Aldeburgh going


‘Which is why Aldeburgh going is such a disaster. It took years to achieve what they did, years. Of slog, mail outs, and driving miles just to see one teacher to persuade them to come to a workshop. And then get their kids to enter the competition. A whole culture. Gone, overnight. Think of the literally millions of conversations that Aldeburgh spawned. Poet to poet, poet to reader, reader to poet, reader to reader. Publisher to reader. I know this is not what you had in mind, but essentially Aldeburgh was the pedagogy of social interaction. ‘This is how you do it,’ they said. ‘This is how it is done,’ ‘This is how you treat people.’ They were teaching us. Putting great people together in the same room together, expecting the best of them, and encouraging those conversations to flourish. That’s why people went back there, that’s why the poets flocked, even when they weren’t booked to read. Can you imagine that?’

The book has started to smell a little. Another empty tumbler has appeared on the coffee table, just out of reach from where the book lies, its face buried in the sofa. It looks like a bouncer the morning after a Christmas party.

‘Poets, going to other poets’ gigs?’

‘You heard.’

‘But why? That’s not supposed to be how it works at all.’

‘That’s what made it special. They put the content, and the person, first. They had no time for ego. Do you remember that photo of Andrew Motion and Galway Kinnell, the one where they are just standing together, being in each other’s presence. It’s an inward gaze they have, at the same time as being completely at one. Deep regard passing between them. That’s what Aldeburgh did. It brought people together. Like a good teacher, it expected the best from everyone.’

‘Why do you always go back to teaching? Not everything is, you know.’

‘I think that’s where your wrong. Everything is pedagogy. Supermarkets are pedagogy. Even nightclubs. Strictly Come Dancing is pedagogy. There’s a PhD thesis being written on it as we speak.’


‘You think they design them by accident? All the goodies on the ends of the aisles? The cheap wine and the chocolates they lose money on? It’s didactic, telling you how to behave, but it is still pedagogy. Aldeburgh turned that top-down culture on its head. It said ‘You are the conversation. You are the ignition key. And we can’t wait to hear what you have to say.’ Why else did they invest so much energy and time bringing on new and undiscovered poets? The place was nurture. It had grasped the building blocks of civilization and of culture. And now it is gone, like Carl Sandburg’s Buffaloes.’

‘I think you’re overstating it now,’ the book says.

‘You think so? You really think so? You want a ‘review of the year’? Well, in terms of poetry, that is the most significant thing. Easily. For me personally, and for everyone. It would be like losing The Rialto. Or Rolls Royce shutting down. You might not notice it straight away, but in a few years we are really going to notice it, and we will walk into the garden and howl.’


  1. My question is…why ..please…this has meant so much to me. Hearing leading poets and being able to do workshops with them has been inspiring. It seems to be so successful…at least going by the numbers who attend. Anyway a big Thankyou for your blogs..they are a continual source of inspiration to me.

    Geraldine Snape

    Sent from my iPad



  2. It is down to money. And to a political attitude very popular in and around Aldegburgh that if you can’t put a price on it the it isn’t worth having. It’s not a Tory safe seat for nothing. Want a Poetry Festival? There’s no reason one can’t be had. But it will cost money. I don’t know the economics of the Poetry a Festival, but the economics of the Fppd Festivsl on the same site are a joke. Crowded out with people paying £10 to get in then expecting free food and drink and entertainment for the rest of the day. Want it? Pay for it. Or crowd source it.


  3. Anthony, I feel as strongly as you do and I am a relative newcomer to the festival, first attending in 2014. I wrote a blog post recently about my 2015 experience in which I discussed how important the festival was to me and all the other people I’d met who felt the same way. It’s a place that really captured my imagination and renewed my love for poetry. I almost feel like I dreamed going there it was so special. It doesn’t feel quite real yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Maria, thanks so much for your comment. If you multiply that feeling out to every person who went there, the sense of loss is just colossal. It won’t do. As ever with best wishes, Anthony


  4. Aldeburgh has become a second home ( in a metaphorical sense – can’t afford the property prices!) since a group of us started meeting there for the festival several years ago. And now it’s like being homeless. I think we should organise our own fringe festival… take over the town. May not get the big international names but we can have a go. For me the mistake was to abandon Aldeburgh and decamp to Snape. Lovely facilities etc but inconvenient, sanitised and verging on the corporate. Lacking the spontaneity of the town the cafes and pubs, but more importantly the sea… let’s go back and start again.


    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Personally speaking the move to Snape is neither here nor there. The loss of Aldeburgh is about lack of political will and vision, and I don’t mean of those who worked and ran the festival. Your idea sounds brilliant. You should definitely go for it. Wishing you very happy festival, Anthony


      1. My understanding is that will be no Aldeburgh Poetry Festival 2016 at Snape because the November weekend was ‘released’ back to Aldeburgh Music.There has been some talk about organising a much smaller poetry ‘gathering’, using the Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh – but nothing on APF’s usual scale or with such an international programme. It will be interesting to see who comes forward to take on the work to make anything happen…

        Liked by 1 person

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