Rainham, don't just drive through it!
Last year there was a performance put together by the always entertaining Play On Words theatre company called Marvellous Medway playing outside Chatham Library which had a song depicting each of the main towns on the river in a humorous music hall manner. The line about Rainham was something like you just drive through it…
Now it is indeed true that the old A2 does run through Rainham, but culturally speaking it has a lot more going for it than that. St Margaret’s Church, which you can see from just about anywhere in the district, has elements remaining from Norman times with parts of it dating back to the 13th Century. The final scene of Medway the 2019 novel by Medway River Lit writer David Cramer Smith plays out in the churchyard here and the neighbouring Cricketers pub. The area known as Rainham Mark is even thought by some to be the true boundary that demarcates between Kentish Men and Men Of Kent…
And this year is going to be a big one literature wise in old Roegingaham as St Margaret’s play host to the first Rainham Poetry Festival on April 28th and 29th. At the back end of last year the vicar Nathan Ward outlined to us his plans to turn the church into a community arts hub open to all.
Part of this was his ambition to have a literary festival of some sort at the church, which is where Wordsmithery came into the equation. Since then we have put together a bill that will hopefully launch a poetry festival that will run and run into the future.
John Agard will be checking out our history
Headlining the festival is world renowned poet John Agard (Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, Book Trust's Lifetime Achievement Award) who will be familiar to many students who will have studied his poems ‘Half-caste’ and ‘Checking Out Me History’ which have featured on the GCSE syllabus since 2002! Supporting John, will be poets Jessica Mookherjee, whose book ‘Tigress’ was shortlisted as best second collection in the Ledbury Munthe Prize in 2021, and Charlotte Ansell, whose book ‘Deluge’ was a 2019 Poetry Book Society Winter recommendation.
Saturday 29 April will see a performance from 'The Four Poets' - Bill Lewis, one of the legendary Medway Poets Group, Maggie Harris, winner of Wales Poetry Award 2020, Sarah Hehir, poet, playwright and TV/radio writer and Barry Fentiman Hall, the co-director of the festival. It is hoped that a new anthology featuring work from the group published by Beckit Press will be complete by the time this performance happens. There will also be readings from the winners of Wordsmithery's 2022 Rosemary McLeish Poetry Prize, and the launch of the 2023 Prize. Jane Burn who judged the prize is also a guest reader.
All in all quite enough of a reason to stop by rather than driving through!
*Rainham Poetry Festival is one of our Associate Events, see more on our webpage.
Rainham Poetry Festival St Margaret's Church, Rainham 28 + 29 April 2023
Guest post by Barry Fentiman Hall.