AROUND 100 people helped launch the Friends of the Winchester Poetry Festival last night.

The festival will be held from September 12-14 and aims to become a major annual event.

It will celebrate local poets and Hampshire’s literary heritage as well as stage readings by national names such as Brian Patten, who once lived in Winchester, and Michael Longley and commemorate the centenary of the start of World War One.

The launch event was held in The Deanery in The Close with special guest Roger McGough giving a short and well-received reading.

Mr McGough said: “A city isn’t a city without a poetry festival.”

Festival chairman Robert Hutchison said there were no good regional festival in the South and this annual event would fill the gap.

He appealed for people to support it by becoming friends and pledging up to £100 a year.

The launch attracted many local people including Judge Guy Boney QC, Barbara Large, founder of the Winchester Writers’ Conference, Edward Fennell, founder of Hyde 900, mayor and mayoress Ernie and Barbara Jeffs and deputy mayor Eileen Berry and city councillors Kim Gottlieb and Robert Johnston.

Also there was Peter Owen, the nephew of World War One poet Wilfred Owen. During the festival there will be a special reading in the memorial cloister at Winchester College.

Photo by Joe low. See next week's Hampshire Chronicle for more photos.