BBC Contains Strong Language Festival 2023 comes to Leeds

To celebrate the poetry and passion of the city

The UK’s biggest poetry and performance festival for new writing is taking place in Leeds from 21 – 24 September

PHOTOS: L-R: Hanan Issa (Image: Camera Sioned), Lemn Sissay OBE (Image: Hamish Brown), Malika Booker (Image: Siro Micheroli)


BBC Arts

The BBC’s Contains Strong Language Festival (CSL), the UK’s biggest poetry and performance festival for new writing, is taking place in Leeds from September 21 – 24.

Now in its seventh year, the festival will showcase established and renowned poets, such as Lemn Sissay OBE, Malika Booker, National Poet of Wales Hanan Issa and Owen Sheers, as well as giving a platform to emerging artists from Yorkshire, across the UK and beyond.

The festival line-up will explore everything from rap’s connection to poetry to LGBTQ+ issues expressed by queer poets from India and the UK. Attendees can also enjoy a range of international poets from New Zealand, South Africa, Belize, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Nigeria and, of course, Leeds and West Yorkshire.

Alongside poetry readings and performances from venues across Leeds, a host of BBC radio programmes will record and broadcast live from the city’s historic Howard Assembly Room, home to Opera North. These include BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and Start the Week; BBC Radio 3’s The Verb, and a very special Early Music Show with the Yorkshire-based Ex Corde Vocal Ensemble.

The four-day celebration also brings together a series of projects that have been running throughout the year on BBC Radio Leeds – including Radio Club, working with local schools in Leeds, and Poetry Postcards with Khadijah Ibrahiim across Leeds libraries. To commemorate the centenary of Audio Drama on the BBC, the festival will also showcase “Stories in the Air” – a two-day panel symposium into the making of this unique genre, along with a special live performance with Toby Jones and Tim Crouch.

The festival comes as part of the BBC’s Across the UK Plan and our commitment to connecting audiences to poetry and drama wherever they are. By promoting emerging talent in West Yorkshire, and providing further development opportunities in the region, the festival aims to better serve and reflect our audiences.

Highlights from BBC Contains Strong Language 2023 include:

• Lemn Sissay OBE reads from his new work Let the Light Pour In, a collection of short poems composed as dawn broke each morning over the past decade.

• The Queer Muslim Project and VERVE Poetry Festival continue their international poetry development programme Language is a Queer Thing. The programme engages with six talented LGBTQIA+ poets, from India and the UK, who will perform their work together at CSL.

• Nick Ahad meets actor Toby Jones on BBC Radio 4’s flagship arts programme Front Row, broadcast live from CSL on 21st September.

• The Poet Laureate Simon Armitage chairs a series of events in collaboration with Leeds 2023; The World in Words – an International Gathering of Poets, celebrating Leeds as an international city, through the lens of the 175+ languages spoken there; Poetry and the Planet, which explores the role poetry can play in the face of an uncertain environmental future.

• In Poetic Justice: 50 Years of Hip Hop – rapper and playwright Testament hosts a discussion with a panel of artists closely connected to Leeds and West Yorkshire. UK rapper Jehst, writer and spoken word performer Michelle Scally Clarke and hip hop luminary Paul Oddball Edmeade reflect on Leeds’ very own hip hop scene and consider the poetics of rap, rhyme and flows.

• BBC Radio Club sees students from three schools across Leeds share their own poems created in poetry workshops to an audience of families and friends.

• To celebrate 100 years of BBC Audio Drama, Stories in the Air features the composer and producer Benbrick, who created the award-winning Have you heard George’s Podcast? with George the Poet

• BBC Introducing has partnered with CSL to present the Words First Talent Showcase, celebrating the most creative poets and spoken word artists from across the UK – hosted by Khadijah Ibrahiim.

• The BBC Writers Room will also be there with a workshop filled with top tips on how to get noticed by the BBC as a writer.

Sue Roberts, Head of Culture, Art and Music for BBC Audio North and Director of the Festival, says: "We are thrilled to be bringing Contains Strong Language to Leeds with an inspiring range of performances from local, national and international poets. With newly commissioned work tackling everything from identity to climate change, and activities for families across the city centre we have something for everyone. We welcome audiences to join us as writers from across the globe share the stage with the wealth of talent found in Leeds and West Yorkshire."

Alison Hindell, Radio 4 Commissioning Editor for Drama and Fiction, says: "This year marks the centenary of audio drama on the BBC, and so I’m delighted that Contains Strong Language is building on the BBC’s history of providing audiences with the very best audio drama and letting listeners into some behind-the-scenes insights and stories. Whether you’re already a keen listener of audio drama or looking to explore this unique medium for the first time, there will be plenty to discover."

Source BBC Arts

August 28, 2023 3:00am ET by BBC Arts  


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