Sussex poetry celebration for William Shakespeare’s 457th birthday

The South Downs Poetry Festival is joining forces with Guildford-based poetry publishers Dempsey and Windle to host a free virtual event on Zoom on the evening of William Shakespeare’s 457th birthday.

Gareth Williams
Gareth Williams

Ten of the poets whose work is published by Dempsey and Windle will read two Shakespearean-inspired poems each at the event.

The poems read will focus on Shakespearean characters or plots, the Bard’s life and family or be parodies of his style.

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Others will be new poems written for the occasion, serious or humorous or anything in between. Each poet will have five minutes to read during an hour of entertaining and fast-moving and varied poetry hosted by Janice Windle.

Leading the way from the world of theatre will be two Sussex actors who have trodden the boards performing Shakespeare’s plays.

Screen and stage actor Gareth Williams whose credits include Guys and Dolls in the West End, Mike Leigh’s recent film of Peterloo and roles with the English Shakespeare Company, will deliver Jaques’ famous speech from As You Like It, The Seven Ages of Man.

He has also appeared in the Festival of Chichester.

His wife, Paula Tinker, who has appeared on a number of occasions at Chichester Festival Theatre, will read Portia’s speech from The Merchant of Venice, The Quality of Mercy.

SDPF director Barry Smith said: “It’s a great honour for our pop-up poetry festival to pop up online alongside a trend-setting publishing house.

“As the festival director, I’ll be getting things moving with a Shakespeare inspired poem, Being and Nothingness, which was inspired by Hamlet and partly written in Chichester Cathedral while sitting near the Arundel tomb and listening to a lunchtime concert.

“It’s been published in Acumen magazine and featured as poem of the week on their website.”

The Dempsey and Windle poets are Timothy Adès, Claudia Court, Dónall Dempsey, Georgia Hilton, M E Muir, Jenna Plewes, Laura Theis, John Wheeler, Richard Williams and Simon Williams.

Timothy Adès is a rhyming translator poet with a substantial body of work to his name, including Loving by Will, inspired by Shakespeare. Richard Williams, author of Landings (Dempsey & Windle), is a Portsmouth-based poet with a special interest in sport. He’s leading another SDPF event on that theme later in the year.

Barry added: “Do join us for this very special birthday party! It promises to be a lively occasion and lots of fun.”

To join the party, just visit the South Downs Poetry Festival website and register via the Eventbrite link. The audience will be sent the access link and password close to the event.

Shakespeare’s Birthday Party, a Virtual Event, will be on April 23 2021 from 7.30pm-8.30pm by Zoom. More details about the evening on the website