17-19 March 2016
Homerton College, Cambridge
Poetry By Heart Has a New Champion!
Jessica Mason from St John Rigby Sixth Form College is the new Poetry By Heart Champion for 2016.
Reciting three poems in front of a highly appreciative audience at Homerton College, Cambridge University, Jessica triumphed at the end of a search for a champion that began six months ago with thousands of students taking part in school competitions up and down the country.
In presenting her with a specially designed trophy the Chair of the judging panel and co-founder of Poetry By Heart Andrew Motion commented, “Jessica has recited with passion and intelligence and we are delighted to present her with the Poetry By Heart trophy for 2016.” Praising the performances of all 41 Regional Finalists he added, “Over this weekend our students have shown us the acoustic qualities of verse in ways which have been immensely powerful and moving.”
In her concluding remarks at the end of a highly successful event Co-founder and Co-director of Poetry By Heart, Julie Blake said: “Every year we are blown away by the remarkable recitations of so many different poems. These young people have so many different stories about why they chose what they did, how they learned them and why they matter. That they choose to share them with us in the spotlight of competition is moving beyond words. The very best are literally breath-taking.”
Jessica who is studying A level English Literature, English Language, Biology and History at St John Rigby College in Wigan said, “I can’t believe I’ve won. It’s been a fantastic weekend. I loved choosing poems that I could really relate to and I enjoyed reciting them in such beautiful surroundings with such lovely people.”
Jessica recited “The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake; “How to Kill” by Keith Douglas and “My Grandfather at the Pool” by Glyn Maxwell.
Second place was awarded to Alice Grundy from Brentwood School in Essex and third place went to Ella Blackburn from Teesdale School in Durham.
41 county competition winners and their teachers gathered at Homerton College on Thursday evening (March 17th) for a dinner and formal welcome to the college and the event from Geoff Ward, the Principal of Homerton and the poet Jean Sprackland. The semi-final stage of the competition began in the main auditorium at Homerton on Friday morning (March 18th). In addition to watching fellow competitors recite, students enjoyed a range of activities including tours of Cambridge, creative writing workshops, guided relaxation sessions and talks on applying to University.
A special feature of the competition was the reciting of poems chosen from the First World War showcase on the Poetry By Heart website by all 41 regional finalists on Saturday morning which was a unique and moving occasion.
Jessica and eight other finalists recited in front of a distinguished panel of judges from the world of poetry including Andrew Motion, Jean Sprackland, Daljit Nagra, Patience Agbabi, Glyn Maxwell and Tim Dee. The poet Jacob Sam-La Rose hosted the event throughout the weekend. On Friday evening all seven poets read for the students in a remarkable event that saw each poet take to the stage for seven minutes.
“Poetry Please” from BBC Radio 4 recorded students for a special “Poetry Please” episode to be broadcast in April and Cambridge TV also made a film of the event.
All three previous Poetry By Heart national champions and several runners up returned to help with the smooth running of the weekend in a testament to the lasting power of participation in the competition.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:
“I am delighted to support Poetry by Heart. By encouraging children to enjoy literature, we are not just building their imagination but helping to boost their writing and vocabulary skills too, giving them the foundation they need to get on in life. Competitions like this will also help develop confidence and character in young people. I want to congratulate the finalists and everyone who took part, they should all be very proud of their achievements.”