Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy Officially Launches the 2016 Manchester Children’s Book Festival

By Jacqueline Grima

A host of book lovers gathered at Manchester Metropolitan University last night for the official launch of the 2016 Manchester Children’s Book Festival (MCBF).

The event, which also celebrated the festival’s Poetry Together project, was hosted by Festival Directors James Draper and Kaye Tew. Special guests included the Lord Mayor of Manchester and Consort, Festival Creative Director and Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and the brand new MCBF Pug mascot!

Lord Mayor and Consort with Carol Ann DuffyThe evening began with a special musical performance by students from Plymouth Grove Primary who sang an inspirational song that earned a rapturous round of applause.

Then Festival Directors James and Kaye took to the stage to welcome guests and to talk about all the fantastic events that the festival will host over the next few weeks. Kaye Tew said, “We remain passionately committed to providing children and young people with opportunities for creative expression.”

Next, the Plymouth Grove pupils put on a spectacular performance of poetry much of which they had written themselves at MCBF TRAILBLAZERS! with the help of children’s poet Mandy Coe. The poems celebrated topics including the pros and cons of living in Manchester, friendship, diversity and the British weather.

After the performance, James said, “When we started the Poetry Together project, we went out to local schools to see if we could find some students who might be interested in becoming involved. When we visited Plymouth Grove Academy, we could immediately see the raw talent the students there had. Under the support of Mandy Coe and Carol Ann Duffy, the students have really flourished and grown in confidence. It’s so important to put children at the heart of the festival.”

Plymouth Grove AcademyStudents from Levenshulme High School for Girls joined the celebrations, entertaining the crowds reciting a selection of inspiring their own poetry.

Next, Carol Ann Duffy took to the stage to announce the winners of the MCBF Poetry Together competition.

The competition, held in association with the Co-op Charity Partnership in support of the British Red Cross, aimed to combat loneliness by encouraging adults and children to write poetry together. Carol Ann said, “Poetry is one of the major strands of our university and we love to bring the city in here and to find new ways of supporting its children.”

The shortlisted Poetry Together entries and finalists were:

‘In The Jeep Jeep Dungle’ by Jos and Adrian Hall

‘For My Omi’ by Kaius Carson-Powers and Ute Carson

‘Two Sonnets’ by Martha and Pat Edwards

We Lived in the Wind’ by Samina and Sian Williams

‘Ellis Evans of Trawsfynydd’ by Joshua Huw Smith and Carole Ann Smith

Overall winners were Joshua Huw Smith and Carole Ann Smith. When asked how she felt about being announced the winner, Carole Ann said, “I’m quite overwhelmed and really quite honoured. I brought my grandson here today because I wanted him to meet the Poet Laureate but this is such a nice surprise.”

Joshua added, “It’s great! I’ve never won anything before.”

All shortlisted finalists received a certificate and a postcard with their poem printed on it, with the winners receiving a crystal trophy.

All shortlisted poems will be available to read on the MCBF blog where you can also find information about all the upcoming festival events. Download the 2016 brochure here.

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