A CONFIDENT and assured performance saw a former teacher scoop the title of Worcestershire's poet laureate despite fierce competition.

Fergus McGonigal said the news had "only just started sinking in" after he was named the 2014/15 poet laureate at The Guildhall during Friday night's launch of the Worcestershire Literary Festival.

The six finalists had to perform a poem on the theme of Prelude to War and one of their own poems which has not been published.

Mr McGonigal, from Kidderminster, said he chose his upbeat poem Drinkers to complement the more sombre piece he had written on World War One.

The 45-year-old, who previously taught at King's School Worcester and St Mary's, said: "I'm just absolutely delighted.

"Today is the first time I've been able to sit down since Friday and let it all sink in.

"The judges went out to deliberate for quite a long time, after about 20 minutes thought "Oh blimey", and then they came back and read out the top three.

"They announced third was Suz Winspear, who is a fantastic goth poet, Claire Walker came second, she's a really intense poet but fun, and then it was me which was great."

Supporting Mr McGonigal, who organises the monthly SpeakEasy event at The Old Rec, was his wife Gemma and friend Mike Alma while his five sons, Fintan, 22, Conor, 21, Declan, 18, Myles, 15, and Aidan, 13, are also very proud.

Mr McGonigal, who was a teacher for 21 years before becoming a full time poet, will be working closely with the LitFest organisers at events across the year.

He will also be busy launching his first poetry book in November, helping Museums Worcester with their bell tent project and working on the Arts Council's Poetry On Loan project.

"I'm excited about doing all of that and also helping to promote the Worcestershire Literary Festival.

"There's so many great things for people to go along to.

"There's the SpeakEasy on Thursday, poetry slam on Sunday.

"People should take a look at the programme online and choose a few things to come down to because it is fabulous - a really, really great festival."

Maggie Doyle, judge and poet laureate emeritus, called Mr McGonigal a "man of many talents".

"Worcestershire will never be the same.

"From decades of teaching drama and English together with years being part of various bands, Fergus decided to abandon all and concentrate on his first love, poetry.

"He has a disarming charm and modesty which belies the extremely talented poet which is always willing to perform.

"As poet laureate, he has pledged that no stone shall remain unturned. Worcestershire is in for an exciting year."

Judge Polly Robinson said his performance on Friday was confident and assured.

"The competition was fierce and many present said how they didn't envy the judges the task of choosing a winner.

"A close fought yet friendly battle with a worthy winner."

For more on the literary festival log on to worcslitfest.co.uk.