The Young Poet laureate Competition has been running for over 10 years. For the past five years it has been managed by Severn Arts in partnership with Worcestershire County Council. It is an opportunity to showcase talented young people aged 11- 18 years old, boost confidence and self-esteem and develop writing skills. 

The competition is open to any young person across the County who wish to submit a poem within three age groups –school years 6-8, 9-11 and 12-13. Once poems have been submitted a shortlist is drawn together by a team of specialists. 12 young people (4 in each age group) are selected to take part in the final.  As part of the final a specialist coach is bought in to work with each finalist to ensure they are confident in performing in front of an audience. The final is judged by a panel of professional poets who select a winner from each age group and an overall winner who becomes the Young Poet Laureate for the year.

Poetry is an under-represented art form, and many think it is not something for them.  However, it is also a fantastic opportunity for young people to express their feelings, build their self-esteem, sign post them onto other similar opportunities or support them in their writing. Workshops are offered as part of the project to break down the barriers to participation.  The event is free to enter to ensure young people from all backgrounds can submit a poem. 

Meet Amelie!
Amelia Simon was the Young Worcestershire Poet Laureate for 2023-2024, with her winning poems ‘Ascension’ and ‘Spacetime is shaped like a railway track’. This is what Amelie had to say about being involved in the Young Poet Laureate competition. 

‘While poetry has always been a passion of mine, it wasn’t something I shared with others or ever dreamed I could seriously pursue. I attended open mics but was rarely confident enough to share any of my own work. I really agonised over entering into the competition. I almost didn’t e
nter – it was only because of the encouragement I received during a workshop that I sent anything in at all. As an autistic person, performing felt inaccessible to me, and I wasn’t confident in my work to even dream of submitting to magazines.  

I’d seen the young poet laureate project advertised a couple of times but did not think I was nearly good enough to enter, but after attending some writing workshops for queer youth at Malvern Cube, I decided to send in a poem. I was astounded to be invited to the finals. The finals themselves were magical – I spent the day surrounded by other young poets and getting a feel for performing my poetry. It was fantastic – just being there taught me so much about owning a performance space and projecting a confident image. Then I was amazed to have won! Since then, I have snatched up every opportunity that I’ve been offered. I was interviewed on BBC Radio Herefordshire and Worcestershire; I was commissioned by Worcestershire Libraries to write and perform a poem for the King’s coronation (which appeared on BBC Midlands Today), I performed at Ledbury Poetry Festival and in Birmingham for an event celebrating disabled poets, I was lucky enough to headline the Malvern Pride spoken word tent and to perform alongside other wonderful poets at the opening of Script Haven in Worcester. I’ve had my work in anthologies locally and have been able to facilitate some of my own poetry workshops. I could never have imagined what a year it would be – and it's certainly not over yet!  

It’s had an immeasurable impact on my confidence and self-esteem. Before starting this project, I never could have dreamt of getting up on a stage to read my own poetry, but I’ve discovered that the stage actually offers me a place to be authentically me and to have a great time doing it! I’ve met some of the most incredible people and found so much comfort in the art form. It’s offered me so many opportunities and allowed me to have the confidence to seek out my own, too – I’ve started submitting to anthologies and literary magazines (even getting a couple of publications), performing at open mics and other events and just generally sharing a lot more poetry.  

The main thing is to keep writing! I love writing and have discovered a deep love of performing, and I hope to continue this. I plan to get involved with slam competitions at and around my university, as well as get a foothold in the open mics of the area. I’m submitting work to more publications and plan to keep on keeping on until I’ve collected enough for a chapbook to start forming.’   

The project will continue to be led by Severn Arts for the foreseeable future in partnership with Worcestershire County Council. We are aiming to encourage more young people to take part from a wider spectrum of backgrounds.