Aisling Fahey, a former regional finalist for the ‘Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge’, has been crowned the second ever Young Poet Laureate for London.
The announcement came from acclaimed poet Lemn Sissay at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) on 2nd Ocober - National Poetry Day.
The Young Poet Laureate for London is a Spread the Word programme. Spread the Word is a development agency for writers based in London. The programme is supported by the Legacy List, an independent charity of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Aisling was shortlisted as a Young Poet Laureate last year but lost out to Warsan Shire. ‘I wasn’t too disappointed. You go through such a tough process that you become really close with everyone and completely respect their writing’.
She applied again this summer, shortly after graduating from her English degree at the University of Exeter - where she based her creative writing dissertation on her family and their relationship with Ireland.
Aisling has had a long history with poetry and performance. In addition to regularly attending workshops and poetry groups, Aisling qualified to the ‘Jack Petchey’s Speak Out Challenge’ regional finals at the age of 15. This is the world’s largest youth speaking event. ‘I spoke about size 0 models and how they damage your sister’s or daughter’s image of what a body should be. It’s quite interesting that I was thinking about those issues even at that age…That’s what’s so great about ‘Speak Out’ – the scheme recognises young people are politically engaged and intelligent’.
The Walthamstow-based poet will hold her title until next National Poetry Day. The role will involve travelling to various locations in London and writing poetry. She says ‘I want to make poetry more accessible as an art form… and help Londoners create their own poems which tell their individual stories.’
Aisling will also return to her former high school Holy Family Catholic School and Sixth Form to inspire other young poets within her community. She advises anyone interested in writing to take advantage of all the poetry events in London and, most importantly, to read. ‘Find what it is you like and what kind of voice you want. Joining a group is also so important. There is no way I would have been where I am now without ‘SLAMbassadors UK’ or ‘Burn After Reading’. The members and professional poets, like Joelle Taylor, are so supportive and make sure I stay productive.’
Aisling has already gone so far in her poetry and performance career at 21. She has been a member of the Barbican Young Poets, met the Queen at a Contemporary British Poetry evening and become Young Poet Laureate for London. We can only guess what’s around the corner.
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