• The new Hampshire Poet for 2024 Damian Kelly-Brasher

After a countywide search, the hunt for the Hampshire Poet is over. Damian Kelly-Basher from the New Forest was selected from a very strong field of writers from all over Hampshire who applied for the sought-after post.

The appointment of the Hampshire Poet takes place every two years and is led by Hampshire Cultural Trust and the Winchester Poetry Festival. The partnership between the two organisations brings a higher profile and more opportunities for the role, previously held by Nazneen Ahmed Pathak.

Kelly-Basher is a writer/performer and facilitator who has performed around the UK, including at the Royal Albert Hall and the WOMAD Festival. He has carried out creative commissions for both councils and arts organisations and has also run numerous poetry events and workshops. His background is in public health with the NHS, and he has also worked on projects in both Central America and Eastern Europe.

On the news of his appointment, Kelly-Brasher commented: “Working with communities, I’ve always loved being around people, hearing their stories, sounds and the rhythms of neighbourhoods and different voices. As a writer, I just like to stroll around places, taking in their local history and culture, and seeing how we live now, with each other and our changing climate.

“I am thrilled to have been appointed the new Hampshire Poet and am really looking forward to getting to know all the different poetry and spoken word events, as well as the different writing groups, across the county. I really want the platform that being Hampshire Poet has given me to create spaces for anyone who feels like it to come along and have fun writing or performing their words.”

The position of Hampshire Poet provides the opportunity for a Hampshire-based poet to undertake commissions, lead workshops and give readings and talks throughout the county, as well as acting as an advocate for poetry and poets. Opportunities have been identified throughout the next two years for the Hampshire Poet to play a significant role, providing the chance to create new work, engage members of the community and connect to planned activities taking place across Hampshire.  

Victoria White at Hampshire Cultural Trust commented: “We are delighted that Damian will be working closely with us for the next two years as Hampshire Poet. We have seen from Nazneen’s two years that poetry can play an important part in bringing communities together, celebrating the cultural heritage of the county and inspiring people to get writing. We are excited to see what Damian will bring to the role with his wealth of experience and creativity.”

Jane Bryant, Chair of Winchester Poetry Festival, added: “We are very excited about Damian’s appointment to this special role. Poetry can have a very positive impact on people’s creativity, on their wellbeing and on their sense of place and identity. Damian brings a wide range of skills and experience and will undoubtedly be able to work through the medium of poetry to excite, engage and empower people of all ages and abilities. We look forward enormously to working with him.”

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