Festival of Chichester co-ordinator scores poetry success

Festival of Chichester co-ordinator Barry Smith has featured in the list of winning entries for the 2021 Bread & Roses Songwriting and Spoken Word Award.

Barry Smith
Barry Smith

Barry’s poem, The Masks of Anarchy, was selected by Culture Matters for its shortlist of the best entries this year for new writing on the theme of Voices from a Pandemic. He has previously figured in national poetry awards being a runner-up in the BBC Proms Poetry competition.

Barry’s poem is a take on the response to the pandemic in the tradition of political commentary by Swift and Shelley and looks behind the masks that have come to be a commonplace fixture of these challenging times. The poem is set to music by Brighton based multi-instrumentalist jazz musician Charlotte Glasson. The performance was recorded on video by Katie Bennett.

The Masks of Anarchy is a virtual entry to the Festival and is scheduled for release in the opening week on Tuesday 15 June at 7pm and will be available thereafter on YouTube via the festival website.

Barry said, ‘I’m absolutely delighted to be chosen by the selectors as one of the best entries. It’s a great honour to have my writing featured by such a prestigious organisation as Culture Matters.

“ Living through the pandemic and watching events unfold has been traumatic for us all.

“I couldn’t help thinking back to historical threats to health such as the 1918 flu pandemic and even further to the plagues of medieval times. I felt I just had to put pen to paper and record what was happening.’

Barry added: “Culture Matters is an organisation devoted to celebrating the voices of ordinary, working people.

“It provides a platform for writers to explore and explain important issues of the day and, if things seem to be going wrong, to bring them to attention. Mistakes have been made in the way the pandemic has been handled. At some point there will have to be an enquiry into what went wrong and why some communities suffered more than others. But I didn’t want my poem to be too straight-faced. Writers of the past – like Shelley or Swift – have used satire to explore major problems and disasters. It seemed the right format – and even more so when Charlotte added her fantastic soundtrack. It really brought the piece to life!’

Barry, who is also the director of the South Downs Poetry Festival, said, ‘It’s great that Chichester’s very own festival can showcase poetry for a wider audience. As well as my piece, SDPF is presenting its YouTube video – also filmed by Katie Bennett – Celebrating Keats: the Bicentenary. This is being aired on Saturday 12 June, the opening day of the festival, and will be available for catch-up thereafter via the website. We first aired this in the spring and it has had a fantastic response, being viewed not just in the UK but internationally.’

The Masks of Anarchy and Celebrating Keats: the Bicentenary – see www.festivalofchichester.co.uk.