before the dark hour of reason grows.
John Betjeman, Summoned by Bells
© Bryan Anderson
Established by the family of the former Poet Laureate, the John Betjeman Poetry Competition for Young People seeks to foster a love of poetry in young people. It is our aim to support literacy and creativity, encouraging children aged 10-13 living in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to explore the world they see around them through rhythm and language.
Each child is invited to send in (by post or online) a poem on the sense of ‘place’. They can choose anywhere that is important to them – from their bedroom to a larger landscape, from their local park to their favourite building. The subject of their poem could be a city or a garden or a beach or a street – whatever moves them to write. We are asking them to capture in words what that place means to them.
Winners of the poetry competition are invited to read their poems aloud to an audience of judges, entrants, teachers and parents as well as sponsors and press, at a prize giving held on National Poetry Day, Thursday 2nd October, on the concourse of St Pancras station, next to the bronze statue of John Betjeman by Martin Jennings.
The first prize is £1000 (£500 to the winner and £500 to the English department of their school). The top three finalists will receive four standard class Eurostar tickets from St Pancras International to Paris, Brussels or Lille, donated by Eurostar. The two runners-up will each receive £100. £50 book tokens are awarded to commended entrants. Junior/primary schools entering a whole class will receive a copy of The Puffin Book of Modern Children’s Verse on receipt of entries and secondary/senior schools, The Rattle Bag.
We organise eight poet visits a year to schools entering the competition and over the years the feedback from teachers and pupils has been inspirational.
Past judges have included Sir Andrew Motion, Laura Dockrill, Grace Nichols, Hugo Williams, Ian McMillan and Brian Patten. This year, the judges are the National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke, and the founder of Gifford Circus, Nell Gifford.