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This report is taken from PN Review 69, Volume 16 Number 1, September - October 1989.

Report from Cambridge Peter Riley
I'm not aware that the concerned public has yet been offered any explanation of the demise of the Cambridge Poetry Festival, which was held biennially from 1973 to 1985, but is unlikely to take place again in the forseeable future. Well, the reasons for its collapse are a matter of controversy, though they were clearly in part merely practical and local - the difficulty of finding dependable persons to run it and a body of volunteer helpers in what is, after all, a small city. After the 1985 festival the Festival Society, a quite large body of interested persons constitutionally responsible for the festival, elected an entirely new committee to plan the event which should have taken place in November 1987. This furnished an opportunity for a re-thinking of the festival, which was indeed taken advantage of, but problems of organisation, finance, patronage and personnel became increasingly apparent as planning proceeded, leading to a crisis when the committee's proposed festival programme for 1987 was rejected by the Society.

Some of us think that the 1987 festival could well have been a great success, at least from the point of view of its artistic content. The programme, devised under the chairmanship of Ian Patterson, was challenging and uncompromised. It was tobe a two-tier event: poets of serious and indeed intellectual achievement from several countries were invited regardless of their anthology or media status, alongside representatives of a genuinely popular poetry, mostly British black groups involved in forms of performance poetry ...


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