The backbone of the two-week festival is provided by circuit stalwarts Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, Matthew Sweeney and Liz Lochhead, plus lunatic fringe lads John Hegley and John Cooper Clarke (above). The flesh comes in the shape of themed/performance spots. On Fri 4 Jul, for example, George Melly talks about the paintings of his friend, Conroy Maddox, which are accompanied by surrealist scribblings. That evening, there's a spoken word homage to those spirits of the open road, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Whitman and Steinbeck. Talks on unknown Victorian poetesses and one-man portraits of Wilfred Owen and Robert Frost might be steering things too much into the realm of stuffy sensibility, but the organisers promise "populist" events, such as pub limerick competitions, to help people let their Pam Ayres down. Every festival has its share of events that lack even the most moribund marketing imagination. Just be thankful you missed the first one, last month: the launch of kiddies' poems on balloons hosted by former Radio 1 DJ Mike Read. Truly, by the sound of it, a thing of baddenesse. Festival 4-13 Jul; main events Fri 4-6 Jul and Fri 11-13 Jul. Info: 01531 634156.
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