Readers and lecturers at the WB Yeats Festival at Padiham, (from left): David Rushton, Theresa Sowerby, Jim Corrigall and Gillian Peel

The WB Yeats ‘Festival of the North’ – held at Padiham Unitarian Chapel in June – ended on a high note, with praise for the ‘excellence’ of the lectures and readings throughout. 

The poetry festival took place on the first three Saturday evenings of June, with lectures, readings, music, slides and drama.   Each evening drew an enthusiastic audience of around 35 people.   

The festival was organised by the Lancashire Collaborative Ministry to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising, and of Yeats’ great poem ‘Easter 1916’.   Rev Jim Corrigall, minister to Padiham and the Lancashire Collaborative Ministry, said the results had been most pleasing.   “This became a true celebration of one of the great  poets of the 20th Century,” he said.      

On the opening evening (4th June), broadcaster and poetry teacher Graham Fawcett chartered the development of Yeats, man and poet, from his early explorations of mysticism and Celtic mythology, to his struggles for an Irish literary revival,  culminating in ‘Easter 1916’.    Local poetry enthusiast David Rushton gave support with readings. 

Graham Fawcett attempted to answer the difficult question of where William Butler Yeats’ extraordinary poetic gift came from.  There may have been no final answers   here, but we were taken on an illuminating journey through the dense and dazzling poetry of Yeats’s early years. 

Writer and teacher Theresa Sowerby led the second evening (11th June) focusing on Yeats of the middle period, under the title: ‘Sailing to Byzantium: Marriage, Masks and Magic’.   She showed how the personal fulfilment Yeats gained in marriage, after his years of pining for Maud Gonne, found expression in the mature poetry of these years, including the ‘Byzantium’ poems. 

Theresa Sowerby also introduced us to Yeats the playwright, and her talk was illustrated with music and slides.    Once again David Rushton helped with readings.

The focus of the third and final evening (18th June) was Yeats and old age, with the title: ‘A tattered coat upon a stick’.   Here Jim Corrigall looked at Yeats’s continuing fascination with sex and desire, but also at how he forged the experiences of his life into the great wisdom poems of his final years: 'Lapis Lazuli’, ‘Long Legged Fly’ and ‘The Circus Animals’ Desertion’.    He was ably assisted in the readings by Padiham member Rev Gillian Peel.