Ledbury Poetry Festival Poetry Competition 2018

The winners’ event will be on Saturday 13 July, 2019

Comments on the 2018 competition from Judge Nia Davies:

I feel honoured to have had a special private view of the kind of things people are thinking about through the medium of poetry right now. It was a joy to spend every morning over coffee rummaging through the pile. People are deeply concerned about homelessness and the earth, but they’re also funny and kind and loving. They’re missing lost people or they’re in love or they are thinking through their bodies and how their bodies are changing. For some reason several poets felt drawn to write about shaving legs!! The winners and runners up were the poems that, as well as taking a sideways glance at a subject, also stretched and invigorated language and the form of the poem itself. And they gave me vivid feelings in the belly, the kind of feelings, even, that make me want to write poems myself! Curiously, both the young people and adult category winners explore a particular kind of cultural grief by taking a tour of a dystopian future-present cityscape. But the children’s winner zooms in on an ordinary object, a can of fish!   The winning poem in the adult section did everything, it made me laugh in its absurd concern for the post-apocalyptic takeaway situation but it also channels the anxiety we feel in the face of a future that may be homogenised and stripped of distinctive human culture.  I checked and checked to know if this was the one and in the end I couldn’t leave it alone. In the children’s category I immediately fell in love with the bloody pilchards and there was no going back from there. In the young person’s category I had trouble deciding between some really insightful, raw and surprising work but settled on something panoramic, atmospheric and embodied, a poem that provoked in me the unsettled feeling of being in a new city. This is an aggressively polluted city that demands a very exacting kind of bodily acclimatisation and the poem somehow displaces us in this through the jagged language of a foggy kind of grief.

Nia is a poet and editor of Poetry Wales. She has co-curated and participated in several transcultural collaborations, projects and events and her work has been widely translated.

Her most recent publications are All fours (Bloodaxe Books, 2017), England (Crater, 2017) and Interversions (Poetrywala, 2018) which documents her collaboration with Kannada poet Mamta Sagar.

She is undertaking practice-based research into poetry and ritual at Salford University.

Read all 2018 winning poems HERE

And the winners are…

Adult Competition Prizes:

First Prize: £1000 cash and a course at Ty Newydd, the National Writing Centre of Wales www.tynewydd.org


R.T.A Parker with his poem “All the Bleak Chippies”

RTA Parker is a poet, academic, editor and printer from the UK. His poetry publications include from The Mountain of California… (Openned 2010), The Traveller and the Defence of Heaven (Veer, 2012) and R.T.A. Parker’s 99 Sonnets About Evil (Canary Woof, 2015). His work, which includes poetry about sport, travel writing and science fiction, addresses questions of place and the environment through investigations of poetic form and process. His latest project, from which “All the Bleak Chippies” is taken, is made up of a series of ode-like poems on science fiction themes. He has written various critical prose pieces on twentieth-century poetry, with a particular emphasis on American modernism and the New American Poetry. He has edited two volumes of essays on Ezra Pound and is currently working on a monograph on the modernists during the 1960s. He has taught in Turkey, Chile and at various universities in the UK.

On winning the Ledbury Poetry Festival Poetry Competition, R.T.A. Parker says: “It was a great and marvellous surprise to win the Ledbury Poetry Festival Poetry Competition. It’s an honour to be in the august company of the previous winners, and to have my poem read alongside theirs. Winning this prize is a personal boost and persuades me that I’m on the right track poetically – it’s a wondrous thing that poems about interstellar chip shops can be recognised in 2018!”

Ty Newydd is the National Writing centre of Wales. The centre hosts an annual programme of creative writing courses and retreats for writers of all ages and abilities, both in Welsh and English. Ty Newydd, which is the last home of former Prime Minister David Lloyd George, is located in Llanystumdwy, Gwynedd. The centre, which opened its doors in 1990, is run by Literature Wales, the national company for the development of literature in Wales. For more information about Ty Newydd and to see its courses, see www.tynewydd.wales


Second Prize: £500

Pam Thompson

Pam Thompson with her poem  “Through the Hologram”

Pam Thompson is a writer and educator based in Leicester. Her first collection was The Japan Quiz (Redbeck Press, 2009). Her pamphlet, Show Date and Time, (Smith | Doorstop, 2006) was a winner in the Poetry Business competition. Strange Fashion, Pam’s second collection, was published by Pindrop Press in 2017. Pam has been Highly Commended in the Forward Prize and widely published –  in Mslexia, The North, The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House, Under the Radar among others. www. pamthompsonpoetry@wordpress.com

“I was stunned when I heard I’d won second prize. It was such a boost. I think all poets have times when they think their poetry’s going nowhere. The best things come totally out of the blue!”

Third Prize: £250

Robbie Burton with her poem “Deeds”

Robbie Burton

Robbie Burton’s poetry has appeared in The North, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Wales, Poetry News and Magma, and in several anthologies including A Speaking Silence and The Book of Love and Loss.  Her debut pamphlet, ‘Someone Else’s Street’ was published by HappenStance Press in 2017.  She’s the Poetry Society stanza rep for Cross Border Poets in North East Wales.

How do you feel about being a winner in the Ledbury Poetry Competition?

“My mobile rang as I was on the way back from a meeting to my car. By the time I’d unearthed it from my bag the caller had rung off and left a message on voicemail – “You’re a prize-winner in the Ledbury Poetry Competition.” Who, me? How tremendously exciting! In fact, it was so exciting that now I had a problem – how to drive home without crashing the car. Furthermore, I’d have to keep the news to myself for 65 hours and 5 minutes. Oh, the agony.”

Read all 2018 winning poems HERE

Young Persons’ prizes

First Prize: £100 cash:Annie Fan, UK, ” essay on grief/ a holiday”
Second Prize: £50: Georgie Woodhead, UK, “Collins”
Third Prize: £25: Lauren Edwards, UK, “The Night You Attacked Me”

Annie Fan

Georgie Woodhead

Lauren Edwards

Annie Fan: “I’ve been lucky enough to have work broadcast by BBC Radio 3, and published in Ambit, The Manchester Review, and DIAGRAM, among other places. I’ve also won Lancaster University’s prizes for fiction and poetry, been a prize winner in Tower Poetry twice, and was commended twice in Foyle Young Poets of the Year. Winning the Young Poets Prize at Ledbury is such an honour – Ledbury is a festival that I’ve looked up to hugely over the years, as I began to write, and to have my work recognised is so exciting.”

Georgie Woodhead is fifteen years old and has lived in Sheffield all her life. She writes poetry and prose, along with script dialogue and short fiction, and has written since a very young age. She has been a part of The Verb on radio three with Ian McMillan; has been involved throughout the years in many poetry open mics and writer’s workshops and has also performed her poetry at the Rite Trax festival two years running. In 2018 she won a highly commended for a collection of poetry at the Cuckoo young writers award, and in October 2018 was a top fifteen winner for the Foyle Young Poet of the Year Award.  When she was thirteen years old she joined Sheffield Young Writers, a year before she was meant to, lying about her age. Georgie has been greatly supported by Vicky Morris and Nik Perring, who run Sheffield Young Writers, and who have made that community one of the warmest and welcoming that there is.  Goergie says: ‘To have been chosen for the Ledbury gives me a feeling of worth, and of being appreciated. It is quite remarkable to be noticed for something like this, and acknowledged by people you didn’t think would look.’

Lauren Edwards is a former journalism student from Glasgow. ” I love to write about things that come from a deep and sometimes dark place as I am inspired by words that not only touch but tear the heart.  I have won a Young Scottish Writers award for my poem ‘Love is a disease’. I look forward to developing my poetic technique as I get older. I was thrilled to be told I had placed third place in this competition and I am very excited to meet likeminded individuals at the event next summer! I started personal writing a few years ago and find it a great outlet to express emotion and hardship. I am grateful to Ledbury Poetry Festival for seeing the depth in my writing and their understanding of how complex my poem is to me. “

Read all 2018 winning poems HERE

Children’s Prizes

First Prize: £25 book token: Aurora B Blue, UK, “Tinned Life”
Second Prize: £15 book token: Maxwell Heavens, UK, “Six Ways To Look At A Word”
Third Prize: £10 book token: Mrugakshi  (Kankai Walendra) , India, “Forgiveness to Forgiveness”


Maxwell Heavens

Aurora B Blue

Aurora B Blue enjoys mountaineering, climbing, the Natural world, making art, reading, writing poetry, trampolining, collecting  Bibles and her favourite doll, Agatha. In her writing, Aurora has had poetry finalised in the last year at the Buxton open poetry and read in front of an audience including Lady Jasmine Cavendish; she was also commended for her poem, Malcolm, in the 2017 Write Out Loud/Milestone competition (a poem about her recently late grandfather); she has also just been placed second in her age category in the Elmer/Ted Hughes prizes! Aurora was also highly commended in the under 21 Buxton open Art 2016 and was given an engraved medal. Aurora says “Thank you for choosing my poem, Tinned Life. I care a lot about the environment and often write about this, I do write poetry about everything though! I’m very grateful for winning”

Maxwell Heavens is 10 years old and I lives with his mum, dad, brother and dog Izzy. “I love animals (especially dogs) and am a keen martial artist – I have been training as a kickboxer for six years and recently started Brazilian Ju Jitsu a year ago. My favourite subjects in school are computing and science and you can always find me with my head in a book! On winning 2nd place Maxwell says : “Since a very young age I have always loved reading all types of poetry from world war 2 poems to funny limericks. I wrote my winning poem during a school project where we studied ‘Six ways to look at the moon’ by Pie Corbett and were asked to write our own metaphor poem. I’m so excited that so many people are going to read and enjoy it now, thank you!”

Mrugakshi is 9 years old and includes dancing, photography and kudo in her many interests and hobbies. On winning third place Mrugakshi says “I am so excited and jubilant as it’s an another feather in my cap. I always try to participate in various competitions as per my interest and hobbies. This is a very valuable cherry on my cake as this award is a stepping stone in the path to pen down my thoughts in poetic world.”

Thank you to everyone who entered the competition, we hope you are encouraged to keep on writing poetry!

Read all 2018 winning poems HERE


  1. Poems must have been received on or before Thursday 12th July 2018 at 5pm (British Summertime).
  2. All poems must be the original work of the entrant and should not have been previously published, accepted for publication by a magazine, nor entered in other competitions.
  3. The length of each poem must not exceed 40 lines.
  4. Each individual poem, regardless of length, must be typed on one sheet of plain A4 paper (except Children’s category, which can be handwritten). Please submit two copies of each poem – unless you enter on-line.
  5. The competitor’s name must NOT appear on the poem.
  6. All poems must be accompanied by a fully completed entry form.
  7. Please keep a copy of your poem, as manuscripts cannot be returned.
  8. Copyright remains with the author, but Ledbury Poetry Festival reserves the right to have entries performed at the Festival, on radio, TV, or stage, published on the internet, in an anthology or used for publicity purposes at any stage in the future.
  9. No acknowledgement of entry will be sent unless the competitor sends an SAE marked ‘Acknowledgement’.
  10. Competitors wishing to be informed of the results should enclose an SAE marked ‘Results’.
  11. The decision of the judge is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  12. The Festival reserves the right to withhold prizes if such an action is justified.
  13. Entries not complying with competition rules will be disqualified.
  14. The winner of the adult first prize will be expected to provide for his/her own transport arrangements in order to attend the Ty Newydd course in North Wales, regardless of whether he/she is a UK resident or not.
  15. The winner is entitled a place in a shared room accommodation on any 2018-19 course available at Ty Newydd pending availability, except for non-tutored retreats and masterclasses. However the Festival cannot accept responsibility for re-arrangements or circumstances beyond its control.


Praise for the Ledbury Poetry Festival Poetry Competition:

‘Winning the Ledbury Poetry Competition in 2001 gave me a huge boost. I’d never won anything, and the confidence the win gave me pushed me forward, towards more poems, my first book and beyond.’ Jacob Polley, 2001 winner , and winner 2016 T.S. Eliot Award

‘The Ledbury Poetry Festival Poetry Competition is vitally important to the health of new writing in many ways: it forces people to write new poems, and to send them out into the world. It reminds us, in these tumultuous times, of the importance of heightened language in helping us to think, and it places brand-­new writing at the heart of a literary festival.’ Ian McMillan, 2015 Judge

‘It was a huge confidence boost for me when I found out I’d won the Ledbury Poetry Festival Competition. It was wonderful to get such wide readership for my winning poem “On Fishing,” and as an American, it’s doubly thrilling to win a contest in the UK, to think that my words are able to travel across an ocean and still hold meaning.’ Miller Oberman, 2016 Winner.