Andy Croft introduces the biennial T-junction International Poetry Festival in Middlesbrough, 25-29 April
Two hundred and fifty years ago Middlesbrough-born James Cook sailed around the world on HMS Endeavour. It was an extraordinary voyage of scientific discovery, opening up the European imagination to undreamed of places and peoples under different stars.
In this anniversary year, T-junction is celebrating Teesside’s long international history by focussing on the poetry of travel and discovery, departure and arrival, emigration and immigration, longing and belonging. Every poem is an exploration, every departure is an arrival, every traveller is a stranger; we are all somebody’s neighbour.
Previous T-junction festivals have brought to the North-east poets from Cuba, Zimbabwe, Macedonia, France, Estonia, Serbia, Latvia, Pakistan, Bosnia, Finland, Palestine and Syria. This year’s festival line-up includes poets from Russia, Iraq, Poland, Botswana, Finland, France, Nigeria, Turkey, Peru, Iceland, the Punjab – and Teesside.
Poets include Michael Rosen, Lev Rubenstein, Aurélia Lassaque, Chawki Abdelamir, Bejan Matur, Gerður Kristný, Francis Combes, Keabonye Bareeng, Zoila Forss, Justyna Bargielska, Kalle Niinikangas, Eric Motswasele, Abdulkareem Kasid and Amarjit Chandan.
Running from 25-29 April, this year’s T-junction is a five-day poetry festival of readings, master-classes and book-launches. There will be debates about the poetry of travel, about the ‘Arab Winter’ and about the social responsibilities of poetry, as well as a marathon Urdu-Punjabi musha’ara. Meanwhile, festival poets are working in fifty local schools and colleges, helping students write poems for the festival anthology.
This year’s festival is going to be a celebration of Teesside’s international character: an international festival for a town with a long international history.
Andy Croft has written and edited over 80 books, including poetry, biography, teenage non-fiction and novels for children. He writes a regular poetry column for the Morning Star, curates the T-junction international poetry festival on Teesside and runs Smokestack Books. He lives in North Yorkshire.