Schools Poetry Competition Winners Announced

The University’s fourth Schools Poetry Competition has come to an end, and the winners from four Manchester schools have been announced.

A teacher and student sat togetherPresented by the Centre for New Writing and Creative Manchester, the Schools Poetry Competition has been running annually since 2017, when it was launched by University Chancellor and poet, Lemn Sissay. It encourages Manchester school pupils aged 7 to 11 to use poetry as a means of self-expression and as a way of exploring the world around them.

This year’s competition was themed around Climate Change, and four Manchester schools participated. One overall school prize and several year group prizes were awarded to pupils from each school. All 13 of the winning poems are being showcased on the Centre for New Writing’s website.

A warm congratulations to all of the winners, but particularly to the overall school winners, who are as follows:

  • Jallah Lalzoy from Whalley Range High School
  • Teeba Ali from Levenshulme High School
  • Sama Sameer from The East Manchester Academy
  • Abdullah Qaftan from Burnage Academy

The competition was judged by a panel led by Professor of Poetry, John McAuliffe. It included four of the University’s Creative Writing PhD students, who were integral to every stage of the competition. In previous years, our students have run poetry clinics wherein the pupils’ poetry is redrafted before being submitted to the competition. This year, our students adapted to the lockdown measures by providing detailed written critiques for every pupil taking part.

When it came to the judging stage, the students assessed the poems according to specific criteria. Chiefly, they were looking for effective images, innovative use of form, creative command of language and interesting takes on the theme.

“The quality of the poems submitted this year on the theme of Climate Change didn’t make the judging easy for myself or for the other judges”, reflected PhD student Chad Campbell in a video message recorded for the winning pupils. “Your work was brave and imaginative and accomplished, and we enjoyed reading them and working with them so much”, echoed fellow student Tessa Harris.

Another PhD student, Rebecca Hurst, reflected on the competition in the context of the current pandemic: “I know that this has been a difficult few months and I hope that writing has allowed you a way of thinking through what is happening, both in your own lives and in the world at large”.

The positive impact of the competition, which took on new significance during the lockdown, was affirmed by Laura Van Hoof, a teacher at Levenshulme High School:

“The pupils loved receiving feedback from the students at the university; it was clearly something that broke the monotony of studying from home! The project supports our curriculum in various ways […] helping pupils to reflect on a current affairs issue and consider their moral duty as citizens of the UK. Finally, encouraging poetry and writing for fun supports all pupils with English as an Additional Language, as they can develop their creativity with the language in a new and exciting context.”

Many thanks to the participating schools and to all of the pupils who entered the competition, to whom we now say: “Keep on writing!”.

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