South Downs Poetry Festival, SDPF, is a new annual festival which – uniquely – spans many miles; the length and breadth of the beautiful South Downs National Park. 2016 was SDPF’s inaugural year with 63 events over nine days in July 2016. Our début programme included events in Lewes, Ditchling, Singleton, Midhurst and Petersfield; as well as a four day Poetry Bike Tour with poetry performances from Eastbourne to East Meon; and, finally, putting on an event-filled 3 days over a weekend in and around Petersfield in Hampshire. Contributors included Andrew McMillan, Jonathan Edwards, Rhymes with Orange, Maggie Sawkins, Stephanie Norgate, Jackie Wills, Hugh Dunkerley, Jonathan Edwards, Hilda Sheehan, John Greening, John Davies, Janet Sutherland, Penelope Shuttle, Brendan Cleary, Matthew Caley, John Haynes, Audi Maserati, Speech Painter, Peter Sutton and Attila The Stockbroker.
In 2017 the festival spread out time-wise as well as geographically starting in April and running through to Juiy. Again here were major concentrations of events in Lewes and Petersfield but also in many places in between including Steep, were we held a day of events dedicated to Edward Thomas on the 100th anniversary of the Poet’s death, a weekend of poetry at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park and events at the Cass Foundation Sculpture Park, Arundel, Chichester, Brighton and Steyning. One high light was an evening of poetry and prosecco in the remote and tiny St Hubert’s Church near Finchdean on the Hampshire / Sussex boarder. We also ran a weekend residential tutored by Kim Moore and Hugh Dunkerley. Other contributors included: Tolu Agbelusi, Ray Antrobus, Rebbecca Askew, Claire Dyer, Elephant’s Footprint Poetry Films, Anne-Marie Fyfe, Naomi Foyle, Rebbecca Gethin, Hugh Greasley, Norbert Hisrchhorn, Penny Hope, Frieda Hughes, Charlotte Innes, Wendy Klein, Jane Lovell, John McCullough, Patricia McCarthy, Audi Maserati, Paul Matthews, Grace Nichols, Stephani Norgate, Michaela Ridgway, Rhymes with Orange,
After these two very successful years the founding SDPF trustees were rather tired and one of them, the founding director, Tim Dawes, moved away from the area. SDPF continues in 2018 with Barry Smith taking over as the Festival Director, supported by trustees Joan Secombe and Mandy Pannett, with Stephanie Norgate as poetry adviser.
SDPF is a community charitable trust. All trustees and advisers work unpaid and we rely on generous support from our sponsors and of course you to buy tickets.
Tim Dawes, Founding Director and current Treasuer
Tim has had many years’ experience, having previously founded and directed Havant Literary Festival: “A plucky little festival, determined to bring literature to the people of Havant, whether they want it or not”. Anthony Gardner, Intelligent Life magazine. Tim now lives in Shrewsbury
Barry Smith, Festival Director
is director of Chichester Poetry and is responsible for the long running Open Mic Poetry events held monthly at the New Park Centre, Chichester. He has long been co-ordinator of the summer arts Festival of Chichester and is himself a poet. His poems have appeared online and on You Tube as well as in Acumen, London Grip, South, the Frogmore Papers, the Stony Thursday Book, Ver Poets Anthology and the Recusant. He was runner-up in the BBC Proms Poetry Competition. He is editor of Poetry & All That Jazz magazine.
We have a set of patrons who support the aims of the festival. They are:
Bloodaxe poet (most recently The Blue Den) and lecturer in Creative Writing at Chichester University
is a fine poet and much-respected poetry group organiser who lives in Pulborough. Mandy is a trustee of SDPF and is especially involved in organising events in Ditchling and Lewes.
Attila The Stockbroker
The legendary Shoreham-based ranting poet
Winner of the Costa Poetry Prize 2012
Cllr. Susan Murray
Mayor of Lewes 2015/16
Winner of the Ted Hughes Prize 2015
We have had fantastic advice and support from many many people in the poetry world, but we must
just mention the simply marvellous, Hilda Sheehan, whose work with Poetry Swindon and their
festival we so much admire and has been a great help to us.