Image for Poetry in the pandemic: project aims to engage young people in creative writing

Poetry in the pandemic: project aims to engage young people in creative writing

Young people in south-east London are being encouraged to write poetry to help them through the coronavirus crisis

Young people in south-east London are being encouraged to write poetry to help them through the coronavirus crisis

As anyone who has put pen to paper in sadness or strife will attest, creative writing can be immensely cathartic. It is for this reason that young people in Lewisham, south-east London, are being encouraged to use the written word to explore the challenges thrown up by the coronavirus crisis.

Launching today, the Lewisham Young Writers programme challenges young people in the borough to use creative writing to address issues such as social isolation. A survey by mental health charity Young Minds found that more than 80 per cent of young people with a history of mental ill-health found their conditions worsened during the coronavirus crisis.

Lewisham Young Writers will deliver 1,000 “creative care packages”, including writing and arts materials, to young people living locally. The project will also offer free online creative writing workshops led by Young People’s Laureate, Theresa Lola, author Sharna Jackson and artist Olivia Twist.

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“Poetry gives us the language to express every emotion possible, whether joy, sadness, peace and everything in between,” said Lola. “Lewisham Young Writers offers connections for young people to find community in this period of uncertainty.”

The creative writing project is a partnership between London’s writer development agency, Spread the Word, and Lewisham’s youth service provider Youth First. Its launch follows the announcement last week that poetry is to be made optional for GCSE students in England next year, after the curriculum was trimmed back due to the pandemic.

“It’s great to be able to put these specially-devised care packs into the hands of young people who need them most,” said Mervyn Kaye, CEO of Youth First. “Working with poetry and visual art will help these young people to express and process what has been a very difficult time.”

To celebrate the launch of Lewisham Young Writers and the ideas it could forment, Lola wrote a poem, titled Pouring Glow – (extract below).

“The heat of our youth ignites,

curious at the call,

and your mind is a suitcase

stuffed with ideas.”

Lewisham Young Writers is open to people living in Lewisham aged 8-19. To take part register here.

Main image: Gift Habeshaw

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