Young writers celebrated by leading poets in national competition

Back to news
An image of a loch

The winners of a national poetry competition for young writers from across the UK – supported by the University of Stirling and Newcastle University – have been announced.

More than 200 aspiring poets, aged 11 to 17-years-old, took part in the ‘In my country…’ competition, with the winning entries selected by the acclaimed Scots Makar, Jackie Kay MBE, and award-winning writer, Malika Booker.

The competition is part of the ‘Out of Bounds’ poetry project which explores the links between poetry, place, and identity in the 21st Century. Young poets were invited to write a poem titled ‘In my country…’, reflecting on their experiences of place, identity, and belonging in the UK.

The competition’s head judge was Jackie Kay, Chancellor of the University of Salford and Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University. She is an alumnus of the University of Stirling – graduating in 1983 with a BA English Studies – and also received an Honorary Doctorate from Stirling in 2000.

Ms Kay said: “I was really blown away by the standard of these poems - some of them made my cry, others gave me the poetry shiver.”

The Scots Makar has also recorded a celebratory video for all of the competition participants.

Dr Gemma Robinson, of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Stirling, runs the Out of Bounds project with Professor James Procter at Newcastle University. It provides a unique collection of free online materials by black and Asian poets, and advice for young people keen to reflect on and explore their communities’ poetic voices.

She said: “How do we make a place for ourselves in the world? That is such an important question. It’s at the heart of our poetry project and it’s particularly important at the moment when we are separated from friends, family and places. All the poets who entered the competition offer us complex, life-affirming answers to that question.”

Malika Booker was impressed by the variety of poems submitted for consideration. She said: “These are poems depicting political situations, reflecting a sense of place, or narrative poems exploring memories with tenderness, and harsh portrayals of the impact of our actions on earth’s ecological crisis. There are also frank insights into the impact of war on its diaspora communities, and beautiful nature poems capturing the essence of our diverse landscape whether urban or rural.”

Each of the prize-winning young poets will receive a book token and a donation will be made to their school. Those responsible for the highly commended entries will receive a book token.

The full list of winners and highly commended entries, along with the opening line of their poem, for the ‘In my country…’ competition are:

First prize: Jenny O’Gorman, Dollar Academy, Clackmannanshire: ‘Heather remembers the trudge of boot’ 

Second prize: Maryam Hussain, Allerton High School, Leeds: ‘Last year my family in Kashmir were smiling'

Joint Third prize: Ngaire Barr, Mearns Academy, Aberdeenshire: ‘As rain falls like glass sheets on the mountain’

Ruby Guilfoyle, Kingsmeadow Community School, Gateshead: ‘I remember the smiles and the endless laughter’


Highly Commended prizes:

Anna Barbosa, Prospect School, Cockney Hill, Reading: ‘It falls, ever so gracefully’

Mia Blood-Schiffers, Ashby School, Leicestershire: ‘My heart is like a drummer’

George Breakspear-Dean, Kingsmeadow Community School, Gateshead: ‘On the coast of’

Orla Faherty, Mearns Academy, Aberdeenshire: ‘Suns up over the heather, glittering in the snow’

Sam Kershaw, Whitley Bay High School, Whitley Bay: ‘Sometimes I think I want to move away’

Sanya Malik, Bingley Grammar, Bingley, Yorkshire: ‘5 hours forward in Pakistan’

Jack McRavey, Monkwearmouth Academy, Sunderland: ‘Poverty-stricken cities lay on flattened land’

Ivy Silver, St Dunstan’s School, Glastonbury: ‘Early spring mornings that still cling to winter’s chill’

Hester Van Schaik, Frederick Bremer School, London: ‘Home, here, now’