This year’s Keats Festival is themed ‘New Beginnings’, celebrating a new era in the House’s history with innovative new object displays and interactive exhibits.
The Festival – with its exciting programme of performances, talks, films, workshops and family activities – also introduces Michael Rosen (fifth British Children’s Laureate) as the new Poet in Residence at Keats House.
Keats House was the home of Romantic poet John Keats from 1818 to 1820. Here, he wrote his most famous poetry and fell in love with the girl next door, Fanny Brawne. In part, the House functions as a shrine to a literary icon whose life was cut tragically short but it also seeks to be a ‘live memorial’ to inspire and engages diverse audiences with Keats’s life, work and legacy.
As part of this re-interpretation, iconic manuscripts and artefacts from the museum collection have been brought out of storage. The house is now suffused with Keats’s poetry; there are recordings of his most famous works, the original books which inspired him, and paintings that helped to popularise his work after his death.
New displays celebrate the romance between Keats and Fanny; visitors can look at original artefacts which belonged to Fanny, listen to extracts from Keats’s passionate letters and poetry and see the love letter that he wrote to her from his sick bed. The interactive exhibits also seek to better engage families with Regency dressing-up opportunities and poetry writing outlets. There are free family activities every month on Family Day.
Highlights of the Keats Festival include:
- Poetry and Illustration for Families (Saturday 30th May, 1pm)
Get involved in making and creating a fantastic visual poem and watch a unique poetry performance come to life before your eyes through the magic of art and illustration.
- Keats House Poets present Dean Atta and Hannah Lowe (Sunday 31st May, 2pm)
A relaxed afternoon of poetry and spoken word with an open mic and performances from Keats House Poet Dean Atta and guest headliner Hannah Lowe. Atta’s prizewinning work tackles controversial subjects including homophobia and racism whilst Lowe, a Next Generation Poet, explores family relationships and celebrates the multicultural life of London.
- Imtiaz Dharker and TEN (Wednesday 3rd June, 7pm)
A special event hosting one of Britain’s foremost Black/Asian poets alongside some of the most exciting new Black/Asian poets in Britain. Imtiaz Dharker, who recently won the Queen’s Medal for Poetry, will read alongside Rishi Dastidar, Edward Doegar, and Sarah Howe.
- The Beats: A Night of Film Poetry and Coutnerculture (Friday 5th June, 6.30pm or 7pm)
A double bill of Beat poets beginning with Wholly Communion – a documentary film celebrating the event which marked the arrival of the counterculture in England: the day 7000 people filled the Albert Hall for poetry. HOWL is an imaginative ride through Allen Ginsberg’s prophetic masterpiece that rocked a generation and was heard around the world.
- Poetry and Parenting with Clare Pollard, Fiona Benson, Daljit Nagra and Owen Sheers (Saturday 6th June, 2pm)
In this unique event about poetry and babies, four poets – two dads and two mums – will read poems they have written about their children. Then they will take part in a conversation about the creative process during pregnancy and during the early years of their children.
- Festival Finale with John Hegley, Jo Shapcott, Daljit Nagra and Michael Rosen (Sunday 7th June, 4.30pm)
An unmissable poetry party to welcome new Poet in Residence, Michael Rosen. Jo Shapcott will read a selection of her Dr Keats poems and John Hegley will perform his famous Keats songs.
A full festival guide can be seen online at http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/keatsfestival. Many events, including those with free admission, require advance booking.
Keats House, 10 Keats Grove, London NW3 2RR
Keats Festival: Thursday 28th May – Sunday 7th June
Opening Hours Tuesday – Sunday, 1pm – 5pm
Admission Adults: £5.50
Children 17 and under: Free
National Art Pass holders: Free
Admission is valid for one year and entitles unlimited visits during that period. There are volunteer led tours of the House at 3pm which are included in the admission price.
Entry to the Keats House garden is free.