Buxton Poetry Competition winners announced


A highlight of the Buxton Festival Book Weekend was our poetry competition prize giving. Competition judges Matt Black, Philip Holland and Rob Stephens were joined on stage by winning poets from all three categories of the competition.

The event was opened by competition patron Lady Jasmine Cavendish who talked about the hard work that poets from across the country and the world (including USA, Canada, Brazil and Slovenia) had put into their poems. The winners of the Children’s and Youth Categories were then announced with the winning poets reading their poems to rapturous applause from the audience.

Following a speech by Professor Peter Dewhurst from competition sponsor The University of Derby the winners in the Open Category were announced in reserve order. Fifth place went to Ruth Quinn with her charming poem The Hidden Dragon. Fourth Place was awarded to Josh Ekroy for Entrepreneurs. Third Place was the wonderful A Winter Interlude by Philip Burton. Margaret Morey’s delightful poem Sixties Secret was in Second Place. And the First Prize in the Open Category of the 2016 Buxton Poetry Competition went to Roger Elkin with his moving piece called Songs Without Words.

Songs Without Words by Roger Elkin

What really stuck in Mum’s craw that next Summer
was surrendering her Bechstein baby grand,
that alter of arrival at which she’d taken daily stock
of her upbringing, and her mother’s sacrifice
putting her to the upright. Oh, how she’d ladedahed
at family and friends as graduating to this black-lacquered anvil
straddling the corner of her front room.

So would tackle it, side-saddling the piano-stool’s chintz,
hands lifting and flashing, trafficking the ruffles of notes
as if the caressing of ivories, the spread-fingered rending
were her sole hope of regaining self.

The she’s put all her stumbling discord
back together again with the sweet-saccharine
middle-class fanciness of those Songs Without Words,
the genius of Mendelssohn – uncircumcised Jewboy
become good Lutheran – in sister Fanny’s filigree piano-pieces:
musical antimacassars covering the vulnerabilities
of nothingness, the notes clustering
like sticky flies sucking at ripe blackberries
while Dad smiled wryly with his put-on face,
his fingers itching to switch his TV back to life.

So, from the moment the piano left–
legs rag-swagged for protection,
then jacked into the back
of Cheetham’s van ­–
she felt abandoned.

But never let on what she inwardly termed
My mortification,
till decades later after Dad had gone.

All that time, she kept schtum,
silently rehearsing
her version of words without songs.

Competition organiser Claire Barlow comments: it was a delight to meet all our shortlisted poems at the prize giving event. And to hear them read their poems to a warm audience of judges, patron, friends, family and supporters was a joy. I was particularly impressed by the stage-craft of our young winners who read their poems with great style and confidence.

Information on the 2017 Buxton Poetry Competition will be announced in the new year via www.buxtonfestival.co.uk. Thank you to all who entered this year, and congratulations to our winners and runners up.

Book Weekend 2016 complete programme announced

The complete programme for the Book Weekend running from 18-20 November has now been finalised with new additions Germaine Greer, David Templeman and Clare Hartwell. 

To see the full programme, follow the link to the digital version of the brochure here.

Visit the website to book your tickets now!


Buxton Poetry Competition – Now Open!

Buxton Poetry Competition is now open!

Our annual poetry competition is now accepting entries on the theme of Hidden. Here we talk to the competition organiser Claire Barlow.

Hi Claire, please can you tell us a bit about the history of the competition?

Hello, I’ve been running the competition for eight years now and every year it is a delight to be involved! The competition started when Buxton Festival and the University of Derby got together to create a joint project which would encourage people from across the country to have a go at creative writing. We had no idea that we would get so many great entries over the years and from people as far away as Australia, the United States and Brazil!

Wow, do people really enter from Brazil?

Yes they do, and we get entries from across Europe too. Every year I look forward to getting a parcel of entries from the same school in Slovenia, it puts me to shame that the young people can write poetry in English when I can’t say ‘hello’ in Slovenian!

But you don’t judge the competition do you?

No I don’t (thank goodness, with 600 poems to read!) We have a great team of judges each year who do take the time to read all the poems entered and to create a shortlist of poems. Then the judges whittle that list down further to choose a first, second, third, Highly Commended and Commended winner from each category. We have three categories allowing poets of all ages to enter, there is Children’s Poetry for those under 12 years old, Young People’s Poetry for those aged 12 to 18 and our Open Category for poets over the age of 18. What’s great is that the Children’s and Young People’s Categories are free to enter so young people from all backgrounds can enter the competition without any financial barriers.

Are the judges the same each year?

Matt Black
Poet Matt Black

No, I like to have a few new faces each year to keep things fresh and fair. All judging is done totally anonymously, I make sure of that, but it is nice to know that we get new perspectives and opinions from our judges each year. This year we welcome Matt Black as our Open Category judge. Matt won the competition in 2013 so we’re delighted to welcome him back as a judge this time.

This year’s competition theme is Hidden, can you tell us why the poetry competition has a theme?

The idea behind having a theme is to focus writers’ attention and to provide a stimulus to spark the imagination. We want people to create new work for the competition not to just enter something that was written a few years ago that they submit to every competition going. I also really like the idea that we are creating a collective body of work. Each year we publish an anthology of the shortlisted poems and I feel that a theme gives that document added purpose and impact. It is also fascinating to see how poets interpret our theme. I usually have a few ideas of what people will write about, but each year there are winning poems that surprise me in the way they answer our brief, and that’s great!

Can schools enter the competition?

Yes, we love getting entries from schools from across the country. The entries can’t be group efforts though, each child needs to write their own poem. I think kids will love the theme this year, I imagine poems from the younger entrants about hidden treasure, hide-and-seek and lost toys.

What do people need to do to enter the competition?

You need to visit http://www.buxtonfestival.co.uk/outreach/poetry-competition/ to download an entry pack. This has all the competition rules and entry information plus a form to fill in to send back with your poems. The closing date of the competition is 26th August, so you have plenty of time to perfect your work. For any more information please send me an email at claire@buxtonfestival.co.uk.

When will the winners be announced?

The winners will be announced at the Buxton Festival Book Weekend in November 2016. At this special event we’ll hear all the shortlisted poems read by their authors, plus some work from our current and past judges. Then our Patron Lady Jasmine Cavendish will announce the winners of the competition for 2016. This year our top prize in the Open Category has been increased to £500 so it’s really worth having a go at entering the competition.

Thanks Claire, we’re off to write our entry now…

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