Find out more about our story, our aims and our team


Find out more about our story, our aims and our team

The Verve Story

From an idea floated on Twitter to a whirlwind force in the poetry world, Verve Poetry Festival (and our sister press) are proud to be a home for brilliant poets and poetry-lovers. From Waterstones to The Old Rep to The Hippodrome, and from a four-day programme to a five-day extravagaza, our festival continues to get better every year, welcoming award-winning poets from the Midlands, the UK and the world. In 2022 were thrilled to be collaborating with the BBC to bring Contains Strong Language Festival to Birmingham, in addition to our trimphant return in February. The 2023 Festival is set go ahead 15th—19th February!

What to expect

With so many brilliant poetry festivals around the country, VERVE is a little different to what you’d expect from a literature festival.

VERVE is a five day festival hosted at the Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Studio, in the heart of the city centre, 5 minutes walk from the shiny New Street Station. We program the very best contemporary poetry all in one building.

Hear award-winning poets and local legends sharing the same stage. Attend workshops open to all levels. Experience genre-defying performances. Bring the house down at a spoken word and music gig. Brave an open mic. Meet your favourite poets and discover new ones. It’s the friendly, down to earth, cosmopolitan and deliciously bold festival you’ve heard everyone talking about.

Most importantly, we want VERVE to be a festival that everyone can enjoy. Whether you’ve been writing for years or are just starting out; whether you’ve attended every festival on the circuit or this is your first; VERVE welcomes you.

Stay in touch through all the usual channels:

Facebook /VervePoetryFestival

Twitter @VervePoetryFest

Instagram /Verve.Poetry.Festival

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Verve 2017

Find out more about our inaugural event

Verve Poetry Press

Learn about our sister press

Verve 2018

2018s photos to enjoy!

Verve 2019

View the gallery from 2019

Verve 2020

All the best snaps from 2020

VERVE 2022

Photos from our 2022 comeback

The Team

Stuart Bartholomew

Stuart Bartholomew

Director & Programmer

Stuart Bartholomew is the director and co-founder of Verve Poetry Festival. As well this he is also the co-founder and publisher of sister press Verve Poetry Press. His programming and publishing vision is to celebrate the full breadth of quality poetic activity in the UK and beyond – whatever the style or source – in colourful and exciting ways.

Lizzie Palmer

Lizzie Palmer

Festival Outreach & Community Manager

Lizzie Palmer is a festival producer, administrator, community researcher & bookseller. She’s still trying to live up to the success of receiving a Blue Peter badge for a poem she wrote when she was 9. Lizzie joined the team in 2019 after working on a successful community arts festival and hopes to build on the team’s already fantastic work to grow the festival.

Kibriya Mehrban

Kibriya Mehrban

Festival Communications Manager

Kibriya Mehrban is a poet and arts marketer from Birmingham. They got excited about VERVE when the first crowdfunding call-outs appeared in 2016 and has been an avid supporter ever since. Their poems have appeared in the Emma Press anthologies This is Not Your Final Form (2017) and Second Place Rosette (2018).

Alex Ashford

Alex Ashford

Festival Operations Manager

Alex Ashford is a Birmingham-based bookshop manager and heritage professional. He has a special interest in poetry and writing about Birmingham’s history and its amazing green spaces.

Cynthia Miller

Cynthia Miller

Co-founder / Advisor

Cynthia Miller is a Malaysian-American poet, festival producer and innovation consultant living in Edinburgh. Her astonishing debut full collection, Honorifics (Nine Arches, 2021) has been shortlisted for the Forwards First Book Award.
Rick Sanders

Rick Sanders

Lead Volunteer

Rick Sanders, aka Willis the Poet, is a comedy stand-up poet based in the mighty West Midlands. He has appeared at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Lakefest, and Apples & Snake’s Bright Smoke event with the RSC in Stratford. Rick lends us an enormously experienced hand by volunteering with us at the festival.

Leo Kemsley

Leo Kemsley

VERVE Intern

Leo Kemsley is a Birmingham based poet and game master. He co-hosted the Grizzly Pear open mic night for two years and now hosts Tell it to the Music open mic night. You can find his poetry published under the name Leo Dragstedt or if you ask him nicely he’ll probably send it to you. He loves dogs, YA fiction and mac and cheese.

Sponsors and Partners

Verve couldn’t happen without the generous support of:

Lead Sponsor