Freeverse Poetry Festival

Orators and their Opinions open mic and Walsall Poetry Society are proud to announce that this summer they are getting together to bring you Freeverse, a free poetry festival featuring poets from Walsall, the West Midlands and Beyond.

Freeverse will take place on Saturday 6th July at Brownhills Community Centre
starting at midday and the best thing is it’s all free to attend, here’s the line up for the day.

Willis the Poet aka Rik Sanders

““Willis the Poet is without a doubt one of the funniest poets it has been my pleasure to hear perform. His easy yet intensely witty interaction with his audience makes every performance a time of laughter, hilarity and sheer out and out fun!”

Rik will not only be performing but also hosting a comedy poetry open mic – sign up on the day – welcoming all poets new and old to step up and make people laugh

Holly Daffurn

“Holly Daffurn’s work rages from the political to the confessional, flitting from witty anecdotes to stark cutting observations. Featuring a combination of rhythmical and fast-paced poems mixed in with carefully crafted passages that shrug off any expectation of rhyme, the uniting feature in all of her work is a distinct and brazen honesty.”

Holly will be headlining one of the three open mics that will take place at the festival.

Samantha Roden, R M Francis and Paul McDonald

Also three Original Plus poets from the region will read from their recently published chapbooks. Paul McDonald is a Walsall based award winning poet, novelists, flash fiction writer and academic. His work has been widely published, including Tindal Street Press, Indigo Dreams, Cinnamon Press, V.Press and Original Plus. He’s Course Leader for Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton, author of three novels five poetry collections and a recently published flash fiction collection. Samantha Roden grew up in Birmingham, and now resides in Wolverhampton. She is a poet, academic and educational author and was named one of Eyewear Publishing’s Best New British and Irish Poets, 2017 . Her first Pamphlet, Catch Ourselves in Glass, was published in June 2017 by Original Plus Books. R . M Francis is a writer from Dudley, Visiting Lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton, and author of four poetry chapbooks, placed with the Black Light Engine Room, Lapwing Publishing and Original Plus his first full collection with Smokestack Books and his debut novel with Wild Pressed Books are due out in 2020.

Headlining our third and final open mic will be two local poets Gerald Kells and Paul Elwell, then finishing the day we will have our main event.

Steve Pottinger, Dave Pitt and Emma Purshouse aka Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists.

“Poets, Prattlers, and Pandemonialists are a collective of Black Country poets who believe in changing the world one poem at a time. They’re funny, serious, and thoughtful by turns. Above all, they’re very entertaining.”

As if that wasn’t enough local poet Scarlett Ward will be running a poetry workshop during the day as well.

Scarlett Ward

Find Your Voice.

FYV is a workshop that will be ran by Midlands poet Scarlett Ward and special guest poet Sallyanne Rock. We will be looking at examples of Poets that use their accents, colloquialisms and tone of voice to strengthen the sense of identity within their poetry, and looking how we can use them as inspiration when we come to writing our own work. Hints, prompts, games and tips- all in a laid-back and friendly atmosphere. Free entry, 3.30pm, 20 spaces available, 45 mins duration. Dow be nervous mucka, we’m here to have a laff.

Scarlett Ward is a 26 year old Wiccan Poet working from Cannock, Staffordshire. She came 3rd place in the WoLf poetry competition as judged by Roy McFarlane in January 2019, and her debut collection ‘ache’ is to be released this summer with Verve Poetry Press.

Sallyanne Rock is a poet and writer living in Worcestershire. Her work appears in various journals online and in print, and she has performed her poetry across the Midlands region.She is currently working with Writing West Midlands as an Assistant Writer, running a series of creative writing workshops for young people.

So here’s the running schedule for the day.

Midday – doors open

12:15 Introduction and welcome

12:30 WIllis the Poet set plus poetry open mic with a comedy theme – sign up on the day.

13:20 break

13:40 Open mic headlined by Holly Daffurn – sign up on the day.

14:30 Break

14:50 R M Francis, Paul McDoanld and Samantha Roden

15:40 Break

16:10 Open mic headlined by Greald Kells and Paul Elwell – sign up on the day

17:20 Poets, Prattlers and Pandemonialists.

Please note the venue provides free parking and provides refreshments plus drinks – alcoholic and non alcoholic. Entry to the event is free if you do like the acts you see and wish to support them then the performers will be operating a contribute what you want system by passing the hat round.

Freeverse is supported and sponsored by Creative Black Country and supported by the University of Wolverhampton.

For queries and questions or more information please email

A big thanks you to everyone involved with supporting this festival, thanks to all our guest poets for agreeing to perform, thanks to Brownhills Community Centre for letting us use their space and a big thank you to Matthew Cash of Burdizzo Banners who came up with the festival logo.


A chat with poet Scarlett Ward

Scarlett Ward at Caffe del Nino

Prior to her headline appearance at the Southcart Books and Walsall Poetry Society open mic, I took some time to catch up with local poet the multi talented Scarlett Ward and chat with her about how what she’s been up to and more.

Q. Congratulations on getting published by Verve Poetry Press in two recent books (The Leon Priestnall collection and the Beatfreeks anthology) and performing at the book’s launches, how did all that come about?

A. I started going to a lot of Birmingham poetry events because I felt that there was a lot going on in the heart of the city that I really wanted to be part of. I’d seen videos and Facebook events of these spectacularly lively crowds that were joining together in a way that I hadn’t experienced in my own small town. I started getting the train up to brum after work and everyone was so friendly and welcoming. Then I saw a call for submissions from poets that had performed at Beatfreeks poetry night so I submitted and am happy to say I was chosen for the Verve anthology and was invited to perform at Birmingham town hall at the poetry jam. Leon has become a good friend that I look up to and respect very much so please go buy his book ‘Bennetts Hill Blues” and show support because he is a fantastic poet and wonderful human! I also want to shout out to Verve Press because they are doing brilliant things for midlands poetry scene, they really care for their poets and about the diversity and representation of all writers.

Q. I think everyone was very pleased to see your open mic at Caffe del Nino get shortlisted for a Saboteur Award would you mind telling everyone about the event and the award nomination?

A. Thank you so much! I am so proud of everyone that is involved with Ninos for helping get us shortlisted! I had seen online calls to apply for the Saboteur awards, and I thought it was worth a try- what I didn’t expect was for everyone to really pull together to vote for us, the support we received was incredible, and we were in the top 5 poetry nights in the UK up against huge cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and London! I was over the moon to say Cannock was recognized in the poetry sphere by making it to the final round of voting and my heart literally exploded with pride and gratitude.

Q. How long have you been interested in poetry, when did you start writing, what are your influences and who are your favourite poets?

A. I was a bit of a loner emo child in my final years of high school, I was pretty embarrassed by my existence and so used to squirrel away in the library where the other girls wouldn’t find me to tease me. As a result I would devour books and write as much as I could whilst listening to very lyrically rich emo music haha. I got all A’s and A*’s at GCSE’s though so I can thank my bullies really! I’m really into American poets at the moment because I think there is a lot to learn from their blunt way of stating things that really hits the gut. Check out Kaveh Akhbar’s “Calling a wolf a wolf” his book has really changed the way I approach poetry in terms of nailing the bold and raw aspects of life. I’m also reading Melissa Lee-Houghton’s collection “sunshine” at the moment it tackles very hard hitting mental health issues whilst maintaining the personal and unapologetic approach.

Q. Now I know you’re not only a poet but I would class you as an artist as well, what made you start to combine art and poetry?

A. Thank you that’s very kind! I’ve always loved art, my mom and dad were huge influences as they are both artists themselves and always encouraged me to draw and to imagine magical scenarios. I’ve always loved experimenting with the visual aspect of art and poetry and have kept a doodle/scribble journal since 2015. Often, the way a poem is consumed visually can emphasise or augment the meaning of the words. I held a solo-curated art x poetry exhibition last year where I invited artists to create visual poetry or poetic art, whichever they wanted, and held a spoken word open mic alongside the exhibition. It was so much fun I hope to do another one again soon!

Scarlett Ward at Beatfreeks reading at the Anthology launch

Q5. I couldn’t let the question pass without asking what’s on a lot of folk’s lips, do you have a poetry collection due out soon?

A. I have been in talks with a publisher because I definitely know where I want my collection to call home… However I think it’s too early to talk about it yet and I don’t want to get in trouble haha BUT I do have a manuscript and a title and it has always been my dream to bring a book into the world… so I will say more when more is confirmed!

Q.Thanks for answering my questions, if folk want to see what you’re up to where can they find you online?

A. My Instagram is @scarlett.ward
You can buy prints and zines of my poetry at /uk/shop/SWPoetry
I will be running a poetry stall at A5 Live festival the 3,4,5th of August in Chase town so come say hi!

Thank you Scarlett for the fantastic interview, details on the next open mic at Caffe del Nino can be found here.