THE FIRST Winchester Poetry Festival will be held later this year.

The three-day event on September 12-14 aims to stimulate interest and raise the profile of the art.

A launch event for the new Friends of Winchester Poetry Festival will be held on February 5, with Roger McGough the guest speaker.

The festival itself will be three days of live poetry performance, education activity, workshops, talks and discussion.

Festival organiser Madelaine Smith said it has three interlocking strands: it is rooted in the centenary commemoration of the World War One and its poetry; it is a celebration of Hampshire's contribution to our national literary heritage; and it is an opportunity to bring together a dozen contemporary poets, writers and editors for readings and discussions, including the impact of conflict in poetry today The final programme is still being finalised.

There will be readings by Brian Patten, Patience Agbabi and Julia Copus. A highlight will be a commemorative reading by Michael Longley and David Constantine at the Winchester College Cloister, with the support of the Wilfred Owen Association.

Most of the events will be Winchester Discovery Centre or the Milner Hall on St Peter Street.

High-profile poetry events were held in the city in the mid-1990s including the-then local poet Matthew Francis launching his first collection, Blizzard, published by Faber and Faber.

In addition to the festival a pre-festival event (LiTTLe MACHiNe performing EPIC) will be held on May 14 at the discovery centre. It is a lighthearted look at what poetry is and what it has meant over the last 3,000 years. It is a 60-minute dash through the history of poetry from Homer to Carol Ann Duffy with slides, music, drama and comedy.