Contains Strong Language Festival celebrates all that is great about Yorkshire wordsmiths - Ian McMillan

This week’s musings from Barnsley poet and wordsmith Ian McMillan.

As a young man trying to make my way across the stormy seas of the poetry world, I always liked to go to literary festivals to hear the bards read their work and maybe, just maybe, have a chat with me and maybe, just maybe, sign my book.

I remember seeing my poetic hero Pete Morgan at the Ilkley Literature Festival sometime in the 1980s and, not only that, he saw me later walking towards the station and said something that at the time I thought was really profound; he gazed at me and said: “How’s town?”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

I nodded and mumbled something and we both went our separate ways and to this day I don’t really know what he was on about but I remember thinking that it was some kind of jewel of gnomic wisdom, to such an extent that I wrote it down in my notebook.

Simon Armitage will be taking part in the festival. Picture Bruce RollinsonSimon Armitage will be taking part in the festival. Picture Bruce Rollinson
Simon Armitage will be taking part in the festival. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Reading and writing are, as is often noted, solitary activities and so it’s always good to go to festivals and meet your fellow scribes or the people who write the books you enjoy reading.

There are lots of brilliant literary festivals all over Yorkshire and I’m pleased to announce that I’m going to be part of another one, the BBC Contains Strong Language festival when it comes to a number of venues across Leeds from September 21-24.

The Contains Strong Language festival, or CSL for short, is a showcase of the amazing writing that’s going on these days. Perhaps it’s because we’re in the middle of hard times but we seem to be in a golden age of new writing and CSL is determined to celebrate as much as we can squeeze into a weekend.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It’s a BBC festival, so all the events will be broadcast either live or recorded, and my Radio 3 show The Verb will be at the heart of it.

We’re doing the show live on the Friday night, which always makes my heart beat a little faster, and then we’re recording three more over the weekend in front of audiences, which again makes my heart beat a little bit faster.

The line-up is really exciting too, with writers from all over Yorkshire and all over the world taking part.

The Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, will be there, as will Cecilia Knapp, the former Young People’s Laureate for London, and Hanan Issa, the National Poet of Wales, and they’ll be taking part in a discussion about Laureates and National Poets. As the Laureate of Our House, I’ll be well qualified to lead the chat.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The poet Lemn Sissay always a powerful stage presence and a brilliant performer of his own work, will be there, as will The Yorkshire Post’s own Master of the Sentence and the Paragraph, Nick Ahad.

We’ll be celebrating 50 Years of Hip Hop with the brilliant West Yorkshire writer, rapper and playwright Testament, and if you’re someone who want to write and perform but haven’t quite got round to it yet, the BBC Writers’ Room will be there offering help and advice.

The main thing about CSL, I reckon, is that people can mingle and mix and chat to poets and performers and have a cuppa with them and buy their books and get them signed, just like I did all those years ago when I was just a Poetry Boy.

Just have a look at the BBC Contains Strong Language Festival website for details. You’ve got to have a ticket but they’re free.

And if you see me, make sure you say: “How’s Town?”