Books / Poetry

New Bristol poetry festival unveils great lineup

By joe melia, Thursday Feb 28, 2019

Lyra, a new annual poetry festival for Bristol, has its first outing from March 20 to 24. The five-day jamboree will feature a brilliant lineup of writers and performers and will take place at various venues in the city.

Those appearing include Bristol city poet, Vanessa Kisuule and the festival’s poet-in-residence, Tom Sastry. Other Bristol favourites such as Josie Alford, Stefan Mohamed and Melanie Branton will perform alongside big names from further afield including Olivia Gatwood, Anthony Anaxagorou and Jo Bell.

Danny Pandolfi, co-founder of the festival and host of popular Raise the Bar spoken word events, explains how Lyra came about: “Bristol is a hub for UK poetry right now and we wanted to create a festival that would champion our scene. Poetry organisations like BlahBlahBlah, Hammer and Tongue, Raise the Bar, Tonic, Apples and Snakes, Bristol Poetry Institute and more are all involved in this year’s festival, with even more collaborations and partnerships planned for 2020.

“We really wanted to draw attention to the brilliant and hardworking poetry providers who offer premier events in Bristol all year around – with the festival being a gateway into this world for many people.

“We decided to create a festival that would showcase the diversity of poetry in its modern presentation, connecting more traditional page poets with spoken word performers. We really hope that there is something for everyone in this year’s programme. The festival is a celebration of the art and culture that this fabulous city so uniquely provides, and we believe poetry is a big part of that and something to be celebrated in this fashion every year.”

On naming the festival Lyra, Pandolfi says: “The word comes from the medieval lyre instrument, which is where the word ‘lyrics’ also has its origins. A relevant connection considering that we believe poetry is interdisciplinary and that spoken word is an umbrella term capturing traditional poetry, music, rap, comedy, storytelling and more.

“We didn’t want to just call it ‘Bristol Poetry Festival’, but instead give the festival its own unique flavour and aesthetic in a truly Bristol manner.”

Pandolfi hopes the festival will “bring a lot of different people together and engage new audiences with poetry and challenge perceptions of what the art form can offer”.

He continues: “Through events like our slam, open mic, Q&A discussion and workshops, we’d love to offer many people the opportunity to directly engage with poetry, as well as providing a great range of events for those who just want to sit back with a pint of beer or glass of wine and be entertained with words!

“The festival belongs to the city, and we’d love to see people come along to offer their ideas and utilise the spaces to help it grow even bigger by next year.”

Lyra, Bristol Poetry Festival 2019 takes place from March 20 to March 24. For full information on events, performers and timings, visit

Read more: Level Up poetry project open for applications

Main photo, clockwise from top left: Vanessa Kisuule, Josie Alford, Stefan Mohamed, Anthony Anaxagorou, Stephen Lightbown, Olivia Gatwood, Jo Bell, Tom Sastry

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