VERVE 2023

An unforgettable weekend of poetic wonder.


VERVE 2023

An unforgettable weekend of poetic wonder.

The festival’s opening night was a true spectacle. The Birmingham Schools Slam Final, hosted by the charismatic Spoz Poet, was a heartwarming way to kickstart the festivities with young talents from local primary schools on stage was nothing short of inspiring.

Next up was the Rathbones Folio Prize Poetry Shortlist Event, hosted by the renowned poet and author, Jackie Kay. This event allowed us to meet the poets shortlisted for the prestigious Rathbones Folio Prize.

The night took an exhilarating turn with the VERVE Poetry Night Special hosted by the energetic Sam J Grudgings. The Patrick Studio came alive with the fusion of spoken word and music. It was a true celebration of the spoken word art form, where poets and musicians harmonised.

Day two of the festival was all about self-discovery and honing our craft. Helen Calcutt Workshop: Owning it, encouraged us to write honestly from our life experiences.

The Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan Workshop: Writing as Resistance was a powerful experience. In a world filled with chaos and oppression, Suhaiymah’s workshop reminded us of the incredible power that writing holds. We explored how words can be a tool for resistance and change.

Helen Mort’s Workshop: Metaphors We Live By. Helen’s latest collection, The Illustrated Woman was a transformative experience, helping us to see the world through a different lens.

Will Harris’s workshop, Sounds of Words / Words of Sounds, took us on a communal journey. We explored the connections between objects, words, and sounds, sharing stories that resonated deeply with each participant.

Friday night was a literary feast for the senses featuring the incredible Jay Gao, Will Harris, and Denise Saul. Their words washed over us like a wave, each poem carrying a piece of their souls. It was an evening of introspection, laughter, and deep emotions.

But the surprises didn’t end there. VERVE introduced its first-ever Poetry Film Night hosted by Paul Stringer. We gathered in the dimly lit Patrick Studio, our feet up, ready to be drawn into visual masterpieces that brought poetry to life in unexpected ways. It was an innovative addition to the festival, showcasing the versatility of poetry in the digital age.

As the weekend continued, VERVE dedicated time to young poets with the Helen Mort Young Person’s Workshop: Having Fun With Poetry (13-19) and the Poetry Society Young Poets Takeover. The young voices that graced the stage were a testament to the bright future of poetry.

The festival also provided an All Day Open Mic at the Podium Event Space. It was a space where anyone, regardless of experience, could step up and share their poetry. The raw authenticity of the open mic sessions was both moving and exhilarating. Poetry belongs to everyone, and every voice deserves to be heard.

Scarlett Ward’s workshop, A monster in the shape of a woman: poetic retellings of mythological female figures exploration of female archetypes and mythology challenged stereotypes and ignited conversations about gender and storytelling.

Kathy Pimlott’s workshop, Making the Everyday Sing, was a revelation. We discovered that everyday material—kitchen utensils, routine tasks—could serve as a launchpad for profound meditations on life, love, and mortality.

The Fourth Verve Poetry Performance Lecture, led by an expert in the field, Nick Makoha, fused art, history, and literature. We delved into the worlds of Basquiat, Icarus, and the Entebbe hijacking in 1976, seeing how these narratives could inform our poetry.

VERVE didn’t stop at workshops and lectures; they also ventured into the realm of poetry magazines with Harana Poetry LIVE, hosted by Kostya Tsolakis. This unique experience brought a poetry magazine to life on stage, with poets sharing their work in a captivating format.

As the weekend drew to a close, the Sunday Night Headline Event featured Zaffar Kunial, Gregory Leadbetter, and Jenny Mitchell. Their performances left us in awe, reminding us of the power of poetry to connect and move us.

And then, there was Kevin P. Gilday’s Saturday Night Stramash, a riotous blend of Scottish poetry, comedy, and entertainment that closed out the festival on a high note. It was a night of laughter and celebration, a perfect way to bid farewell to VERVE 2023

Photographers: Thom Bartley.