Celebrating 20 Years of Local Culture: Portsmouth Festivities 2019

Local writer and poet Emily Priest profiles two upcoming poetry events in this year’s Portsmouth Festivities programme.

Portsmouth Festivities is a popular part of the city’s events calendar but this year they return with more excitement than ever to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Although their 10-day line-up of events – starting from June 14th – has plenty to entice, there are two you cannot miss. Both are run by local, not-for-profit group Portsmouth Poetry.

Portsmouth Poetry seeks to promote mixed-arts events in the city and their mission ‘is to work in partnership with other venues and organisations in art, theatre music and education’. Since 2016, they have been a leading Festivities partner and, this year, have a lot in store for local people who love the arts or just want to try something new.

Jeff Towns: Edward Thomas and Wales, on the opening weekend of Portsmouth Festivities 2019, is one for the diary. Part of Portsmouth Poetry’s ‘Lost Poets’ series, this free seminar is run by Jeff Towns, Dylan Thomas expert and a member of the Welsh Academy, and looks into the life of Edward Thomas – a man who ‘shaped modern poetry’.

Jeff will also discuss his latest book and delve into the realms of local and cultural history as well as the hidden past of literature and poetry. It looks to be a highly informative talk that is unmissable, particularly for historians and writers.

Another not to miss is the closing event, 20 Love, on 23rd June, where local and national poets come together with music and film to celebrate 20 years of local culture and the work of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. His most famous collection 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair, published when Neruda was only 19, is the inspiration to 20 Love and these performers will present to you a unique, never-heard-before adaptation.

The line-up includes the acclaimed Connor MacLeod from Manchester, Ricky Tart from Southampton and locals Egg & Spoon, the Urban Vocal Group and Greg Mosse, the nationally acclaimed poet who is married to bestselling author Kate Mosse, writer of the Labyrinth series. These names alone are enough to let you know you are in for a treat.

I will also be performing at this event and, as I am sure you have guessed, I’m excited. As someone who has worked hard to establish herself as a poet in the local community, this opportunity is priceless. Not only will I perform alongside big names in the business, but I also get to be a part of a long-standing Portsmouth tradition.

I didn’t always used to live on the island but, when I did move here, back in 2016, it was the arts scene that won me over. The city had so much colour and life. It was unlike anything I had seen before. Of course, there are other cultural hubs, like Bristol or Brighton, but Pompey had its own air about it – its own character. Since then, I have been performing at shows and open mics in hopes to “get myself out there” and when I was asked to perform at 20 Love, it felt as if all my hard work had finally paid off.

This event is my chance to celebrate and give back to Portsmouth’s arts scene and to inspire other poets who are like me, several years ago, trying to be heard.

The past 20 years have been leading up to 20 Love so be sure not to miss out on the 23rd June at Governor’s Green. And, be sure to support and bolster other cultural groups and local creatives by checking out the Portsmouth Festivities brochure and booking on to their events.

We have a beautiful and thriving culture in the city. Join me and Portsmouth Poetry in celebrating it.


Follow Emily on Facebook and Twitter, where you can find out about her latest performances and her forthcoming poetry collection, Nicotine and Napalm.