How poetry helps us persevere in tough times – Theresa Lola’s thoughts on the #SayYourPeace campaign


We’re really enjoying your contributions to Theresa Lola’s #SayYourPeace campaign and are very excited to share with you Theresa’s thoughts on the campaign so far and what’s coming up next. 

“It’s been nearly three months since the #SayYourPeace poetry campaign was launched back in April 2020. The idea for the campaign was developed when news outlets were filled with anxiety driven reports about the ways people’s lives were being affected by the pandemic. Myself, and others around me needed a way to express the complex emotions we felt and needed a creative outlet to do so. Poetry offers us this space, a place where words and their arrangement manage to absorb our emotions.

Every week of the campaign brought something new. From prompts to interviews with other poets, and a poetry workshop. It was important to include varied ways of engaging with poetry. I shared three poetry prompts to encourage others to write, and the poetry workshop, which was open to all, was on my Instagram Live in mid-May and ended with a virtual reading. I interviewed three poets with a focus on them providing insight into their selfcare as writers and their writing inspirations. Two of those poets were interviewed on Instagram Live; former Foyle Young Poet winner Phoebe Stuckes and performer and events curator Yomi Sode, while Belinda Zhawi, an alumna of the Barbican Young Poets programme, was interviewed on Twitter.

The engagement with #SayYourPeace has been amazing, and I am so pleased to see that it is reaching people in London and beyond the capital. The main goal of this campaign was, and remains, to encourage people to use poetry to find peace in expressing themselves during this time of uncertainty. People were encouraged to write and share a poem about the things bringing them peace during the pandemic and to submit it either via social media using the hashtag #SayYourPeace or via email. Indeed, the real highlight of the campaign has been reading the poems it has inspired. If you have a few moments to spare, I encourage you to read the project poems on the campaign’s page. From the unexpected joy at the sound of a lawnmower, to building new alliances over the dinner table and redefining normality, these contributions are reflective, inspiring, sad, funny and optimistic. They are a real showcase of how poetry helps us to persevere through tough times.

I am excited for the next stage of the #SayYourPeace campaign. This will include a three-part film-poem commissioned by BBC Arts, Arts Council England and The Space for the ‘Culture in Quarantine’ project, encouraging creative arts through lockdown and beyond. The poems are written by me with two previous Young People’s Laureates Caleb Femi and Momtaza Mehri. The filmmakers on the project are Jolade Olusanya and Ndrika Anyika, with Caleb Femi also acting as a filmmaker. More details on this are forthcoming so watch this space!

In the meantime, please keep writing your poems and submitting them using the hashtag #SayYourPeace. I can’t wait to read more.”

Theresa Lola is a British Nigerian poet and facilitator. She is the 2019/2020 Young People’s Laureate for London. She has held residencies at St Paul’s Cathedral and Bethlem Musem of the Mind and been commissioned by the Tate. She was the joint winner of the 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the 2017 Bridport Poetry Prize. Her debut poetry collection ‘In Search of Equilibrium’ was released in February 2019 published by Nine Arches Press, and is described as a ‘a glorious hymn to being alive and wounded.‘

Published 9 July 2020