On Sunday 24 November, I travelled to Shrewsbury to read at the Literature Festival, where Offa’s Press were the showcased indie press. I read alongside two of my Offa’s stablemates: Kuli Kohli and Emma Purshouse.

The event was hosted at The GreenHouse Cafe in the centre of town, in a large but comfortable upstairs space. A lovely audience gathered, many of whom had already attended and enjoyed readings and workshops earlier in the festival. A brunch-time slot, it was lovely to see so many people settle down to hear three very diverse voices.

I was the first to read, and had incorporated a variety of poems into my 20-minute set. Most were from Bella, but some were poems I rarely bring to the mic. I experimented by beginning with ‘Evidence (1)’, a poem which lists the various archived objects found around the site of the tree. I felt it worked well to immerse the audience immediately into the world of the murder mystery and subsequent investigation, as well as giving them some curious details which reoccur in some of the later poems. It also highlights the unusual form and nature of some of the poems in the collection.

I used the time between each poem to fill out a little more of the story – though I could see by the nodding of heads that some people had some prior knowledge of the Bella case, I hedged my bets and assumed that many people in Shrewsbury would not know the story. I read a couple of the more popular poems, like ‘Bella’s Shoes Lead Nowhere’, as well as the poem which didn’t make it into the pamphlet, but has since been published in The Poetry of Worcestershire: ‘Only They Say Flahrs’.

It was lovely to sit back after my set and listen to Kuli and Emma read. I have only heard Kuli read one or two poems at a time, so it was great to hear a longer set from her. Emma rounded off the event with poems that had pace, rhythm and comedy!

It was nice to talk to members of the audience after the event, to hear their responses to the poems and to sign a few copies of the book. I also enjoyed walking through the beautiful streets of Shrewsbury on a crisp wintery day, on a quiet Sunday morning. I’ll definitely have to return to explore the town a little more in the future.

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