It’s not long until we announce our new Young People’s Laureate for London. Before he passes on the baton, current Laureate Caleb Femi looks back on his time in the post, and some of the projects he’s been a part of.
“My tenure as the Young People’s Laureate for London has been immensely fulfilling and packed with so many special moments. What I and everyone at Spread the Word wanted to achieve was incredibly ambitious and we knew we had our work cut out for us.
One of our goals was to normalise poetry amongst all young people in London, and especially those who felt that poetry was inaccessible or that it excluded them. I felt that I hit the ground running with my first residency, at the National Literacy Trust, where I worked with schools from Barking and Dagenham, Bexley and Southwark. I remember workshopping at the Tower of London discussing Ghazals and ideas on identity with 12 year-olds and beaming at their excitement. I had a similar experience during my residency with St Paul’s Cathedral, where I again found young people willing to engage with poetry.
These two residencies had a great balance of providing access to young people from inner city boroughs and outer city boroughs, which was a balance I was quite particular about; making sure opportunities are available to young people all across the city.
For this reason it’s been a privilege to lead the hugely ambitious Young People’s Laureate for London Tour; engaging library services in outer London boroughs, which are often overlooked. This tour, however, also provided the most challenging period of my tenure. On the Mitcham leg, I met a group of young people who explained to me that they had gone beyond the point of ever thinking about art or creativity because of the how ostracised they felt from their schools, neighbourhoods and local authority. Our prepared sessions went completely out the window as we totally replanned our approach in order to try and contribute to the lives of those young people.
My time as Young People’s Laureate has been beyond my wildest expectations. It’s provided me with opportunities to travel to read at festivals in Singapore, Nigeria, Berlin and South Africa. I’ve featured on the radio, national television and newspapers taking about various poetry-related topics.
Most significantly however, it’s highlighted the reality of the difficult work that lies ahead in reaching young Londoners, but revealed the huge potential the YPL role has in making a positive impact in the lives of young people.”
The Young People’s Laureate for London and the Young People’s Laureate Tour are supported by the Rayne Foundation, the Goldsmith’s Company, Garfield Weston Foundation and Arts Council England.