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Peterborough Poet Laureate 2022

Malika Speaks receiving her title in 2019.

Calling all poets! A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity awaits you. Syntax is delighted to once again run this year’s Peterborough Poet Laureate competition to find the next brilliant poet who will fulfil the most unique role our city has to offer. Could it be you? Read the information below and access the application form at the bottom of the page. Deadline for applications is midnight on Sunday 6th March 2022.

About the competition

The competition, held annually since 1998, is to find a local poet to hold the honorary title for one year. The role is unlike any other, and offers an opportunity to be an ambassador for the city’s poetry community. Previous laureates include Mark Grist, Keely Mills, Charley Genever, Clare Currie, and Pete Cox, whom all have gone on to become professional working poets. The title will be handed over by our current poet Laureate, Malika Speaks.

Throughout the year the Poet Laureate will work with Syntax Poetry Festival committee and the Poet Laureate Manager to make poetry part of the life of the city, chronicling special events, and celebrating the poetry community. In addition, the Laureate may be commissioned to write poems by any number of partners and across the cultural sector.

The title ‘Peterborough Poet Laureate’ is recognition of your talent and gives a unique role in the community and no two laureate’s reigns are the same.

The role is a voluntary position, however Syntax has reasonable expenses available to support the laureate. The Syntax committee will also be on hand to offer support and find opportunities for you throughout the year.

Who we’re looking for

Peterborough’s poetry scene is thriving. Syntax has an ambitious programme to celebrate and raise the profile of Peterborough poetry and spoken word. We are looking for someone who is willing to get involved in continuing to cultivate a brilliant poetry community. Previous laureates have set up new nights, secured funding for the arts, worked in schools, performed at non-poetry events, and supported the growth of new poets. We want someone who will wear the role on their sleeve, not lock it away in a trophy case.

You don’t need to have had any training of qualifications, and you definitely don’t need track record or to have gotten involved in any poetry stuff before. You could have picked up a pen over lockdown, or been writing secretly your whole life. There is no one-size-fits-all route into getting into writing poetry. It’s often poetry that finds us!

The main thing we are looking for is someone who cares about the impact poetry can have on the city, and is willing to be an ambassador. So having an active interest in the local and national poetry communities is an advantage, but not a necessity.

Syntax is actively committed to supporting the development of people who are underrepresented in the arts: whether that be their gender, sexuality, ethnicity, cultural beliefs, income, disability, or life experience. The only criteria for selection is to be aged 18+ and writing poetry or spoken word already, in any style or genre, and living in Peterborough.

About the final – *EXCITING UPDATE*

The final will take place on Friday 25th March at the lovely Lakeside Kitchen and Bar at Ferry Meadows and is generously supported by Nene Park Trust. Doors open at 6:30pm, with the competition starting promptly at 7pm. We aim to finish equally promptly at 9pm.

The event is free and open to the public, and Nene Park Trust have generously offered free parking for all attendees. You are more than welcome to bring your family and friends.
Additional information about the final can be found here.

Please note, if you are shortlisted and make it through to the final, you will not need to book a ticket for yourself.

Additional information for finalists

At the final you will read your poem aloud – but please don’t panic! We know that performing is scary for lots of people. Some tips from us:

  • You don’t need to learn your poem by heart – you can read from a sheet or even your phone
  • The performance is a chance for the audience and the judges to meet you. You are just as important and worthy as your poem!

A panel of judges will base their decision on this combined with your application. The judges will represent a wide variety of culture, creativity, and community within Peterborough, and will be led by Malika Speaks.

Clare Currie (centre) receiving her title in 2017 with runners up Ron Graves and Julia Gaze.


This year’s theme is – ‘Manifesto’. This year’s theme has been inspired by Malika’s Manifesto, an online toolkit for creatives written by Peterborough Poet Laureate 2019-21, Malika Speaks, and commissioned by Jumped Up Theatre. Have a look at her blog by clicking here.

A manifesto is defined as: a written statement that describes the policies, goals, and opinions of a person or group.

As with any theme chosen for the Laureate competition, this theme can be interpreted very broadly. You could choose to explore themes such as identity, transformation, rules, society. You may choose to write about yourself, family, friends, a group you belong to – real or imagined. We encourage you to think outside the box and get creative with what the word manifesto means to you!

Your poem may explore the theme in any way; the only criteria is that your poem must be under 40 lines in length.

How to Apply

Click the button at the bottom of the page to get access to the online submission portal on jotform. We have also included the questions as a downloadable word document so you can work on your questions offline if you want to.

Good luck!

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