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Matilda Houston-Brown
Current Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire Young Poet Laureate Matilda Houston-Brown

Aspiring young writers invited to apply for top poetry competition

Budding writers in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire are being reminded that there’s still time to put pen to paper to enter a county-wide poetry competition.

For the fourth year running, the county council and the city council have joined forces to recruit a new Young Poet Laureate for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, who will hold the post for a year.

The competition aims to showcase the skills of 14 to 18-year-olds across the whole of Staffordshire.

The closing date for the competition is Monday 4 July.

Endon High School pupil, Matilda Houston-Brown, at aged 14, is the youngest person to have held the position and has enjoyed a very busy time in the role so far.

Matilda said:

Being Young Poet Laureate has completely changed my world. I’ve met talented, creative and inspirational people who’ve encouraged me to pursue my passion for writing. I’ve also had to learn all about publicity and fund raising.

There have been so many highlights during my time as Young Poet Laureate, including: organising Young Staffordshire Stanza – a county-wide poetry competition for 11 to 16-year-olds; working with the First Bus Company to get some of my poems and those of the competition winners displayed inside buses across Staffordshire; being invited to help judge a poetry competition for the National Memorial Arboretum; being asked to compere the upcoming final of Staffordshire’s Young Teen Fiction Awards at RAF Cosford and having my poem projected on to an aeroplane; reaching the finals of the national Poetry By Heart competition at Cambridge University; reciting an Edmund Blunden poem on Radio 4’s Poetry Please; taking part in Stoke-on-Trent’s Hot Air Festival, where I met bestselling authors Nick Hornby and Meg Rossoff and winning my age group in The Sentinel’s Too Write short story competition and meeting one of my poetry heroes national Poet Laureate Carol Anne Duffy.

I don’t think any of this would have happened without the confidence and encouragement that being Young Poet Laureate has given me.

My advice to anyone thinking of entering this year’s competition is to write about what is important to you, from your own experience. Entrants should work on reading their poetry aloud because a big part of my year has involved presenting in front of an audience, so this is really important for being Young Poet Laureate.

My year has been fantastic so far, and I’d give anything to do it all over again.

The contest is open to youngsters, aged 14 to 18, who live or study in Stoke-on-Trent or Staffordshire.

County Councillor Gill Heath, Staffordshire’s Library Chief said:

“Encouraging other young writers is a big part of being Young Poet Laureate, and as we can see from Matilda’s long list of achievements, she has certainly delivered on this part of her role and much more.

“Even the most reluctant young readers often respond well to poetry, leading them to be more open-minded, thoughtful, creative and expressive.

“In partnership with Stoke-on-Trent City Council, this competition gives us the unique opportunity to showcase our young poets and use their skills to promote a love of poetry in younger audiences.”

“I’d like to congratulate Matilda on all her hard work and success so far, and I know she’ll continue to do a sterling job for us until she hands her crown to her successor in October.”

Councillor Terry Follows, cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure at the city council, said:

“We work hard to encourage literacy levels in all our young people and events like the Stoke Literary Festival, which is attracting big name authors to our city, are embedding our area firmly in the country’s literary landscape.

“I’d encourage all 14 to 18-year-olds to give this a go, regardless of whether or not they think they can win. This is all about picking up a pen, taking part and unleashing your creative side. Who knows where it could take you.”

Entrants are being asked to submit two of their own poems. The first should focus on how Stoke-on-Trent or Staffordshire is a great place to live, work and visit. The second can be about any topic.

Competitors also need to submit a list of ideas explaining what they would do during their time as Young Poet Laureate.

Shortlisted applicants will be required to perform one of their own poems and another poem of their choice on Saturday 3 September at a venue in Stafford.

The Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Young Poet Laureate will be announced on National Poetry Day, Thursday 6 October.

Applications should be sent to Sue Ball at Staffordshire Libraries and Arts Service, Tipping Street, Stafford, ST16 2DH or e-mailed to sue.ball@staffordshire.gov.uk

Rules of entry and an application form can be found by following the links at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/libraries and www.stoke.gov.uk/libraries