London’s new Young People’s Laureate to help city’s 13 to 25 year olds have their voices heard through poetry


Helping young people have their voices heard at a time of uncertainty and upheaval is the mission of London’s new Young People’s Laureate, Cecilia Knapp, announced today Thursday 1 October by Spread the Word.

Poet, playwright and novelist Cecilia Knapp, discovered poetry herself through attending a workshop “by accident”, and now hopes to give other young Londoners the chance to experience the same as her.

Cecilia Knapp said of the appointment: “I’m absolutely delighted to be taking on the role of Young People’s Laureate this year. When I was younger, my confidence, my voice, my direction, the way I see myself was completely changed when I accidentally attended a writing workshop. Since then, writing has been fundamental for me in figuring myself and the world out. I want the young people I work with to experience the same as me. Too often, young people are spoken for and harmful stereotypes perpetuate conversations around young people. It’s important to amplify the voices that are often silenced, that haven’t been heard, in order to challenge this.”

Knapp will work closely with Spread the Word, London’s writer development agency, for a year undertaking placements on four youth-focused residencies across the capital as well as receiving a range of mentoring and poetry-development opportunities to enhance her career progression.

Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, said: “Poetry is a great method of expression and in an ever-changing world it’s important that young people are given opportunities like this to get their voices heard. I’m excited to see Cecilia use her passion for poetry to inspire and help other young people to navigate their thoughts and feelings as well as potentially find a new interest in writing and enjoying literature.”

Jacob Sam-La Rose, Poet and one of the Young People’s Laureate interview panel, said: “The Young People’s Laureateship for London has a sterling lineage, representing a breadth of contemporary poetry and creative practice. Cecilia Knapp furthers that lineage in all the best ways. She’s a striking writer with an arresting capacity for speaking to everything that makes us human.”  

Rishi Dastidar, Poet and Spread the Word’s Chair of Trustees, said: “I’m delighted that Cecilia is our latest Young People’s Laureate for London. She joins a distinguished roll call of talents who have held the position, and no doubt she will define it and make it her own in a unique way. The role is one of the most high-profile in British poetry, and one that is even more important now, in such turbulent times. The Laureate is uniquely able to reach and work with young people whose views and opinions are overlooked, forgotten or ignored. And through her work, and her words, Cecilia will bring these voices and concerns to wider audiences. These are stories that need to be shared, and need to be heard.” 

Knapp was selected by a nomination panel, including leading arts organisations, such as The Roundhouse, Apples and Snakes, Barbican, National Poetry Library, Southbank Centre, Speaking Volumes and the Poetry Society. The judging panel, featuring poets Jacob Sam-La Rose and Joelle Taylor, once again noted the incredibly high level of talented poets living and working in the capital.

Knapp will succeed Theresa Lola in the role of Young People’s Laureate for London, who used her tenure as Laureate to raise awareness of issues about young people’s mental health. The two poets will mark the transition with a conversation about the role shared on Instagram on Thursday 1st October, National Poetry Day.

Cecilia Knapp, added: “Sharing stories is the greatest breeder of empathy. They show us how to walk in each other’s shoes and demonstrate the beautiful variety of humans in the world. I want my year as Laureate to be about collecting and celebrating stories from those who’s stories haven’t been told, working with London’s young people who haven’t had a chance to find their voice yet. Their voices are an essential contribution to the life of this City.”