredible contempory poets. Edinburgh born US based Jay Gao’s debut full collection Imperium (Carcanet, 2022) follows his New Poetry Prize-winning pamphlet Katabsis. Will Harris’ debut collection RENDANG (Granta, 2020) won the Forward First Book Award and his follow-up Brother Poem will be available to purchase early at VERVE! Denise Saul’s debut full collection The Room Between Us (Pavillion, 2022) was short-listed for the TS Eliot Prize. Hosting these three wonderful poets for readings and discussion is Cynthia Miller, co-founder of VERVE Poetry Festival and prize-winning author of Honorifics (Nine Arches, 2021).

With support of University of Birmingham.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Poetry Film Night

Fri 17 Feb, 9 – 10pm, Patrick Studio

Our regular Friday evening poetry headline event features three incredible contempory poets. Edinburgh born US based Jay Gao’s debut full collection Imperium (Carcanet, 2022) follows his New Poetry Prize-winning pamphlet Katabsis. Will Harris’ debut collection RENDANG (Granta, 2020) won the Forward First Book Award and his follow-up Brother Poem will be available to purchase early at VERVE! Denise Saul’s debut full collection The Room Between Us (Pavillion, 2022) was short-listed for the TS Eliot Prize. Hosting these three wonderful poets for readings and discussion is Cynthia Miller, co-founder of VERVE Poetry Festival and prize-winning author of Honorifics (Nine Arches, 2021).

With Support of University of Birmingham.

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 18 Feb

Helen Mort Young Person’s Workshop – Having Fun With Poetry: A Writing Workshop for 13-19 year olds

Sat 18 Feb, 9.30 – 11am, Workshop Room 1

It’s easy to get bogged down in metaphors and punctuation, poetic form and technique. So in this workshop with Helen Mort, we’ll simply be having fun with poetry. Helen will offer poems, prompts and ideas for returning to the joy of writing and reading poetry. You’ll leave the session with some new work and some ideas for how to keep playing with your writing. This workshop is run in partnership with The Poetry Society. After the workshop finishes, we encourage you to go to the Young Poets Takeover and Young Poets Café to hear from your peers and get to meet other young writers.

NB This workshop is aimed at 13-19 year olds and will contain material and exercises suitable for that age group. If you’re younger than 13 and want to take part please contact hbowell@poetrysociety.org.uk to organise parental consent.

FREE – limited space so please book your place.

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Jennifer Wong Workshop: Writing Mothers

Sat 18 Feb, 10am – 12 noon, Workshop Room 2

What do we talk about when we talk about mothers? How does one begin to articulate one’s closeness or distance with the mother, and the changing identities and understanding? In this workshop, participants will get to explore new directions in their writing by addressing the complexity and contradictions of mothers or about motherhood. The creative process includes experimenting with different points of view, ways of excavating emotional truth, as well as to play with forms and techniques such as prose poetry, erasure and found poems. We will look at different examples of writing mothers by poets who portray or question motherhood, including the works by Rebecca Goss, Natalie Bolderston, Joanna Ingham, Marie Howe and Ada Limon.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £16.50)

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Poetry Society Young Poets Takeover: incl young person’s open mic!

Sat 19 Feb, 11am – 12pm, Patrick Studio

The Poetry Society’s Young Poets Takeovers are a space for up-and-coming young poets and performers to meet one another and share their work on stage.

This Takeover will be hosted by Aliyah Begum, and feature headline sets from muliptle YPN Challenge winner and University of Birmingham alumni Emily Breeds and Birmingham based YPN Challenge commended poet Adjei Sun.

If you’re aged 25 or younger, we want to hear from you, too! Bring one poem and arrive early to sign up for our open mic.
And join the community! We invite you to stay on afterwards for free refreshments and a chance to meet other young poetry lovers. We at Young Poets Network can’t wait to meet you!

With support from The Poetry Society.

Tickets FREE

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Scarlett Ward Workshop – A monster in the shape of a woman: poetic retellings of mythological female figures

Sat 18 Feb, 12 noon – 2pm, Workshop Room 1

A poetry writing workshop that examines the presentation of women figures in retellings of mythology. From witches to goddesses, female archetypes have served to perpetuate patriarchal stereotypes and dictate the behaviour of women throughout history. In this workshop, we will explore how myths and legends can be utilised to prompt and colour our understandings of, and rebel against, expectations within society, and furthermore can act as a lens through which we can structure modern retellings and reclaim the narrative through poetry.
All levels of experience welcome!

Tickets £16.50 (concessions £12.50)

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Kathy Pimlott Workshop: Making the Everyday Sing

Sat 18 Feb, 12.30 – 2.30pm, Workshop Room 2

In this generative workshop we’ll look at how very familiar everyday material – kitchen utensils, shops, routine tasks – can become the launchpad into meditations on love, life, death and everything in between. Poems by poets including Vicki Feaver, Louise Glück and Helen Dunmore will prompt the beginnings of our own new work as reading, writing and sharing, we’ll reconsider the ordinary and find the extraordinary running quietly through it.

Tickets £16.50 (concessions £12.50)

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Fourth Verve Poetry Performance Lecture – Nick Makoha

Sat 18 Feb, 12.30 – 1.30pm, Patrick Studio

What do you know about Basquiat? What do you know about Icarus? What do you know about the Entebbe hijacking in 1976?
In this year’s Performance-Lecture, Nick Makoha fuses these seemingly disparate sources and events into poems in a new piece based around his recent work A Low-Pressure System, which won the Ivan Juritz Prize. He brings Basquiat and Icarus back to life in dream-like dialogues whilst gradually, kaleidoscopically, piecing together these stories’ disconnected frames, paralleled against moments from his own life – including fleeing the Idi Amin regime in Uganda – and other historical events, all linked by the motif of flight.

The Verve Performance-Lecture (a stylised form of teaching-as-performance, originating from contemporary art practice), invites a poet who has never been asked to give a lecture before to create a presentation fusing academic discourse with poetry and spoken word on a subject of their choosing.

In association with Poetry School.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Harana Poetry LIVE

Sat 19 Feb, 2 – 4pm, Patrick Studio

What would a poetry magazine look like if it was put on a stage? Well, this year we have invited the wonderul Harana Poetry (the online magazine for poets writing in English as a second or parallel language). Magazine editors Kostya Tsolakis has put together an exciting event involving readings, discussions about translation, an editorial introduction, some Harana music and much more. Poets featured will include Leo Boix, Julia David, L Kiew, Jennifer Wong and Eric Yip! Join us at this exciting event and see a magazine come to life!

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Kim Moore Workshop: The Personal is Political

Sat 18 Feb, 2.30 – 4.30pm, Workshop Room 1

If a poem is described as ‘political’, this often conjures up the idea of a rant in the shape of a poem, with the control of language slipping away from the poet’s grasp. When a poem is described as ‘personal’, it can bring to mind ideas around what poetry ‘should’ be about; that certain subjects are not grand enough to deserve poems written about them.
In this workshop we will begin breaking down the boundaries between the personal and political to write poems that give a voice to what we really have to say.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £16.50)

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Nick Makoha Workshop – The Prose Poetry Lab

Sat 18 Feb, 3pm – 5pm, Workshop Room 2

We will be testing language in the poetic realm. Focus will be placed on getting the work to a high standard that is of publishable quality. If you are working on a project this is the one for you. Prose poetry merges the lyrical and metric elements of poetry with the narrative flow of traditional prose. Often perceived as a complicated genre, it offers fresh perspectives and possibilities for the writer. In this masterclass, the award-winning author of the poetry collection Kingdom of Gravity will teach you the essentials of writing prose poems. You will learn how to blend measured and lyrical language with plot-driven narrative. At the end of this masterclass, you will be able to write prose poems that have a lasting impression on your readers.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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The VERVE Long Poem

Sat 18 Feb, 4.30pm – 5pm, Patrick Studio

We’re proud to bring you the first of what will be an annual event at VERVE – our new Long Poem Event, which will feature one of our favourite poets performing new longer work – one poet alone on a stage reading one long poem. Wayne Holloway-Smith, whose stunning pamphlet length poem Lobsters was published by Pakina Press in 2022, will kick this series off by reading us his long poem in progress Rabbitbox and we can’t wait!

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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SATURDAY NIGHT HEADLINE EVENT hosted by Jo Bell

Sat 18 Feb, 5.30 – 7pm, Patrick Studio

This year’s Saturday evening headline features three incredible poets, all giants in their way on the contemporary UK poetry scene. We’re thrilled to welcome Queen’s gold medalist for poetry Imtiaz Dharker back to VERVE for the first time since 2018.

Joining her will be Helen Mort, whose latest collection, The illustrated Woman, was short-listed for the Forward Prize, and Hannah Sullivan, whose debut full collection, Three Poems (Faber, 2018), won the TS Eliot Prize and is reading from her brand new book, Was it for This. 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).

With support of University of Birmingham.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Kevin P. Gilday’s Saturday Night Stramash

Sat 18 Feb, 7.30 – 9.30pm, Patrick Studio

Join award-winning poet Kevin P. Gilday for a night of riotous entertainment from North of the border. Kevin has curated a Caledonian cabaret of Scottish delights featuring poetry, comedy and music from some of the country’s most talented contemporary acts. The show will see performances from powerhouse poet Victoria McNulty, futuristic rapper Texture, comedian Stuart McPherson, musical dynamo Amelia Bayler and stunning new voice Nasim Rebecca Asl – all hosted by the man behind hit fringe show Suffering from Scottishness, Kevin P. Gilday. Like an unpredictable Glaswegian night out brought to life on a Birmingham stage – expect laughter, tears and a few sore heids in the morning.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Sun 19 Feb

Jay Gao Workshop: Writing Trees & Arboreal Poetics

Sun 19 Feb, 10am – 12pm, Workshop Room 1

In this workshop we will explore how poets have responded to the verdant variousness of trees. We will think about trees ecologically, but also consider how trees might define limits of poetic thought, image and form – ways of writing otherwise about trees and woods.

Learning from poets including Gerard Manley Hopkins, Francis Ponge, C.D. Wright, Jason Allen-Paisant, and Anthony (Vahni) Capildeo, we will stumble through the dense woods of language together, learning to draw upon our relationship with trees in order to write into a poetics of the arboreal.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £16.50)

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Liz Berry Workshop: Family Tree

Sun 19 Feb, 10.30am – 12.30pm, Workshop Room 2

How can we use poems to tell the stories of our family? Join Liz Berry for a workshop about lifting your family history to the light with sensitivity and nuance. Sharing poems, discussion and practical writing activities, you’ll explore how to preserve your family’s history with care and meaning. Poets of all stages welcome.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £16.50)

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The Verve Poetry Festival Competition Event: Beginnings, hosted by Kim Moore

Sun 19 Feb, 11am – 12.30pm, Patrick Studio

The Verve Competition on the Theme of Protest opened for entries from Nov 14 2022 to Jan 2 2023, judged by the wonderful Kim Moore.

Tickets FREE

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Burning Eye Books Workshop: How to Become a Published Poet

Sun 19 Feb, 12.30 – 2.30pm, Workshop Room 1

Burning Eye editors Bridget Hart and Clive Birnie demystify the process of becoming a published poet. The workshop will include practical guides and case studies looking at what different editors and publishers look for and how to approach them. Whatever your level you will come away ready for the next step on your poetry journey whether that be having your first poem published, publishing a pamphlet or a full collection.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £16.50)

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Jenny Mitchell Workshop: Poetry and Freedom

Sun 19 Feb, 1 – 13pm, Workshop Room 2

Award-winning writer Jenny Mitchell will facilitate a supportive, creative session that looks at how we write about the elusive concept of Freedom. Why would we want/need to do this? What might it give the writer and reader? Is it even more important to think about Freedom in a world that is so filled with chaos? Participants will be given challenging examples of work by established poets to discuss, and prompts to stimulate their own writing.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £16.50)

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100 Queer Poems: Hosted by Andrew Mcmillan and Mary Jean Chan

Sun 19 Feb, 1 – 2.30pm, Patrick Studio

Hear poets from the acclaimed 100 Queer Poems (Vintage, 2022) anthology, including editors Andrew McMillan and Mary Jean Chan read their own and other work from this important work! Featuring Jay Gao, Rachel Mann, Golnoosh Nour & Gregory Woods in the flesh, as well as Chen Chen appearing on zoom!

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Imogen Stirling Poetry Show: Love The Sinner

Sun 20 Feb, 3 – 4pm, Patrick Studio

Hailed as a ‘lyrical genius’ by Benjamin Zephaniah, Imogen Stirling’s writing crackles on and off the page. This award-winning performance poet teams up with composer and multi-media artist Sonia Killman, to present Love The Sinner: a modern retelling of the seven deadly sins. At once a mirror and rallying cry, the performance sees a loose alliance of extraordinary characters struggle to comprehend their identities in a world obsessed with self-betterment.

Love The Sinner premieres as a stage adaptation in Spring 2023, produced and directed by the world-renowned Vanishing Point Theatre Company. This duo set is a stripped back version of the upcoming theatre show. Poetry, electronic music and storytelling intersect to create a vibrant live experience.

Tickets £6.50 (concessions £4.50)

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Gregory Leadbetter Workshop: Writing In Concert with the Wild.

Sun 19 Feb, 3 – 5pm, Workshop Room 1

Join Birminghan City University Professor of Poetry and Nine Arches poet Gregory Leadbetter to look at ways that we can invite the wilderness (both its holistic and dangerous sides) into our poetry. Can poetry save the planet? We’re not sure but it’s certainly worth a try!

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £16.50)

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Andrew McMillan Workshop: Beyond 100 Queer Poems

Sun 19 Feb, 3.30 – 5.30pm, Workshop Room 2

Using some of the poems from the acclaimed 100 Queer Poems, join co-editor Andrew McMillan to do some writing and breathe new life into your work. Andrew McMillan’s three collections are physical, playground and Pandemonium. 100 Queer Poems was published by Vintage Books in 2022.

Tickets £22.50 (concessions £16.50)

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Burning Eye Books Showcase hosted by Bridget Hart and Clive Birnie

Sun 19 Feb, 4.30 – 6.30pm, Patrick Studio

Bristol Based Burning Eye Books are the Uks top indie publisher of performance poettry. Returning for their third VERVE showcase, we are delighted to welcome Burning Eye editors Bridget Hart and Clive Birnie to introduce four poets whose latest books were published in Autumn / Winter 2022 – some of the best voices on the UK Spoken Word scene. We are thrilled to welcome Leyla Josephine, Mark ‘Mr T’ Thompson, Louise Fazackerley & Sally Jenkinson to the festival!

Tickets £6.50 (concessions 4.50)

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SUNDAY NIGHT HEADLINE EVENT: Zaffar Kunial, Gregory Leadbetter, Jenny Mitchell

Sun 19 Feb, 7 – 8.30pm, Patrick Studio

Our final headline event of the weekend brings three wonderful poets together to read and talk about their work. Birmingham born Zaffar Kunial’s second collection England’s Green (Faber, 2022) has been short-listed for the TS Eliot Prize and follows his prize-winning debut collection Us (Faber, 2018). Brummie resident Gregory Leadbetter’second collection, Maskwork (Nine Arches, 2020) was longlisted for the Laurel Prize and follows this astonishing debut The Fetch (Nine Arches, 2016). Jenny Mitchell’s prize-winning first two collections, Her Lost Language (Indigo Dreams, 2019) and Map of a Plantation (Indigo Dreams, 2021) have recently been followed by a third, Resurrection of a Blackman (indigo Dreams, 2022). This amazing line-up, a real treat, will be hosted for us by Jonathan Davidson from Writing West Midlands and founder of Birmingham Literature Festival.

With support of University of Birmingham.

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.