SWINDON’S first Festival Of Poetry got underway yesterday with a constellation of words based on the theme of stars at the Central Library.

A bright and breezy opening, hosted by Hilda Sheehan and Michael Scott, kicked off six days of events at various verse-friendly venues around the town.

A Poetry Aloud session began proceedings in the library with all-comers invited to read, write or just chat with the resident writers.

Hilda, who gave the first reading of the festival with a recital of Bright Star by John Keats, said: “It’s really exciting to have the library for six days as it’s such a beautiful space.

“We are inviting people to come and share their love of poetry with lots of different ideas each day.

“We are welcoming experienced, published poets and people who are completely new to it.

“I think people get put off by poetry in schools but there is such variety, with a poem out there for everyone and that’s what the festival is all about.”

The festival, which launched on National Poetry Day, is the sister event of the Swindon Festival Of Literature. Bob Johnson, of Swindon’s BlueGate Poets, also praised the new addition to the town’s cultural life for opening up the world of verse to the outside world.

He said: “I am amazed at the amount of people who do poetry but keep it to themselves.

“The festival gives them recognition, allows them to perform for the first time in their lives and also has a social side so they can come along and meet people who also like poetry and not feel isolated.”

Matt Holland, one of the festival’s organisers and the director of the literature festival, enjoyed the opening after a sleepless night in anticipation of the launch.

“I have been like a child about to get a present,” he said. “My new year’s resolution was no more new projects but I failed in July when I had this idea and I have been excited at the prospect ever since. I’m like a boy with a toy. “The fact it is linked with National Poetry Day is exciting and the theme of stars can be interpreted in so many different ways, from human stars to celestial ones. I hope Swindonians embrace these six days.“ “In terms of the growing interest in celebrating literature, reading and writing, in Swindon, this festival of poetry takes us back to our roots, to the very beginning, to the first Swindon Festival Of Literature 20 years ago, which was born out of a love of poetry by a passionate few.”

Acclaimed author Pam Ayres is due to perform tonight at The Platform in Faringdon Road. A poetry bus tour of Swindon also takes place on Saturday, with tickets available on 01793 466454. For details of all events visit www.swindonfestivalofpoetry.co.uk or drop into the library over the next six days to pick up a brochure of visit the Poetry Space.