By 2016, the volunteers and RUOS & DVLP staff members who had combined to create the 2015 festival had formally constituted as The Ted Hughes Project (South Yorkshire) and were in receipt of a significant Arts Council England Grant for the Arts, as well as further funding from RUOS, DVLP and the University of Huddersfield’s Ted Hughes Network.
Learning lessons from the previous year, the THP (SY) resolved to deliver a more sustainable programme over a longer period of time, with more space for audience, participants and volunteers to relax and interact.
As a prelude to the main festival weekend, two poetry walks took place on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th June. Ray Hearne and Matthew Clegg reprised their ‘A Navigation’ along Mexborough Canal, and Ed Reiss gave a talk on his poetry, process and Ted Hughes on a walk between Denaby Ings and Sprotborough Gorge.
The main festival weekend opened on Friday 24th June with the Three Ians — Clayton, McMillan and Parks — in a stellar evening of poetry, comedy and knockabout banter enjoyed by over 100 people.
Saturday began with Dominic Somers leading town centre activities and distributing festival programmes and poetry pamphlets. Highlights included Matthew Clegg reading from a megaphone on Tesco’s roof, a performance alluding to poet Bud’s epic recitals from the roof of Mexborough Business Centre at the opening of the 2015 and 2016 festivals.
Back at the Business Centre, academics Zoe Bennett and Rowlie Wymer gave a talk on the importance of Pauline Mayne (Ted Hughes’s inspirational English teacher at the Grammar School, and Zoe’s mum). Vidyan Ravinthiran and Greg Leadbetter gave readings and participated in a panel discussion with Ed Reiss and Steve Ely — ‘Ted Hughes’s Politics’. Artist Pete Olding, Lesley Merrin and Dominic Somers facilitated an art exhibition showcasing Hughes-inspired work from Mexborough and Swinton Art groups and photographer Karl Hurst’s Hughes-inspired landscape photos were exhibited. Headliner Frieda Hughes gave a riveting reading that enthralled over 100 people and was followed by festival favourites Cathy Galvin, Helen Mort and Mick Jenkinson.
Sunday saw another iteration of the ever popular ‘Ted Hughes Paper Round’ with Dominic Somers and Steve Ely, a talk on ‘Ted Hughes and the First World War’ by David Blanchard, Jonathan Timbers and Nick Wilding. The festival concluded with ‘Harold Massingham: Mexborough’s Other Poet’, an event organised by Ian Parks and Paul Dyson and featuring the ‘Read to Write’ creative writing group and members of Massingham’s family.
The mixture of old and new, more relaxed programming, and the development of a distinctive strand of ‘poetry in the landscape/poetry walks’ further enhanced the festival’s developing identity as a genuinely community-based festival that removes barriers between participants, volunteers, audience and community. Festival attendance was over double that of the previous year, with audience members being recruited locally and regionally, but also from much further afield (Scotland, London, Cornwall).