Announcing the winners of the Young People’s Laureate for London Poetry Awards


We had a fantastic response to our first ever Young People’s Laureate for London Poetry Awards, showcasing the brilliant range of young poetry talent in London today.

These awards were judged by Spread the Word’s Young People’s Laureate for London Caleb Femi who asked young people to submit their poems on his chosen theme of ‘Tomorrow.’ We’re delighted to announce that the winners are:

Alaa Lafta (13-17 year old category) with her extraordinary poem, relics of womanhood.

Alaa said: “I first started reading poetry at school, where our curriculum would expose us to traditional works by Shakespeare and Frost and so on. Their writing felt cold and distant to my own experiences and the formulaic structure of conventional poetry steered me away. Then I began to read Carol Ann Duffy’s poems, and I began to approach poetry in a more visceral manner. Since then, writers of colour such as Ocean Vuong, Fatimah Asghar, Warsan Shire, Safia Elhillo, Suheir Hammad and more have greatly influenced me, and I no longer shy away from experimenting with the structure or themes of my poems.

Lately, I have begun to explore darker topics that people often like to avoid talking about; I feel like ‘relics of womanhood’ is a prime example of how I like to capture the grotesque aspects of femininity. I aim to make my reader uncomfortable with what they read, whether it is because my writing is political or aggressive or unapologetic, and that is something I owe to living in London.”

Rakaya Fetuga (18-25 year old category) for her evocative spoken-word piece, ‘PhilsopHer‘.

Rakaya said: “The theme of ‘Tomorrow’ brought up a lot of different ideas: there are so many issues that affect young Londoners and so many avenues for social change. I think scholars and philosophers are necessary to help lead a progressive society. In my personal context as a young black Muslim woman from London, I feel like it’s so important that advice and guidance come from people who can relate to my experience.

The poem was inspired by a conversation I had in Subway sandwich shop about how more women scholars are needed to study and teach Islam in a way that challenges the misogynist overtones that different generations and societies have added on. In the current climate, the danger of misinterpretation and problematic leadership is evident. It’s crucial to have leaders who are well-studied and know about the everyday experience of the people that they lead.

Winning the Spoken Word Prize is amazing to me – I love listening to spoken word poetry because it’s so personal and powerful. I’ve performed at a few open mics in North West London and at my uni. I almost always have nervous butterflies before but love the moments when the audience connect to the words and we all share a thought or a feeling together.”

Spread the Word Programme Manager, Patrice Lawrence, said: “I was so happy and inspired by the work that was submitted – reflective, angry, celebratory, original poetry, different forms, all moods. Thank you to everyone who submitted and congratulations to the winners.”

Rakya receives £75 and has been invited to attend Caleb Femi’s Poetry Lab at the Roundhouse on Saturday 10 June to work with Caleb and other poets to explore the power of words and contribute to a collective poem for London. Alaa receives £75 in vouchers.

Congratulations to Alaa and Rakaya, two incredibly talented poets who you’ll definitely be hearing more from in the future!

Published 9 July 2017