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Ilkley Literature Festival announces 2021 Poets in Residence

Poet in Residence Ian Duhig (Photo: Paul Maddern)

Ilkley Literature Festival are delighted to announce the Forward Prize-winning poet Ian Duhig as the festival’s 2021 Poet in Residence.

Previous Festival Poets in Residence have included Imtiaz Dharker, Andrew McMillan, Zaffar Kunial and Colette Bryce. Following in their footsteps, Ian will be making a mark on this year’s festival, programming an online poetry showcase, taking part in a reading, running a writing workshop for adults, producing a commissioned piece, and judging the annual Walter Swan Poetry Prize (open until 31 July).

Ian became a full-time writer after working with homeless people for fifteen years and has since published seven books of poetry. He has won the Forward Best Poem Prize once, the National Poetry Competition twice, and has been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize four times. He is a Cholmondeley Award recipient, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and this year is one of the judges for the Costa Poetry Prize. His next collection, ‘New and Selected Poems’, will be published by Picador in December 2021. Ian also continues to work on projects for disadvantaged groups, locally with Leeds Irish Health and Homes and the David Oluwale Memorial Association, as well as with artists, filmmakers and musicians.

“I’m delighted to be the Ilkley Literature Festival’s Poet in Residence for more reasons than I have room to say,” Ian said. “Ilkley Literature Festival is not frightened to put together challenging events alongside its up-to-the-minute popular attractions, marrying the best of contemporary literature today with what may be so in the future.

I also look forward to working with local writers and reading the competition entries: people put the best of themselves into their poetry and it is a privilege to share their experience. The Festival provides platforms for marvellous writers to show their best and I am honoured to be part of that in 2021.”

Working alongside Ian with her own festival residency will be Rheima Robinson, who has been appointed 2021 Apprentice Poet in Residence. This role provides a platform for a talented emerging poet at the start of their writing career. Previous Apprentice Poets in Residence include Eric Gregory Award winner Phoebe Power; Zodwa Nyoni – who went on to be the Channel 4 Writer in Residence at West Yorkshire Playhouse; and Mark Pajak, who went on to win a Northern Writer’s Award, an Eric Gregory Award and the Bridport Prize.

Rheima is a poet, educator and facilitator of creative writing workshops. She is the Founding Director of The Sunday Practise, a creative hub and open-mic event based in Leeds. As a poet and speaker, Rheima has appeared nationally and internationally, at The Chicago Theatre, The Nuyorican Café (NYC), The Historic Hampton House (Miami), and the UK House of Lords. Her poetry can be heard on BBC Radio Leeds, BBC1xtra and BBC iPlayer. She has featured in the award-winning documentary ‘We Are Poets’ and more recently in BBC Four’s ‘Rhyme and Reason’, hosted by Lemn Sissay OBE. She was one of the BBC’s First Words 2020 finalists, and her newly commissioned film with New Creatives, supported by BBC Arts, will be released in summer 2021.

As Apprentice Poet in Residence, Rheima will create a commission, run a writing workshop for aspiring writers, judge the 18-25 category of the Walter Swan Poetry Prize and participate in a mentoring session with the winner.

Rheima said “I am thrilled to be Ilkley Literature Festival’s Apprentice Poet in Residence for 2021. I get to work closely with the North’s longest-running literary festival and have the opportunity to engage new audiences. I’m also looking forward to Ian Duhig’s invaluable mentorship.”

Festival Director Erica Morris said “After our poetry residencies were interrupted by the impact of Covid last year, we are delighted to have the opportunity of working with Ian and Rheima as Poet and Apprentice Poet in Residence, two wonderfully talented and nationally recognised poets forging incredible work here in Yorkshire.”

The Walter Swan Poetry Prize, judged by the Poet and Apprentice Poet in Residence, is open for entries. Applicants must be aged 18 or over. Poems must be no longer than 30 lines and must respond to the theme of ‘The Return’. The deadline for entries is 31 July 2021.

Details of how to enter the competition and more information about the newly appointed Poet and Apprentice Poet in Residence can be found at

Apprentice Poet in Residence Rheima Robinson


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