Word in the West and Human Writes, UK
Submission by Mark Curtis
Human Writes is a poetry project designed for young people aged 14 and above and is a continuation of the successful 2015 Word of the West competition, which saw 11 young people become poets in residence in libraries across the West of England. The project, initiated by Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire libraries, is funded by Arts Council England and managed by boomsatuma as part of its programme of creative activities for young people.
Six UK schools were chosen to take part in the Human Writes project: Broadlands Academy, Oldfield School, Writhlington School, Patchway Community College, Abbeywood Community School, Bradley Stoke Community School and have been working with Patchway and Keynsham Libraries.
Human Writes Young Poet Laureate, Chelsea Stockham, is one of the winners of the national SLAMbassadors competition.
As part of Human Writes, 6 young Poet Laureates have been chosen to represent their schools and raise the profile of poetry in their school communities. The Poet Laureates will be commissioned to write poems as directed by the libraries, project manager and award winning poet, Joelle Taylor. Joelle will also mentor each student over the course of the year.
Joelle is a performance poet, playwright, spoken word artist and author from Lancashire who is now based in London. She is the Performance Poetry Slam Champion and since 2001 she has been the Artistic Director of SLAMbassadors UK, the UK's biggest youth poetry slam, run by The Poetry Society and the longest running spoken word education programme in the country. In 2015, she was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Society Arts, as well as being named one of Southbank Centre’s Nelson Mandela Change Makers for positively affecting cultural Britain.
In June, the young poets attended a creative writing residency run by the Arvon Foundation in Devon. Totleigh Barton, the first ever Arvon centre, is a 16th-century manor house in one of the most peaceful and idyllic parts of the country. As well as Joelle Taylor, the students worked with Anthony Anaxagoru on the residency.
Anthony is of Cypriot origin and was born in North East London. He is passionate about social problems amongst young people focusing on issues such as racism, history, religion, addiction and abuse, and encouraging young people to speak out and voice their thoughts. Amongst many projects, he works with the Poetry Society assisting in numerous creative writing projects and mentoring other young poets in developing their ideas and expressing themselves through a positive creative medium.
After the residency, the young poets are tasked with working in their schools to promote literary activity and to get more young people reading and writing work of their own. The young Poet Laureates will also work with the libraries in their area, to create a programme of poetry activities geared towards young people – workshops, readings, performances for a whole year.
SLAMbassadors is a national youth slam for 12-18 year olds. Since 2001 it has been unearthing new talent, igniting live events, and developing the future of UK spoken word.
Developing her writing through the Human Writes project, Chelsea was encoraged to enter the competetion by Human Writes mentor Joelle Taylor, one of the SLAMbassadors poet coaches.
As one of the six winners, Chelsea was invited to take part in an intensive, two-day masterclass with Joelle Taylor. The winners'work was then showcased at a live performance Cargo, Shoreditch alongside Joelle and Sabrina Mahfouz.
Another aspect of the winners' experience is the continual mentoring they receive from The Poetry Society, who work hard to introduce the emerging poets to the professional arena and open up the world of performance and publishing to them.
Previous winners include Anthony Anaxagorou, Megan Beech, Kayo Chingonyi, Aisling Fahey, Tommy Sissons, Vanessa Kisuule and NAGA MC.
But that's not all. Another of member of the Human Writes team, Katie Welch, was announced as a commended winner! A huge congratulations goes out to both poets for their creativity and hard work.
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