FEATURE ARTICLE: Let in the Stars – Carol Ann Duffy and friends celebrate release of children’s poetry anthology


On Tuesday 1st July, don’t miss the opportunity to join Carol Ann Duffy at the Royal Exchange Theatre for a very special, last of Series 9, Carol Ann Duffy and Friends. A gala close to the series  incorporating music and poetry to celebrate the launch of the Let in the Starsanthology, a stunning collection of poetry written specifically for children.


Imtiaz Dharkar – Anthology Judge
The Let in the Starsanthology consists of poetry penned by the winners of The Manchester Writing for Children Prize, a branch of The Manchester Writing Competition, which is run annually by Carol Ann Duffy and her team at MMU.
Entrant’s portfolios were judged by Mandy Coe, Imtiaz Dharker and Philip Gross, and selected poems were collected in the beautifully illustrated anthology. Copies will be available for purchase both at the event and through the MCBF website. Carol Ann Duffy will introduce readings from both the judges and short-listed entrants before announcing an overall winner who will receive a spectacular £2,000 prize.
We spoke to judge Mandy Coe to find out more about this fantastic competition.
Philip Gross – Anthology Judge
“When the Writing School announced that this year’s Manchester Prize was to be an international prize for children’s poetry it was a leap of faith. We had no idea what was to come in, and the judges were delighted to see such a wide range of subjects and styles. It’s a wonderful read.”
But it’s not all about the competition! At the heart of this event lies a problem to be ironed out.
Mandy believes that booksellers are afraid of children’s poetry and that the genre isn’t getting the credit it truly deserves. In a recent Guardian article, Mandy said, “The delicate machine which brings poetry into the hands of children is in desperate need of repair.”
I asked Mandy to discuss this further.
Many wonderful poets are writing for children in the UK. However, if you go searching for children’s poetry in a UK library or bookshop, you’ll find it on a shelf labelled ‘Children’s Poetry and Joke Books’. Children deserve access to the same range of subjects and styles as adults. What public art gallery would fill its children’s’ section with cartoons only? Yes we love cartoons, yes we love humour, but perhaps adult insecurity (about poetry we don’t immediately ‘get’) has narrowed this market to a sub-genre of joke books.”
Mandy Coe discusses children’s poetry with the MCBF
But what does Mandy believe is the solution to all of this?


“I know we can work alongside bookshops and libraries to create more creative labelling – and, as adults also read and buy more poetry for children,” she says. “Many well-established poets write for both, many teachers teach both and many readers enjoy both. The boundaries between the genre might be more flexible than we think.” Mandy also adds that, “Poetry open mike nights, writing courses, festivals, magazines, poetry reviewers and literature prizes, can easily open their arms a little in order to acknowledge children’s poetry as a valid and valuable genre.”
Which is exactly what the Manchester Writing for Children Prize is all about: acknowledging the genre by collecting some of the best children’s poetry from around the world. It encourages an interest in the genre and provides a platform for poets to get their work noticed.
Carol Ann Duffy and Friends will be held at the Royal Exchange Theatre, located in St Anne’s Square in the heart of the city centre.

It is one of the country’s leading theatres for new writing and was founded over thirty years ago. Since then it has gained a reputation for discovering young actors prior to their fame, such as Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet. The Royal Exchange is also renowned for working alongside communities, creative teams and individual artists. It’s the perfect venue for this celebratory event.

Aspiring poets, writers and literature lovers alike will find this special edition of the Carol Ann Duffy and Friends series highly enjoyable and a fantastic evening out for the whole family.
Over previous years, this sell-out event has been very popular, so make sure that you book tickets now to avoid disappointment. The event will begin at 7pm and all ages are welcome. Prices for adults are £13.20 and £11 for concessions. Tickets can be purchased via the MCBF website or the Royal Exchange box office.

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