Aldeburgh Eight

‘Aldeburgh Eight’ is an eight day course linked to the international Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, offering a unique opportunity – professional and creative – for eight carefully selected poets early in their publishing careers.

Seminar participants begin with an immersive three days at the Festival in November, immediately followed by an intensive five-day rural retreat at Bruisyard Hall in the Suffolk countryside. Previous graduates – for example Helen Mort who is coming back to read at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival this year – have gone on to win prizes, publication and wider acclaim. The tutors are Peter Sansom and Jackie Wills who helped pick the winners along with The Poetry Trust team who run the scheme.

We received a record-breaking 119 applications (up from 85 last year and 66 in 2013) this year. Congratulations go to John Challis (Tyne & Wear), Josephine Corcoran (Wiltshire), Suzannah Evans (Sheffield), Seán Hewitt (Cheshire), Anita Pati (London), Kathy Pimlott (London), Andrew Rudd (Cheshire), and Miranda Yates (New Mills), the eight poets who will be taking up this accelerated eight days of development. Age is no barrier to success on this scheme – poets this year range in age from 25 – 66 – and we’re looking forward to welcoming the 2015 Aldeburgh Eight to Suffolk this autumn.

‘Each year I’ve been struck by the seriousness and generosity of the writers, and have felt privileged to be part of something so worthwhile. The packed week has always felt more like a month, or maybe even a year – though much more fun than that sounds, because it goes by in the blink of an eye.’ Says tutor, Peter Sansom.

With thanks to Bruisyard Hall, the Garrick Charitable Trust and the Idlewild Trust, and the Arts Council, for supporting this scheme.

Bruisyard Hall


  1. Jackie Wills’ fifth collection Woman’s Head as Jug (Arc) was published in 2013. Her first, Powder Tower (Arc 1995) was shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize and was a PBS Recommendation. She was recent guest co-editor for The North and has reviewed for Mslexia, Poetry Wales and Warwick Review. A Royal Literary Fund Fellow 2009-12, she’s been an Arvon course tutor and was the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival poet-in-residence in 2004.

The whole scheme is such a brilliant idea. The festival offers an unrivalled perspective on contemporary poetry, so it’s the best possible start for a week focusing on the craft and what poems can do. I can’t wait to work with the Aldeburgh Eight – I know it will be exhilarating.

It’s intensely enjoyable and exhilarating to spend a week working closely with such a small, hand-picked group of the country’s most talented emerging poets. The combination of the Festival and the Seminar is guaranteed to have an even more long-lasting effect’.

  1. Peter Sansom‘s sixth collection Careful What You Wish For (Carcanet) is published this year and his classic handbook, Writing Poems (Bloodaxe) is never out of print. He is a director of The Poetry Business and editor of The North magazine and Smith/Doorstop Books. He has taught at Huddersfield and Leeds universities and has held several high profile residencies including Marks & Spencer and the Prudential.
  1. Bruisyard Hall dates from the 14th century and provides an atmospheric and spacious retreat in rural Suffolk. The house has recently undergone a stunning refurbishment and its ten bedrooms and nine bathrooms (six ensuite) combine grandeur and style with comfort and homeliness.
  1. To arrange an interview with the director of The Poetry Trust, Ellen McAteer, a member of the judging panel, contact The Poetry Trust on 01986 835950 or email Jo Leverett at [email protected]
  1. Aldeburgh Poetry Festival was founded in 1989 by a group of Suffolk poets and is the UK’s leading annual celebration of national and international contemporary poetry, attracting sell-out poetry audiences each year – 5,000+ attendances in 2014. This year the Festival celebrates 27 years with 30 poets and 60+ events over 10 venues.
  1. The eight poets who were selected for Aldeburgh Eight 2014 were: Edward Doegar (London), Joanna Guthrie (Norwich), Matthew Howard (Norwich), Miriam Nash (London), Mary Noonan (Cork, Ireland), Richard Osmond (St Albans), Paul Stephenson (Paris) and Rebecca Watts (Cambridge).

Here’s what some of them said were their best experiences of the 2014 Aldeburgh Eight:

Free access to the Festival at the start. And feeling recognised and valued as a poet and looked after, in every sense. I felt our craft was being honoured in very real, tangible ways, and this gave a big morale boost. So – all of it!
Joanna Guthrie

Focused time to just live in poetry with poets at a similar stage in their writing, gently steered (though worked hard by Michael and Peter) and all after a background of a staggeringly brilliant Festival!
Matt Howard

Being immersed in poetry for a week. The Festival programme was excellent, and I felt I was being exposed to a range of exciting poetic voices. The level of poetry practice and discussion within the group of eight was high, and so one felt one was learning all the time. The whole experience was very intense, in a way that was productive.
Mary Noonan

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