Two ends of the literary spectrum

Writer and poet Tony Harrison.
Writer and poet Tony Harrison.

The headliners at the third Lyric festival of poetry and music next week represent two ends of the literary spectrum, according to organiser Simon Armitage, Professor of Poetry at the University of Sheffield.

On the one hand there is the venerable Tony Harrison known for epic theatrical pieces and on the other is Kate Tempest, emerging star of the spoken word and open mic scene.

Over four decades, Leeds-born Harrison has enjoyed a reputation as one Britain’s most significant, original and controversial poets

”Tony doesn’t do that many readings these days, he’s now in his seventies. So it’s great that he will be reading in Yorkshire,” says Armitage.

“He’s a practised performer of his work and we can expect a whole range - powerful and moving poems and prose, classical things and bits of plays.” Performing at venues as diverse as Glastonbury, Holloway Prison and mainstream literary festivals, Kate Tempest bridges the divide between theatre and poetry

“She is someone I have seen at festivals and she looks very young and innocent and yet out of her mouth comes some strong emotional stuff,” says Armitage.

She recently received the prestigious Ted Hughes Poetry Prize for her ‘spoken story’ Brand New Ancients.

“We were unaware of that when we booked her so that is a bonus and I think she might bring in a different crowd, especially as she is being supported by local acoustic rap artist Pro-VERB.”

Other attractions at the four–day festival running from May 2-4 include contemporary British poets Paul Farley, Lavinia Greenlaw and Jacob Polley, Indian writers Tishani Doshi and Priscila Uppai, a Poetry Business showcase, a celebration of the words of WH Auden and the music of Benjamin Britten.