Birmingham's Poet Laureate

Birmingham’s 18th Poet Laureate and new Young Poet Laureate announced


Joanna Skelt from Sparkhill was announced as the new Birmingham Poet Laureate at a ceremony at The Library of Birmingham, succeeding Stephen Morrison-Burke.

At the same time, 15 year old Lauren Williams, a student at Birmingham Ormiston Academy, was named Birmingham Young Poet Laureate for 2013-2014.

Jo Skelt, the city’s 18th Poet Laureate and the first for the new library, will act as a poetry ambassador and help raise the profile of poetry across Birmingham. She will be asked to write poetry for special occasions, lead poetry workshops, inspiring others to try their
own hand at reading and writing poetry and will mentor the newly-appointed Young Poet Laureate.

The judging panel, which included the current Poet Laureate, Dorothy Wilson, Chief Executive of mac, Sally Luton of the Feeney Trust, Denise Hayes of Newman University and library staff commented:

A passionate and thoughtful poet with a fascination for, and love of, place, Jo’s writing blends the personal with the social yet remains strongly rooted in everyday experience. 



Lauren Williams was nominated by library staff, colleagues from Peters Library Service, the Feeney Trust, and The REP. Lauren said in her application for the role:

I am passionate about poetry and feel that communicating through spoken word is a powerful tool that can reach individuals on every level, being more accessible, enabling people to connect and interpret what is being said more effectively than through a conversation or speech. I see poetry as a medium for personal opinions and a mode of communication.
When I write, I speak out louder than when I speak with muted lips.


Joanna Skelt biography

With a background ranging from literature projects in schools, to writing resources on citizenship, to teaching peace studies and running a play centre, Jo was commissioned to write and perform a play (in poetry) based on the work she undertook in two Leicester schools in 2007. In 2009-10 she was Poet in Residence and ran writing workshops for the Freedom Town project which linked Freetown and Birmingham schools and worked with musicians from Symphony Hall. Jo wrote a show called Poetry Encounters with a Sierra Leonean writer in 2012.

Jo has one published poetry collection, Permanent Emergency.

Jo teaches journal and travel writing at MAC Birmingham and recently set up Pens and Gems - a new writing group in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. She has just completed research on the role that writing plays in promoting peace in West Africa and she runs a monthly international poetry reading group.


Lauren Williams


Lauren is in Year 11 at Birmingham Ormiston Academy on the Acting pathway, This, she says, has really helped her confidence and allowed her to add more performance to her poetry. She writes about various themes and her inspiration comes from her community, media and personal experiences. She has been writing since primary school but has only recently had the opportunity to share her work with others giving her the opportunity to be heard and inspire others to have the confidence to express themselves openly.


For more information, please contact Nikki Bi; Nikki.bi@birmingham.gov.uk

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