This year the Ted Hughes Festival took place in Mytholmroyd (…the poet’s birthplace – Ed) and Hebden Bridge 19-21 October 2018, offering six main events to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his death and the 50th anniversary of his original publication of The Iron Man. The event is organised by the Elmet Trust with Mark Hinchliffe as Chair, and includes poetry readings, guided walks and the results of the Ted Hughes Young Poets Award (2018).
I ventured across the country to beautiful Hebden Bridge on Friday for the first day’s events which included a talk by Laura Carlin on her recently illustrated edition of Ted Hughes’s The Iron Man which took place in St Michael’s Parish Hall at Mytholmroyd between 4pm and 5.30pm. I arrived early so I could spend a few hours discovering the delights of Hebden Bridge, meandering the quirky streets, listening to buskers, enjoying artisan food, worldly craft and gift shops, book stores and the library, before going to Mytholmroyd for 4pm.
Later the same day, after a stunning walk along the Rochdale Canal, watching the mechanics of the lock system in full swing, absorbing the history of the beautiful town of Hebden Bridge then enjoying a relaxing meal in the friendly, bohemian Mooch Cafe, I headed off to the beautiful Hope Baptist Church at 7.30pm for two hours of poetry readings by Frieda Hughes and Simon Armitage.
The evening did not disappoint with its opportunities to browse books and anthologies, and I purchased Frieda’s Out of the Ashes from which she had read several poems; some, particularly poignant, of her familial losses. I had not known that, as well as the suicide of her famous mother Sylvia Plath, she has also lost a brother, Nicholas, to suicide.
Following Frieda, Simon Armitage gave an amusing reading of several of his poems, delivered in his rich dry-humoured style and I marvelled at how he could possibly have translocated Odysseus’s troubled voyages after Troy to the aisles of Poundland with such mastery.
After the readings, I duly queued, as we British do so orderly, to gain both signatures in my newly purchased volumes, whilst enjoying the architectural detail and craftsmanship of the high pulpit and stage surroundings, providing a wonderfully ambient setting for the event.
The first day of the event, in my view, had been a triumph and I only wished I could have stayed for the weekend, but headed back, my own slightly less startling Odyssey avoiding the roadworks, and A64 closures, following the many diversions for the 2½ hour journey home. Had I stayed I could have enjoyed one of the guided tours of Ted Hughes’s birthplace in Mytholmroyd at 11am, 2.30pm or 4pm on the Saturday, or visited the Poetry Café where six local Yorkshire poets read from their works, and also enjoyed the Young Poets Award between 4.15 and 5.30pm. And on the Sunday between 11am and 3pm there was to be a circular poetry walk around Mytholmroyd covering key locations for the life and poetry of Ted Hughes.
In my view, this was a fitting festival to celebrate the life and work of a great northern poet and poet-laureate.
Communicated to Whitbywriters by Adele Duffield, November 2018.