Hackney poet named London’s new young people’s laureate

PUBLISHED: 13:11 01 October 2020 | UPDATED: 13:19 01 October 2020

Cecilia Knapp. Picture: Spread The Word/ Hayley Madden

Cecilia Knapp. Picture: Spread The Word/ Hayley Madden

Cecilia Knapp. Picture: Spread The Word

Poet Cecilia Knapp, named the capital’s new young people’s laureate today, hopes to use the role to help other young Londoners have their voices heard at a time of uncertainty and upheaval.

Cecilia Knapp. Picture: Spread The Word/ Hayley MaddenCecilia Knapp. Picture: Spread The Word/ Hayley Madden

Cecilia, 28 from Hackney Central, who also writes plays and novels, discovered poetry when she attended a workshop “by accident” and it changed her life.

Spread the Word’s Young People’s Laureate for London programme launched in 2016 to raise the visibility of poetry in the capital, and to help young people use poetry make their voices heard.

“When I was younger, my confidence, my voice, my direction, the way I see myself was completely changed when I accidentally attended a writing workshop,” she said.

“Since then, writing has been fundamental for me in figuring myself and the world out. I want the young people I work with to experience the same as me.

“Too often, young people are spoken for and harmful stereotypes perpetuate conversations around young people. It’s important to amplify the voices that are often silenced, that haven’t been heard, in order to challenge this.”

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In the role she plans to collect and celebrate the as-yet untold stories of and work with London’s young people who “haven’t had a chance to find their voice yet”.

Cecilia was first selected out of all the applicants by a nomination panel, which included leading arts organisations like The Roundhouse, the Barbican and the Southbank Centre.

She was then picked from those put forward to the judging panel, which included poets Jacob Sam-La Rose and Joelle Taylor.

She will work closely with Spread the Word, a writer development agency, for the next year undertaking placements on four youth-focused residencies across the capital.

Rishi Dastidar, Spread the Word’s chair of trustees, said: “The role is one of the most high-profile in British poetry, and one that is even more important now, in such turbulent times.

“The Laureate is uniquely able to reach and work with young people whose views and opinions are overlooked, forgotten or ignored. “And through her work, and her words, Cecilia will bring these voices and concerns to wider audiences. These are stories that need to be shared, and need to be heard.”

She succeeds Theresa Lola in the role, who used her tenure to raise awareness of issues about young people’s mental health. The two poets will mark the transition with a conversation about the role shared on Instagram today.

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