Roles: Creative writing facilitator
Publication: Collation, editing and design
As part of his guest curation of Off the Shelf in 2012, poet, novelist and activist, Benjamin Zephaniah, created The Youth Word Up – a project designed to give young people a chance to have their voices heard alongside an established poet.
Now in its 10th year, the Youth Word Up is an ongoing success with young people writing poetry and performing it alongside top poets at yearly events during the Festival. In 2013, a Youth Word Up, audio-visual installation of young people’s spoken poetry was showcased in Sheffield’s Winter Gardens. And since 2014 a booklet of work by young people has been produced each year. In 2020, due to the pandemic, the Youth Word Up took the form of a podcast. In 2021, we are back in the real world to celebrate 10 years with a special anniversary edition of the Youth Word Up.
I’ve run the Youth Word Up project yearly supporting young people via: Youth Justice, young carers, Sheffield Children in Care Council, Chilipep and Community Youth Teams to express themselves and their experiences in the spoken and written word. Every year I bring together a publication of the work and encourage young people to perform/read their work with a high-profile performance poet at the Off the Shelf Festival of Words. Young people have performed alongside wordsmiths such as Benjamin Zephaniah, Hollie McNish, Andy Craven Griffiths, Mark Grist and Joelle Taylor. Often they have never done anything like the Youth Word Uop before or performed to an audience and it can be a hugely empowering moment for them. I also open the opportunity to perform out to other young writers I have worked with who want a chance to be supporting poets.
The publications include poetry by young people from across South Yorkshire. The experiences reflected in them speak of everything that can happen in young lives, from joy and good friendships, to sadness and heartache, family love and family struggles, good times and bad times. Here young people tell you who they are and how it is for them. They ask you not to judge, only to listen.
The Youth Word Up is an Off the Shelf Festival of Words Project funded by Arts Council England.
First Youth Word Up in Sheffield Star.