THE Velvet Coalmine festival of writing, rock and roll and coal officially launched this week with a set of performances from poets from Wales, the UK and Africa.

Between September 7 and 16, the festival will bring the best in arts, literature and music to Blackwood with an aim of inspiring the community and raising the profile of the area.

On Thursday, the event launched at Blackwood Little Theatre with spoken word artists Tongue Fu wowing crowds with their experimental live literature, music, film and improvisation.

The set also included recitals from poet, playwright and performer, Clare Potter plus Africa Writes, which performed in Wales for the very first time.

Over the next two weeks, Velvet Coalmine will bring some well-known faces to the valleys town including double Olympic Taekwondo champion and Wales Sports Personality of the Year, Jade Jones MBE, The One Show’s science presenter, Marty Jopson, and comedian, Mike Wozniak.

With literature at the heart of the festival, there will be appearances from Young People’s Laureate Wales, Sophie McKeand and National Poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn.

A new playwriting and one-act play competition will also allow theatre groups and aspiring writers to showcase their talents.

As part of their tour of Africa and the UK, Africa Writes - the annual celebration of African contemporary literature in London - will bring poetry performances, workshops, book club discussions and creative writing sessions

Following it's launch last year, the festival's children’s literature section will return.

This scheme was created by Velvet Coalmine with backing from Blackwood Town Council to inspire, stimulate and engage school children through creative workshops with some of the best writers in Wales

Founder of Velvet Coalmine,Iain Richards, said: “We’ve worked hard to make this year’s line-up truly international, inspirational and aspirational to give everyone in the area an opportunity to engage with the arts.

"Last night was an incredible start and we can’t wait for the rest of the festival.”

For the full Velvet Coalmine programme and to get your tickets, visit: