ORGANISERS of the Ledbury Poetry Festival are celebrating a record-breaking event which ended with a super Sunday and thousands in the town centre, including two Civil War armies.

The festival, which has an international reputation and is a mix of ticketed and free attractions, saw ticket sales soar by 44 per cent compared with 2018, with 4,532 tickets sold and a further 1500 people recorded at the free events.

And the Ledbury Celebration on Sunday, which included a food festival on St Katherine's car park and live music and poetry, added at least another 5000 to the total.

One of big attractions on Sunday was a march through the town by 500 members the Sealed Knot, before they re-enacted the seventeenth century Battle of Ledbury.

Ledbury's Poetry Festival's artistic director, Chloe Garner said: "The Sealed Knot picked the second weekend of the Poetry Festival to re-enact the Battle of Ledbury because they knew there would already be substantial numbers of people in town. The soldiers marching through added to the atmosphere and it is brilliant when these interesting occasions happen during Ledbury Poetry Festival."

She said of the Festival's success: "Most events were at least 80 per cent full, which is great for poets and a fabulous atmosphere for audiences. Ledbury Poetry Festival has broken the previous box office record and sold 4,532 tickets. The quality of the events was exceptional this year. Simon Armitage, is definitely enjoying his new role as Poet Laureate and gave a relaxed and funny performance. Carol Ann Duffy and Andrew Motion were also on great form, enjoying their time in Ledbury. Brecht The Poet Now was a highlight for many, combining music, song and timely reflections on the current political situation.”

Ms Garner said the the ten day festival, “I will never forget Ilya Kaminsky’s fire and brimstone performance from Deaf Republic and Jay Bernard’s haunting and moving performance. I was delighted that A.K. Blakemore won the Ledbury Forte Poetry Prize. And I was pleased to see crowds of families enjoying the Walled Garden performances.

"No doubt, Margaret Atwood’s two events were memorable for many, especially hearing Atwood sing the alternative Canadian anthem. Margaret Atwood’s appearance at John Masefield High School was another Festival high-point with students enjoying having their books signed and getting selfies with a literary legend."

Ledbury Poetry Festival Chairman, Peter Arscott, said: “Poets from Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Trinidad, Slovenia, Lithuania, Denmark, America, Spain, Austria, China, Ireland and Canada performed and gathered in cafes, pubs and restaurants all round Ledbury, getting to know their fellow UK poets, chatting with Festival attendees, buying souvenirs in Ledbury’s independent shops.

"I am sure all of them will rave about Ledbury and how this town takes poetry and the Festival to heart!”

Festival Manager, Phillippa Slinger says, “Everyone has been saying this was the best Festival ever. It was wonderful how all the shops joined in with their window displays. Hundreds of volunteers took part, including a high number of young people who are really benefitting from the volunteering opportunities."

Griff Holliday, secretary of the Ledbury Food Group said: "Summer smiled on this year’s Ledbury Celebration on Sunday – a special day featuring a food and drink market, musical and poetic plus Ledbury’s heritage buildings, all centred in historic St Katherine’s on the last day of the Ledbury Poetry Festival.

"The new venue in St Katherine’s car park proved a perfect amphitheatre for music and poetry and the horseshoe lay out for market stalls created a warm friendly atmosphere. All the food and drink stalls featuring a fine array of local produce sold well, and many sold out."

He added: "The event organised by Ledbury Food Group with partners Ledbury Fringe, Ledbury Poetry Festival and Ledbury Town Council was very well attended particularly after the Sealed Knot’s parade through the High Street, many staying to enjoy a special local lunch, while appreciating the musical and poetry performances."