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


Theresa Lola is the new Young People’s Laureate for London, announced at City Hall on Wednesday 17 April.

In her tenure as laureate, Theresa will champion young people’s mental health and wellbeing through poetry at a time of great political uncertainty.

Theresa says: “I am delighted to be Spread the Word’s Young People’s Laureate for London. Having moved to London at the age of 13, poetry was the language that helped me translate this beautiful city and form the lasting friendships I have today.

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.

Poetry is the nuanced language we need to articulate the complexities of what we go through as young people, and in expressing our feelings over pressing issues, I also want us to celebrate our joys.”

Theresa Lola is a British Nigerian poet and facilitator. She is an alumni of the Barbican Young Poets programme, and was joint winner of the 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize. In April 2018 she was commissioned by the Mayor of London’s Office and read a commissioned poem at the unveiling of Millicent Fawcett’s statue at Parliament Square. She has facilitated poetry workshops at primary and secondary schools. Her debut poetry collection ‘In Search of Equilibrium’ (Nine Arches Press, Feb 2019) is described as ‘a glorious hymn to being alive and wounded.’

Theresa will work closely with us here at Spread the Word for a year with placements on four youth-focused residencies across the capital, including at St Paul’s Cathedral. Theresa will receive a range of mentoring and poetry-development opportunities to enhance her career progression. Theresa was selected by a nomination panel, including arts organisations such as The Roundhouse, Apples and Snakes, Barbican, National Poetry Library, Southbank Centre and the Poetry Society. The judging panel, featuring poets Jacob Sam-La Rose and Joelle Taylor, once again noted the incredibly high level of talented poets creating in the capital.

She will also co-host a special development project for talented young London poets called The Young People’s PoetryLab, which last year worked with 21 emerging poets.

Spread the Word Director Ruth Harrison said: “At a time of political uncertainty, where young people’s lives, concerns and aspirations are often ignored and dismissed, it is vital that their voices are heard by those in power. This is why Theresa Lola is a fantastic choice for Young People’s Laureate. Her poetry is bold, surprising and full of dazzling and unexpected images. Theresa is unafraid to explore difficult subjects and with her talent and commitment to opening up conversations with young people, she brings to the role a real sense of purpose.”

 Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, said: “I’m delighted that Theresa Lola has been chosen as the next Young People’s Laureate for London. This is an important role that gives young Londoners a voice and, having seen the power of Theresa’s poetry, I know her emotive work will both inspire and unite.”

Momtaza Mehri, the outgoing Young People’s Laureate for London, added: “I’m thrilled that Theresa Lola has been selected as the new laureate. Her experience as a programmer and commitment to poetry that travels across borders will be invaluable in this role. It will be a joy to watch her make this role her own. As the outgoing Young People’s Laureate, it has been as exhilarating to stumble across youth collectives established on my doorstep as it has been to collaborate with international filmmakers as part of my residences. The role has expanded my definition of what a working poet can do.”

During her year-long laureateship, Lola will work with young people across London, including collaborating with them on a specially commissioned poem for the capital with plans to launch a city-wide regional campaign, which will be announced in the summer.

To enquire about booking Theresa for a reading or workshop, please contact: [email protected] 

Published 17 April 2019