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Young People’s Laureate
For London

Spread the Word’s Young People’s Laureate for London Theresa Lola gives London’s young people a voice through poetry. You can check out Theresa’s summer mental health campaign #MyMentalHealthJourney here

The Young People’s Laureate’s mission is to:

• Raise the visibility of poetry in the capital, nationally and internationally;

• Engage and inspire London’s young people with poetry through the issues that affect them;

• Support the development of London’s talented young poets in a tangible way.

Each year an esteemed judging panel selects a poet to become the Young People’s Laureate for London. Caleb Femi was the first Young People’s Laureate 2016-18. Momtaza Mehri was the Young People’s Laureate 2018-19. Previously, Spread the Word ran the Young Poet Laureate scheme, a role which was held by Selina Nwulu, Aisling Fahey and Warsan Shire.

During her tenure, Theresa will work with young people (aged 13-25) and will be engaging young people across London with poetry through: residencies and commissions; co-curating a Poetry Lab for talented young poets.

The programme is funded by Arts Council England and supported by a wide range of partners.

You can keep up to date with what the Young People’s Laureate for London is doing here, or through social media #youngpeopleslaureate

If you’d like to book the Laureate for a residency, event or commission, please email laureate@spreadtheword.org.uk

Latest

With Love (And Rage), Generation Rent


  • News

Young People’s Laureate for London
Theresa Lola features in British Vogue
guest edited by the Duchess of Sussex


  • News

Young People’s Laureate for London Theresa Lola Blog


  • Blogs

Interview with Young People’s Laureate
for London Theresa Lola


  • Interview

Introducing the new
Young People’s Laureate for London
Theresa Lola


  • Archive

Momtaza Mehri’s Year as Young People’s Laureate for London


  • Network & Knowledge

No Name Club
by Momtaza Mehri


  • Special Feature

‘A Poem for London’
by talented young London poets


  • Creative Writing

ANNOUNCING THE SHORTLIST FOR THE
ASIA HOUSE POETRY SLAM 2018


  • Archive

Asia House Poetry Slam 2018


  • Archive

Caleb Femi reflects on his
time as Young People’s Laureate


  • Blogs

Pooja Nansi reflects on
the Young Laureate Exchange


  • Blogs

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


  • Archive
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“I hope to use this role to encourage young people to creatively engage in conversations about our wellbeing and mental health, to celebrate what self-care means to us and the things that give us hope as young Londoners. We will explore how to use poetry to communicate the impact that experiences such as school, social media and the workplace have on our mental health. In times of crisis, poetry is a healthy outlet that young people can use to voice their feelings.”

Theresa Lola

Theresa's poetry

Ball and Bounce

Theresa Lola


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Ball and Bounce

ball and racket

Two girls holding two rackets and two tennis balls
strut down one long road towards Ladywell Fields park.
The sun is the plate we eat from, it serves us the feast of spotlight
we crave after a day of toiling.
Air glides into the throat of the racket and doubt unclogs from our lungs.
Today we are no longer two girls trying to split Heather
Watson’s name between our teeth,
we are no longer Serena and Venus Williams impersonators.
Today we hold the rackets like we hold our bodies;
without fear of breakage, assured it is wired to swing
against anything thrown at it, at us.

ball and bounce

At Ladywell Fields park skaters bounce from the air onto their skateboard
and applause fills the gap between. We cheer and our teeth are a row
of burning candles willing to watch London spark all night.
An Oyster card peaks out of our pockets like a passport
for a body always ready for flight.
Two young women holding rackets like loudspeakers
ask to join us on the courts, we say yes without hesitation.
Words bounce over the netted barrier between us,
we share the first three letters of our postcode like a password
to unlock a story within us.
We envy the fluorescent yellow of the tennis ball,
we dream of being obvious in our existence.
School kids on a 185 bus notice us as we walk home,
their eyes are scoops of questions, we offer smiles as answers.
We walk with an elegant bounce even a tennis ball can’t duplicate.

score

A teenage girl walking past asks what the score is,
and we shout ‘LOVE’
which we, now tennis experts, know means zero.
What matters for us is sweat gluing our laughter together
to thicken the harmony.
10 minutes later the same teenage girl walks past
and to seem productive
we shout THE SCORE IS NOW 30 LOVE.
Love never exits this space between us,
we bounce it between each other like a church singer
throwing a note over a piano during a duet,
and our hands forget to become sore,
we say that is our superpower.

Alumni

YOUNG POET LAUREATE FOR LONDON 2013


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The Young Poet Laureate for London 2013 was Warsan Shire. She was awarded the title at the Houses of Parliament by Carol Ann Duffy. The Young Poet Laureate shortlist was Jolade Olusanya, Bridget Minamore, Momina Mela, Aisling Fahey and James Massiah

YOUNG POET LAUREATE FOR LONDON 2014


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The Young Poet Laureate for London 2014 was Aisling Fahey. She was awarded the title at the RSA by Lemn Sissay. The Young Poet Laureate shortlist was Clare Mulley, Laurie Bolger, Ella Frears, Rachel Long and Debris Stevenson.

Young Poet Laureate for London 2015


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The Young Poet Laureate for London 2015 was Selina Nwulu. She was awarded the title at Waterstones Piccadilly by Imtiaz Dharker. The Young Poet Laureate for London shortlist was Harriet Creelman, Zia Ahmed, Raymond Antrobus, Belinda Zhawi and Yuan Yang.

YOUNG PEOPLE'S LAUREATE FOR LONDON 2016


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The Young People’s Laureate for London 2016 was Caleb Femi. He was awarded the title by Jacob Sam La Rose at Penguin Random House UK.

YOUNG PEOPLE'S LAUREATE FOR LONDON 2018


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The Young People’s Laureate for London 2018 was Momtaza Mehri.