Upon arrival at the train station at Ledbury, you will notice a sign describing the small market town as ‘The Poetry Junction’. This is just a small nod to the town’s association with the written word, and when you truly immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the annual Poetry festival you realise just how perfect a setting Ledbury is.
The town’s close proximity to the Malvern Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has inspired the imaginations of poets such as William Langland; and a William Wordsworth sonnet references the church bells of the town.
Some of the biggest names in poetry have lived here, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Masefield and W.H. Auden. And the poetic legacy of the town continues to this day, through the Ledbury Poetry organisation which runs events throughout the year, most notably the annual Ledbury Poetry Festival.
The small town is the perfect home for such poetry events. Even to an outsider the sense of community is palpable, within the closely-knit residents and small local shops supported by the Ledbury residents. There is also undoubtedly a sense of pride within the town in the fact they host the UK’s largest poetry festival – with flags and banners, wonderful independent shop displays and the attendance of so many volunteers helping at the festival.
For a student who has dabbled in poetry, it was the perfect welcome to the hearty poetic community. I was able to watch some wonderful events, including the ‘Poetry Passeggiata’ where poems were read to a captivated audience in the golden late afternoon sunlight. And a talk with Ralph Pite about the importance of poetry in saving the planet captured my imagination.
Over the course of a few days, I had been welcomed into the world of poetry and I was able to admire how a small town such as Ledbury could come alive during such an amazing, vibrant festival. All year round the Ledbury Poetry House hosts numerous events from their base at the iconic Clock Tower in Ledbury’s town centre, and these aren’t to be missed.