BBC poetry festival heads to Birmingham as part of Commonwealth celebrations

Linton Kwesi Johnson, Fred D’Aguiar and Soweto Kinch are among the poets and performers lined up for Contains Strong Language Festival, the BBC’s poetry and performance festival.

Contains Strong Language (CSL) will arrive in Birmingham in September, having previously been hosted in Coventry, Cumbria and Hull.

The four-day festival provides a platform for exciting and emerging artists in the region, and will see current issues such as racism, sex education and LGBTQ+ issues explored by artists with perspectives from across the Commonwealth.

WHITBREAD BOOK OF THE YEARPoet and novelist Fred D’Aguiar will perform new work at the BBC’s Contains Strong Language Festival in September (Buller/PA)

The festival will also see an array of artists collaborate in a variety of programmes broadcast across BBC radio networks – including Radio 4, 1 Xtra and 6 Music.

The festival’s director and head of culture, art and music for BBC Audio North, Sue Roberts said: “We are thrilled to be bringing Contains Strong Language to Birmingham this year as part of the city’s celebration of the Commonwealth Games.

“With a wide range of performances from local, national and international poets and many broadcasts coming from the festival this September, we hope to shine a light on the incredible talent from Birmingham as well as all corners of the Commonwealth.

“As the BBC’s flagship poetry and spoken word festival it is brilliant to see it grow year on year and I am looking forward to what the 2022 festival will bring.”

CSL 2022 will see radio presenter Nick Ahad celebrate dub poet Kwesi Johnson, 69, as he turns 70 and his native Jamaica turns 60, with the celebration broadcast live on Radio 4’s Front Row.

Poet Emile Lauren Jones, who has been working with schools across Birmingham, will also share the work of fresh young talent to new audiences and deliver tips on how to get your poetry noticed.

While Mercury Prize nominated saxophonist and rapper Kinch, 44, will perform a live musical staging of White Juju, which he wrote in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

A variety of poetry presses have also been invited to share their latest and most exciting publications at the festival.

CSL has invited 10 of the best UK indie poetry presses, as well as indie presses from across the Commonwealth including Singapore, Australia and Nigeria.

In addition to a host of poetry readings and performances, a selection of BBC radio programmes will record and broadcast from the CSL festival at venues around Birmingham, including Birmingham Hippodrome and PoliNations – a temporary city centre forest garden complete with giant architectural trees and thousands of colourful living plants.

Radio 1Xtra is also partnering with the festival to present the Words First Talent showcase, which will celebrate the most talented poets and spoken word artists aged between 18 and 30 from across the UK, with special guests including poet John Bernard and Radio 1Xtra host Swarzy.

The BBC’s Contains Strong Language Festival runs from September 8-11 in Birmingham.

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