The publication of Stairs & Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back, a major anthology of poetry and essays from D/deaf and disabled writers prompted Ledbury Poetry Festival to make a special event on Saturday, July 8, out of this book featuring readings, performances, films and discussion.

Tom Shakespeare, author of Disability Rights and Wrongs says of Stairs & Whispers: “This is a collection which redefines what poetry is. This is a collection which is nearly as varied as the diversity of impairment and disability and D/deaf experiences in Britain today. This is a collection which I will read and re-read until I have absorbed the richness and colour and anger and misery and humour and power of it.”

On the same day visitors to the festival can also experience the equally exciting Air Poems in the Key of Voice, an event that will make the first-ever attempt to translate sign language poetry for hearing audiences. Kyra Pollitt is a BSL-interpreter, translator and artist and is therefore uniquely placed to make this innovative and exciting translation piece to premiere at Ledbury Poetry Festival. She says, “I am interested in the gaps between ways of seeing the world, in the spaces between ways of communicating, in what is lost or altered inexorably in translation. I call this translation art. My work emerges from over 20 years encountering the unique sensorial perspective of the most visual people on earth – members of sign language communities.” This multi-media, many-layered event will combine sign language poetry by Paul Scott, song/vocal gestures by Victoria Punch and film poetry. Air Poems in the Key of Voice will offer hearing audiences something of the rich, immersive, spine-tingling experience conjured by sign language poetry.

Festival artistic director, Chloe Garner says, “It is about time the Festival took this ground-breaking step to make events more inclusive, to celebrate the fantastic work written by D/deaf and disabled poets and to reach out to new audiences among D/deaf, disabled and sign language communities. The Festival in particular is excited to convey the rich and immersive qualities of sign language poetry to hearing audiences”.

Both events are happening on Saturday 8 July. Please contact the box office on 01531 636 232 or book online at

Air Poems in the Key of Voice, Saturday 8 July, 12 noon – 1pm, Market Theatre

Stairs & Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back, Saturday 8 July, 3.30pm – 5pm, Community Hall