By Joshua Robinson –
West Yorkshire’s first-ever ‘Young Poets Laureate’ was revealed on the 15th September following a search to discover and celebrate a new generation of creative talent in the region.
Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, spearheaded the initiative with National Poet Laureate Simon Armitage and the National Literacy Trust, as part of her mission to boost skills and inspire more young people to explore careers in the creative industries.
Launched during the West Yorkshire Poetry Week in March, hundreds of schools took part by encouraging pupils to express their creativity, demonstrating how writing and communication skills can help unlock lifelong opportunities.
Research from the National Literacy Trust found that young people who write poetry use it to express themselves and feel happier and more confident as a result.
After listening to the 16 shortlisted poets, the Mayor and Simon Armitage selected Isabelle Walker as the winner in the secondary school category. Her personal poem, entitled ’Muse‘, was inspired by the relationship with her mum. The talented 15-year-old, who is currently in Year 10 at Bradford Academy, said:
“I see myself as a leader with an aim to help people, so in the future I want to share my abilities to benefit people on a larger scale. I’m quite confident and I want to continue to be confident when I’m older. There’s nothing wrong with poetry. You shouldn’t feel like you need to hold back.”
In the younger category, nine-year-old Alina Brdar won with her rhyming poem, ‘Mr Callaghan’s Class‘. Now in Year 5 at Lydgate Junior and Infant School in Batley, she said:
“You can write poems about anything. Even nonsense poems that will put a smile on your face. Jot ideas down. Don’t be afraid to ask questions because the more you ask, the more you will know. Just enjoy it!”
Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin said: “I was blown away by the phenomenal creative talent of these bright young poets.”
“Congratulations to our amazing winners, who will no doubt go on to inspire others.”
“We must continue to support our young people and open doors for them to thrive in a stronger, brighter West Yorkshire.”
National Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage said: “It’s with great excitement that we have appointed our new West Yorkshire Young Laureates. In the first year of this initiative, we read and heard work from some fantastically talented and confident young writers, people who have chosen language as a way of navigating this strange and changing world and have chosen poetry as their compass. As Poet Laureate and being West Yorkshire born and bred I’m so proud of this project and looking forward to seeing more from our chosen poets as the year progresses.”
Chief Executive at the National Literacy Trust, Jonathan Douglas CBE said: “It has been a real honour to see the energy of contemporary poetry inspiring pupils across West Yorkshire. This project is all about encouraging young people to find their voices as writers and creators, and everyone at the National Literacy Trust was thrilled that so many young people picked up their pen and took part.”
“Congratulations to the newly appointed Laureates – I look forward to seeing where this may lead you in the future. This project continues to be a truly inspiring experience for everyone involved and is a celebration of the power of poetry.”
West Yorkshire’s first Young Poets Laureate, Alina and Isabelle, will hold their prestigious titles for a year. They are set to inspire people at events across West Yorkshire over the coming months to highlight the power of creativity and the opportunities it can bring.
They will make their debut, starting with the 50th anniversary of the British Library in Leeds on 19th September, followed by the opening event for this year’s poetry and performance festival, Contains Strong Language, in Leeds on 21st September.
They will be officially appointed on 23rd September at Leeds Central Library, where they will perform and receive their awards from Simon Armitage and the Mayor.
For further information and to read the winning poems, please visit literacytrust.org.uk.