Congratulations to Aisling Fahey on becoming Young Poet Laureate for London

Aisling Fahey, Young Poet Laureate for London 2014

Renowned poet Lemn Sissay today appointed 21 year old Aisling Fahey as the Young Poet Laureate for London, at a reception at the RSA on National Poetry Day.

The Young Poet Laureate for London is a Spread the Word programme supported by The Legacy List, the independent charity for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Acting as a voice for young Londoners, Aisling will provide comment and reflections on current events across the capital throughout the coming year, as well as working with communities and London based organisations to inspire and inform through poetry.

Aisling follows in the footsteps of Warsan Shire, who was appointed the first ever Young Poet Laureate for London last year, as part of the Spoke programme – a commission by Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park through London Legacy Development Corporation, and managed by A New Direction. Warsan benefited from a whirlwind year of commissions and development opportunities, and was recently named as author of one of the ’50 great modern love poems of the last 50 years’ for her acclaimed work For women who are ‘difficult’ to love.

Aisling was selected from a shortlist of six young poets aged 18-25 by a high profile panel, including professional poets Nick Makoha and Jacob Sam La Rose.

Follow her year at: #YPLLondon / @_AislingF

For more click here


London seeks applications for next Young Poet Laureate

The search is on for the next Young Poet Laureate for London to follow in the footsteps of celebrated poet Warsan Shire, whose work For women who are ‘difficult’ to love was recently named as one of the ‘50 great modern love poems of the last 50 years’.

Warsan Shire press release

The Young Poet Laureate 2014/15, selected from a shortlist of six, will be announced on National Poetry Day on 2nd October, and will go on to benefit from a whirlwind year of superb development opportunities, a high profile platform for their work and commissions worth at least £7,500. Acting as a voice for young Londoners, they will advocate for poetry as an art form and be a positive role model for young poets, providing comment and reflections on current events.

The role of Young Poet Laureate for London was established in 2013 through Spoke; a visionary spoken word programme commissioned by Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as part of its commitment to supporting arts and culture in and around east London. Spoke is managed by A New Direction, and delivered by leading poetry and spoken word organisations, Apples & Snakes, Spread the Word and Discover. The programme comes to an end in October 2014, when The Legacy List will support Spread the Word to continue the Young Poet Laureate for London programme for 2014-15 and beyond.

Warsan Shire, who was announced as Young Poet Laureate for London, by Carol Ann Duffy at the Houses of Parliament in October 2013, said:

‘Being Young Poet Laureate for London has been an incredible experience. It has been challenging, humbling and rewarding. I’ve had really beautiful moments connecting with Londoners over the transformative power of poetry. It has beentruly inspiring and I’m excited about the way it has informed and accelerated my work as a poet.’

Warsan will be undertaking a two-week residency in the Poetry Potting Shed at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, from 17th – 31st July, as part of her role as Young Poet Laureate for London.

Applicants must be 18-25, and applications close on 19 August at Midday.
Visit the Spread the Word website for details of how to apply

Warsan Shire on Woman’s Hour (Weds 16 July 2014)


Tomorrow (Weds 16 July), Spoke’s very own Warsan Shire, Young Poet Laureate for London, will be on Woman’s Hour, Radio 4, reading some of her work, and talking about her role as Young Poet Laureate for London.

This week, Southbank Centre named one of her works as one of the ’50 greatest love poems of the last 50 years’.

Tune in tomorrow to hear this extraordinary artists doing her thing!

Young Poet Laureate for London, Warsan Shire

Could you be the next Young Poet Laureate for London?

The search is on for the next Young Poet Laureate for London. More details and information about how to apply here

Digital Intern bids farewell

Hi I’m Matt, the digital intern here at Spoke, saying my final goodbyes and describing my experience throughout the 6 month internship.


Summing up this internship is going to be difficult, simply for the sheer mass of knowledge, work experience, and life experience gained from working on Spoke, in such a short space of time, that has flown by so quickly.

Words really won’t be able to portray it enough, nor my gratitude or thanks for such an amazing, positive, welcomingly challenging, all round fulfilling job opportunity and a rare opportunity at that.

Immersing yourself within so many different working environments, with different work etiquettes, different types of people, different types of bosses, and learning from those people all the values and factors of the working world, whether it be a more corporate, freelance or creative type of work, from the way you present yourself in meetings, to the way you type up your e-mails, all the little things, being able to analyse, adapt & differentiate between them all, and figure out where I feel most comfortable, has been one of the greatest benefits that this internship in particular has offered me, a bulk of knowledge that I will definitely carry through when following into my next job.

My outlook on work life has unquestionably changed. All the frustrations and problems while finishing full time education, ‘battling’ through a series of surprisingly displeasing jobs, one after the other, re-evaluating what I wanted to pursue in life, and my career, admittedly having quite a defeated attitude, has been without a shadow of a doubt resolved, I’m mentally in a much better place on the subject of career. I feel so much more confident moving on into the next chapter of my career, and all the future endeavours I have in the pipeline.

The internship has opened my eyes and taught me a lot, although challenging at times, particularly on the communication front (making sure every partner is up to date with my workload, and juggling the workload from one partner to the other), I couldn’t of wished for a better opportunity, working alongside a great bunch of people, who made work feel more of a pleasure than a burden.

Never once did I wake up for work with the feeling of not wanting to go in, which 6 months ago, I’d be telling you a different story. It’s rekindled my faith in the world of work, I know exactly what I want to do and where I want to go with my career and I’ve grown up as a person by sheer amounts, so if anything I just want to say thank you, to Spread the Word, Apple & Snakes, A New Direction & Claudia, I’m smiling from ear to ear. Its been a total success.



WordCupSlamPostCoinciding with the football World Cup, WORDCUP2014 is a celebratory spoken word project for young people aged 13-15. Since April, teams selected from 10 schools in East London have been working with top professional poets to put pen to paper and create their own poetry and spoken word. 

Join our teams as they come together on stage for the live WORDCUP2014 poetry slam final. London’s Young Poet LaureateWarsan Shire will be a judge, along with the brilliant Khadijah Ibrahiim and Mr. Gee. The slam will also feature award-winning hip-hop dance company Boy Blue Entertainment, and poet Russeni Fisher!

Writing Process – Editing

Latest blog post from Warsan Shire, Spoke’s Young Poet Laureate for London

Warsan shire love

In my head I call the first draft ‘poem embryo’. The rough idea, the scene I see in my head. Here is an example of one:

‘Girl performs surgery on her father to weigh his heart in a small north London flat, draw parallels to Egyptian mythology but be subtle’

From there the poem already exists, I have begun to write it inside my body. I study the film behind my eyelids from different angles. Who’s the protagonist? What am I seeing? What does it mean? What time of day is it? How does the fathers’ blood smell? Can you hear the neighbours through the wall?

When I sit down to write the poem (and sometimes the poem can sit inside me for years before I find the right words) the act of writing becomes an exorcism, an excavation, translating the images into words, articulating it to the best of my ability, to best describe what I’ve just seen inside my head, to connect with others who can see it too.

I write a lot about family, I (like many others) come from a family that passes on trauma like it’s a birthright. I write about difficult subjects, I know that poetry has saved my life, It helps me make sense, articulate, heal, revisit, rewrite, reimagine, celebrate, curse, ask, feel and understand. But because it means so much to me I find it hard to relinquish control and share rough drafts of work for feedback, instead I edit relentlessly for hours, crippled by the pressure of wanting it to be perfect before I can show anyone, this is paralyzing and harmful. So to continue my gross embryo poem analogy, it’s my responsibility to nurture, feed and shape the poem in all its stages. Sometimes through the editing process you can lose sight of the intention and purpose.

‘Girl performs surgery on her father to weigh his heart, to find out if he even has a heart, he is asleep all through the surgery dreaming about the home he left behind and when she opens up his chest she finds remains of things, artifacts, souvenirs, her first library card – she stiches him up, he wakes up, she helps him get dressed, there’s still some distance between them but she knows what’s in his heart – research magical realism and dark surrealism – father daughter relationships, heart surgery, Somali war, stitches/sutures, afterlife, longing for a father’s love’.

Jawdance Barking


For what was an extraordinary night of spoken word talent and variety.These were the Open Mic Acts who graced the stage on the 5th June Thursday.

Interview with Warsan Shire

See what Warsan Shire has to say about her role as the current Young Poet Laureate for London

So last year you became the first ever Young Poet Laureate for London! Looking back now, how did it feel to have won, being the first to hold such an amazing title?

I was elated! Very excited and honoured. I learnt soon after how racist the media can be, the Evening Standard wrote a piece about me on the same day titled ‘REFUGEE WINS TOP PRIZE’ which was both inaccurate and dehumanising. It was a difficult experience but also an important lesson I’m glad I learnt early.

Has there been a personal journey to take forth as well as a career journey?

After the my experience with the media, I was encouraged to take some media training, which was brilliant and pushed me to be more assertive, honest and draw clear boundaries. These practices have served me greatly in other areas of my life, especially within interpersonal relationships.

Why did you decide to apply to become Young Poet Laureate, what made you want to try out?

Encouragement from peers, friends and family.

As a poet, what inspires your writing? What plays an influence on your poetry?

Last nights dream, film, photography, conversations overheard, watching my mother dye her hair over the sink, doctors appointments, memory, the nail technician holding my hand, music, moments of deep intimacy, melancholy, navel gazing, climate change, death. Living inspires, informs and influences my work, and life is dizzying.

If you could describe your experience overall as YPL for London in 3 words, what would they be?

Challenging, engaging and valuable