Where it began
Poetry-next-the Sea was established in 1997 by Alan Byford, John Coleridge and Kevin Crossley-Holland. Its principal aim was the promotion of poetry, with a focus on an annual festival in Wells-next the-Sea. The Festival succeeded in its ambition of bringing poets of national and international standing to Wells, promoting the work of local poets and encouraging the practise of writing - and the enjoyment of - poetry.
Writers and poets appearing at the Festival have included: Fleur Adcock, Simon Armitage, Gillian Clarke, David Constantine, Vicki Feaver, Sophie Hannah, Matthew Hollis, Kathleen Jamie, P.J. Kavanagh, Mimi Khalvati, Hugh Lupton, Esther Morgan, Andrew Motion, Brian Patten, Jacob Polley, Jo Shapcott, Penelope Shuttle, John Siddique, Jean Sprackland, Pauline Stainer, Jon Stallworthy, Michael Symmons Roberts, George Szirtes, Hugo Williams and Kit Wright.
As Delaval Astley put it, ‘The poetry festival has more than a toehold at Wells-next-the Sea. It could easily have come and gone, as if dragged away by an undiscriminating tide, but it has dug itself in – a tenacious and welcome May-time feature.’
Lady Fraser retired as artistic director of PNTS in 2017. The new directors, Jim Ring and David Waller, felt that the festival’s 21st birthday and its return to its original home at the Maltings in Wells constituted a reincarnation that merited a change in name. Sea Fever, whilst being true to the spirit of PNTS, seemed both a little more distinctive and more flexible. Following David Waller’s untimely death in 2020, Ian Scott was persuaded to act as the festival’s chair. Dame Gillian Beer and Matthew Hollis remain Sea Fever’s active supporters and patrons.