THE biggest and best poetry festival in the UK will be a real treat for the senses while presenting a few surprises.

Ledbury Poetry Festival is in its 18th year and will once again feature poets from all over the world from Friday, July 4 to Sunday, July 13 but a packed programme of more than 80 events looks set to make it more exciting and varied than ever before.

The centenary of the outbreak of World War One is a theme running through a number of events, such as the work of Edward Thomas and the Dymock poets at Oldfield House, Leddington, as well as premiere performance by Juliet Stevenson of Deryn Rees-Jones’ sequence about Helen Thomas at St Mary's Church, Kempley.

Senses will be put to the test when five poets are asked to write about an anonymous bottle of fragrance in Penning Perfumes, poetry and wine tasting will whet the appetite and sound recordist Chris Watson offers the ambience of a lunar year.

Artistic director Chloe Garner said: "The size is the same but the nature of the programme is much more ambitious. We are using a lot of venues we haven't before.

"Lots of the things happening are commissioned by us so it is the first you will see them. Hopefully some of the pieces will go out on tour later in the year."

Ms Garner added: "We try to be imaginative about how poetry is performed and where it is performed. Where you experience poetry, it changes how you feel about what you are hearing and that's really something.

"We have tried to play around with that and I think it's a really exciting programme."

Ian McMillan will give an amusing talk about his life in stories and verse, former MP Clare Short picks her Desert Island Poems and four Welsh poets share their favourite Dylan Thomas poems to celebrate the centenary of his birth.

Lively performances can be expected in the Ledbury Poetry Slam and a real Ledbury celebration will get the party started on Sunday, July 13 as food, poetry and music mix just off the High Street.

Children and families can also make the most of workshops, storytelling, beatboxing and a visit from Jonny Duddle Pirate Cruncher.

For more information and tickets, go to or call the box office on 0845 458 1743.