image001Velvet Coalmine, the Blackwood festival of writing, rock & roll and coal, has officially begun with a set of outstanding lyrical poets from Wales, the UK and Africa.

Velvet Coalmine, which takes place from 7 to 16 September in multiple venues across Blackwood, will bring the best in arts, literature and music to the town to inspire the community and raise the profile of the area.

 To start the festivities, last night spoken word performers, Tongue Fu filled Blackwood Little Theatre with its experimental live literature, music, film and improvisation. The poetic set included lively recitals from local poet, playwright and performer, Clare Potter plus Africa Writes performing in Wales for the very first time.

Over the next two weeks, Velvet Coalmine will bring some well-known faces to the valleys town including Double Olympic Taekwondo Champion and Wales Sports Personality of the Year, Jade Jones MBE, The One Show’s science presenter, Marty Jopson, and comedian, Mike Wozniak.

With literature at the heart of the festival, there will be appearances from Young People’s Laureate Wales, Sophie McKeand and National Poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn. While a new playwriting and one-act play competition allows theatre groups and aspiring writers to embrace the event.

Africa Writes, the annual celebration of African contemporary literature in London will bring poetry performances, workshops for teachers, book club discussions and creative writing sessions as part of their tour of Africa and the UK.

Plus, the Children’s Literature Festival will return for a second year, created by Velvet Coalmine with backing from Blackwood Town Council to inspire, stimulate and engage school children through creative workshops with some of the best writers in Wales.

Blackwood, nestled in the heart of the valleys, is one of the most deprived towns in the UK with a higher than the national average level of young people leaving school with either no qualifications or GCSE at grade D (31.4% vs. 25.9%). Velvet Coalmine aims to tackle the issues the community faces, by educating and inspiring the young people who live there.

Iain Richards, founder of Velvet Coalmine, said: “We’ve worked hard to make this year’s line-up truly international, inspirational and aspirational to give everyone in the area an opportunity to engage with the arts. Last night was an incredible start and we can’t wait for the rest of the festival.”

For the full Velvet Coalmine programme and to get your tickets, visit: