Katrina Naomi, Nick Makoha and Sammy Weaver; with music from Chris Davies and Rachael Gladwin: 22 April 2023

Please join us on Saturday 22 April 2023, 2.30-4.00 at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation for a wonderful line-up of poets and musicians.

You will find all the information you need regarding visiting the IABF on their website here. The event is free and everyone is welcome. Read all about the poets and musicians below:

Katrina Naomi

Katrina is an award-winning poet, performer, mentor and judge. Her poetry collections have won an Authors’ Foundation Award and a Saboteur Award, and she is a recipient of the Keats-Shelley Prize. Katrina’s poetry has appeared on Poems on the Underground, BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and Poetry Please, and in The TLSThe Poetry Review and Modern Poetry in Translation.  

Photo credit: Francesca Ausenda


Nick Makoha

Nick Makoha is the founder of The Obsidian Foundation.Winner of the 2021 Ivan Juritz prize and the Poetry London Prize. In 2017, Nick’s debut collection, Kingdom of Gravity, was shortlisted for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection and was one of the Guardian’s best books of the year. Nick is a Cave Canem Graduate Fellow and the Complete Works alumnus. He has been writer-in-residence for the ICA London and Wordsworth Trust. He won the 2015 Brunel International AfricanPoetry Prize and the 2016 Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Prize for his pamphlet Resurrection Man. His play The Dark—produced by Fuel Theatre and directed by JMK award-winner Roy Alexander—was on a national tour in 2019. It was shortlisted for the 2019 Alfred Fagon Award and won the 2021 Columbia International Play Reading prize. His poems have appeared in the Cambridge Review, the New York Times, Poetry Review, ‘e Rialto, Poetry London, TriQuarterly Review, 5 Dials, Boston Review, Callaloo and Wasafiri. He is a Trustee for the Arvon Foundation and the Ministry of Stories, and a member of the Malika’s Poetry Kitchen collective. https://nickmakoha.com

Sammy Weaver

Sammy Weaver is a poet from Hay-on-Wye, currently based in West Yorkshire. Her debut pamphlet, Angola, America (Seren), won the Mslexia Pamphlet Prize 2021.  Her poems have appeared in The MothThe Irish TimesMslexia, The Island Review and Anthropocene, and have been anthologised widely. In 2020, she won The Moth Magazine’s Nature Writing competition. In 2021, she was shortlisted for a Northern Writers’ Award for poetry and Nine Arches Press’ Primers scheme.  She has a Creative Writing MA from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Chris Davies & Rachael Gladwin

IMG_0022Chris Davies is a Musician, Composer, Performer,  Buddhist, Hairdresser and Oudistwith over thirty years experience working in the Arts, mainly with visual theatre and dance. His current projects are composing music and performing in a new adaptation of the 12th century Sufi poem ‘The Conference of Birds’ by Farid ud-Din Attar; he continues to perform live accompaniment for the first full length animated film ever made ‘The Adventures of Prince Achmed’, with a play called ‘Spring Reign’ about the situation in Aleppo, Syria; he is saxophonist/raver with Mr Wilson’s Second Liners who play early 90’s dance classics in the style of a New Orleans Brass Band, a few haircuts, transforming the mind through Buddhist study and practice, and sound technician for Poets and Players. For more information please look here ~ http://www.musichris.co.uk

Rachael Gladwin is a musician, composer, actor and puppeteer. She specialises in creating beautiful musical scores that integrate with
theatre pieces and visual stories, using harp, vocals and percussion as well as other instruments and electronic effects.

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Workshop with Katrina Naomi: 22 April 2023

We are pleased to host a workshop with Katrina Naomi on Saturday 22 April 2023, 10.30-12.30 at the Friends Meeting House, Manchester. Directions to the venue are on the Friends Meeting House website.

The title of the workshop is ‘Giving your Poetry Some Oomph’, getting some flamboyance in there, with a focus on titles, verbs, first and last lines — how to make your poetry stand out.

The fee is £20. Please email davidborrott@btinternet.com to confirm a place. Once your place has been confirmed payment can be made by cheque or by using the PayPal button below:

Workshop Payment £20     Pay Now Button with Credit Cards

Katrina Naomi

Photo Credit: Francesca Ausenda

Katrina is an award-winning poet, performer, mentor and judge. Her poetry collections have won an Authors’ Foundation Award and a Saboteur Award, and she is a recipient of the Keats-Shelley Prize. Katrina’s poetry has appeared on Poems on the Underground, BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and Poetry Please, and in The TLSThe Poetry Review and Modern Poetry in Translation.  

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Andrew McMillan, Jennifer Wong, Luke Samuel Yates with music from Chuva: 25 March 2023

Andrew McMillan

Photo credit: Sophie Davidson

Andrew McMillan’s three collections of poetry are physical, playtime, and pandemonium; all from Jonathan Cape. A novel, pity, is forthcoming from Canongate. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Professor of Contemporary Writing at the Manchester Writing School, Manchester Met.

Jennifer Wong

                 Jennifer Wong was born and raised in Hong Kong and now lives in the UK. She completed a creative writing PhD at Oxford Brookes University. Wong is the author of several poetry collections including 回家 Letters Home (Nine Arches Press, 2020), a PBS Spring 2020 Wild Card Choice. She has taught creative writing at Poetry School, Oxford Brookes University and City Lit. She was writer in residence at Wasafiri in 2011 and a visiting fellow at Oxford TORCH in 2022.

Luke Samuel Yates

Luke Samuel Yates has pamphlets with The Rialto (The Pair of Scissors that Could Cut Anything) and Smith-Doorstop (The Flemish Primitives, a winner of the 2015 Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Prize), and a first collection, Dynamo, a winner of the 2022 Book and Pamphlet Prize. A lecturer in sociology, he teaches and researches political movements, technology and consumption practices.


Chuva are a Manchester based folk/classical trio that was founded in 2018 by performers Rafael Onyett (guitar) and Borna Kuca (guitar/mandolin), whilst studying at the Royal Northern College of Music with the renowned guitarist Craig ogden. In 2022, Chuva expanded with the addition of double bassist George Burrage. The trio quickly developed a strong musical chemistry and have since performed frequently across the UK.

Such venues include Preston Museum, Wakefield Cathedral, Whitworth Art Gallery, Bury Parish Church, Instituto Cervantes and Bridgewater Hall as part of Craig Ogden’s ‘Big Guitar Weekend.’ Recently, Chuva also performed at the Royal Overseas Clubhouse in London after reaching the semi-finals of their prestigious annual music competition.

Although a Manchester-based ensemble, Borna originally hails from Croatia, George from England and Rafael is of Latin American heritage. The result is an interesting amalgamation of varied musical experiences and cultures, and an overall desire to explore music from different parts of the world. This is reflected in a diverse mixture of classical and folk repertoire and even the exploration of different folk instruments, such as the mandolin.

Along with performance, the trio also take an active role in outreach work and pedagogy. Most recently, Chuva won a coveted place on the Live Music Now artist platform 2022, and look forward to working closely with the organisation to deliver interactive music workshops across the country.

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Competition 2023: Judge Philip Gross

The 2023 Poets & Players competition is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered. Good luck







We are pleased to announce the 11th poetry competition run by Poets & Players, one of Manchester’s leading organisers of poetry and music events.

Our judge for 2023 is Philip Gross

Philip Gross

Photo credit: Stephen Morris

Philip Gross has published 25 collections, for adults and for young people, over 40 years of publication; his latest, The Thirteenth Angel (Bloodaxe, 2022), a PBS
Recommendation, is shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. He won the T.S. Eliot in 2009, a Cholmondeley Award in 2017, and is a keen collaborator, e.g. with Lesley Saunders on A Part of the Main (Mulfran, 2018), with scientists on the young people’s collection Dark Sky Park (Otter-Barry, 2018) and with artist Valerie Coffin Price and Welsh-language poet Cyril Jones on Troeon/Turnings (Seren, 2021).





Philip Gross will read ALL poems. All poems will be judged anonymously.

1st Prize: £600, 2nd Prize: £200, 3rd Prize: £100

Commended poets at the judge’s discretion.

Closing Date: Wednesday 15 March 2023

Winners will be informed by Wednesday 26 April 2023 and will be invited to read alongside Philip Gross at the prize giving ceremony scheduled for Saturday afternoon 20 May 2023 (2.30-4.00pm) at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester. If you have not been notified by Wednesday 26 April 2023, we are afraid you have not been successful.


  • The competition is open to anyone over the age of 16, except for members of the Poets & Players committee.
  • Poems can be on any subject, in any style or form, but must be the author’s own original work (no translations). They should not have appeared anywhere before, online or in print. Please do not submit poems that are currently under consideration elsewhere.
  • Maximum line length for individual poems is 40 lines (excluding title). Please do not include photographs or illustrations.
  • No changes can be made to poems once submitted and we regret that we are unable to provide feedback or make any refunds.
  • You may submit as many poems as you wish, accompanied by the appropriate payment and Entry Form/s.
  • Please note that all competition entries must reach us by Wednesday 15 March 2023, up to 12 midnight on this date (GMT);  Entries arriving after this date will not be considered.


ALL entries must be accompanied by a completed Entry Form (see the link below):

entry form 2023

All email entries will be acknowledged.

Please email the completed Competition Entry Form and poems to poetsandplayerscomp@gmail.com

  • Please ensure that all poems are sent as a single attachment and not in the body of the email. Please use your name as the title of the email (poems and Entry Form can be in the same document but must be on separate pages). If you are submitting more than one poem you should include them all in the same attachment but please ensure pages are numbered and start each poem on a new page. Poems must be in English. Single spaced and font size 12. Please save documents as doc, docx or PDF.
  • You may enter as many poems as you wish but please ensure you add all poem titles to the Entry Form/s.
  • Please do not include your name or other identifying information on the same page as the poem/s. All poems will be judged anonymously.
  • Entry fee is £4 per poem or 3 for £10. Payment must be paid by PayPal.
  • IMPORTANT please include the PayPal reference number on the Entry Form.                       
        • Single poem £4 Pay Now Button with Credit Cards
        • Three poems £10 Pay Now Button with Credit Cards  
                                                                                                                                        CHECKLIST: Completed Entry Form including PayPal reference; poems on separate sheets (with no identifying information).                                                                          COPYRIGHT Entrants retain copyright of their poems, however, we will publish the winning poems on our website. We would also hope to receive permission to make a video recording of the winners’ readings for use on social media.                                                                                                                                                                                                         What previous judges have said about the Poets & Players Competition
  • I’ve long admired Poets & Players. Theirs were the first live readings I attended as a teenager, and I’ll never forget the thrill of it. It was such a pleasure to be asked to judge this competition, which was brilliantly organised, and drew in such a range of exciting poems, stacked with images that stuck in my mind, lines that I couldn’t shake. The formal diversity of the entries was wonderful, and shows that contemporary poetry is in excellent hands.                                                                                                  (Seán Hewitt, 2021)
  • When Poets & Players asked me to judge their competition I happily agreed. It’s an organisation I have long admired, from its earliest days with the inspiring founder Linda Chase, to today’s impressive incarnation in the splendid Whitworth Gallery. (Pascale Petit, 2018)
  • Poets & Players is one of the most significant and impressive poetry organisations in the country: the quality of the readings it puts on, its presence in the city is remarkable, so I’m delighted to be part of it in judging this competition.         (Michael Symmons Roberts, 2017)
  • What was electrifying about this year’s entries … was not just the wide and eclectic range of subject matters … but also the range of forms and tones, the many tongues and registers that together created a resonating and distinct entry of poetry.  (Jackie Kay, 2016)
  • What a fabulously organised competition… One tries to dissuade people from the idea of competitions but if you’re going to have one have it like this.                                 (Paul Muldoon, 2015)
  • It was actually really fun judging the competition because you get the sense of what is happening in poetry right now … it was fascinating to take the temperature, as it were, of contemporary poetry. I’d like to thank Poets and Players organisation for running the competition, for wanting to run the competition, but also in general for the work that they do in promoting poetry in Manchester and the broader area, it’s a commendable organisation and I’m delighted to be associated with it.                   (Vona Groarke, 2014)
  • This competition was scrupulously organised, and I loved the fact that the anonymity of the entries allowed each poem to speak for itself.                                                    (Jacob Polley, 2013)  
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Clare Pollard, Wayne Holloway-Smith, Jane Burn with music from John Haycock & DBH: 25 February 2023

Please join us on Saturday 25 February 2020, 2.30-4.00 at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation for a wonderful line-up of poets and musicians.

You will find all the information you need regarding visiting the IABF on their website here. The event is free and everyone is welcome. Read all about the poets and musicians below:

Clare Pollard

Photo credit: Sophie Davidson

Clare Pollard has published five collections of poetry with Bloodaxe, most recently Incarnation and a pamphlet The Lives of the Female Poets, published by Bad Betty Press. Her poem ‘Pollen’ was nominated for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2022. She has been involved in numerous translation projects, including translating Ovid’s Heroines, which she toured as a one-woman show. Clare has also written a play, The Weather, that premiered at the Royal Court Theatre and a non-fiction title, Fierce Bad Rabbits: The Tales Behind Children’s Picture Books. Her latest book is the novel Delphi.  


Wayne Holloway-Smith

Wayne Holloway-Smith has published two collections of poetry, Alarum (Bloodaxe Books, 2017), and Love Minus Love (Bloodaxe Books, 2020) which was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and the Ledbury Munte Prize for Best Second Collection. He won the National Poetry Competition in 2018, and edits The Poetry Review.





Jane Burn

Jane Burn is a working class, pansexual, autistic person, poet, artist, off-grid enthusiast and essayist. Places in which her essays have appeared include the Rebecca Swift Foundation, Persona Journal, The Friday Poem and The Alchemy Spoon. Since 2014, Jane’s poems have won, been placed, shortlisted or longlisted in sixty-nine competitions. Her poems are widely published, in magazines such as The Rialto, Poetry Wales and Poetry London and anthologised by presses including Seren and Macmillan. Jane has an MA in Writing Poetry from Newcastle University, where she was awarded the 2022 academic prize for best overall performance. In 2022, she was awarded a grant from Arts Council England to document her neurodivergent writing theories. Her pamphlets and collections have been published by Indigo Dreams, Wyrd Harvest, KFS Press, Talking Pen and BLERoom Press. Her latest collection, Be Feared, is available from Nine Arches.


John Haycock and DBH

John Haycock is a multi instrumental live looping artist passionate about affecting acoustic sounds with electronics exploring new sonority. 

John takes his home made kora (21 string African Harp) And runs it through a series of electronic devices creating lush soundscapes and solid beats and overlays it with woodwind instruments, bridging the gap between ancient West African Folk melodies and modern electronica, visiting influences from hip-hop to house to dub along the way.

John has been studying kora closely under the master Gambian griot Jali Nyonkoling Kuyateh for several years having also spent time In West Africa absorbing the culture.


DBH is Daniel Bridgwood-Hill, a composer, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist based in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. He is perhaps best known for playing all manner of instruments with the bands of Kiran Leonard, Irma Vep and Jim Ghedi.

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Clare Shaw, Kit Fan, Holly Hopkins & the Hyphenation Duo: 22 October 2022

Please join us on Saturday 22 October, 2.30-4.00 at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation for a wonderful line-up of poets and musicians.

You will find all the information you need regarding visiting the IABF on their website here. The event is free and everyone is welcome. Read all about the poets and musicians below:

Clare Shaw

Clare Shaw (they/them) has four poetry collections with BloodaxeTheir latest collection Towards a General Theory of Love was awarded a Northern Writer’s Award, and was published in May 2022. Clare is Co-Director of the Kendal Poetry Festival and a regular tutor for Wordsworth Grasmere and the Arvon Foundation.

Clare has written and presented poetry, drama and documentaries on Radio 3 and Radio 4, and they work in collaboration with artists across genres. In 2019, they were a judge for the final Ted Hughes Award which celebrated new poetic work beyond the conventional realms of poetry, and in 2022, they wrote the libretto for the opera “Daylighting” which premiered at the Royal Academy for Music.

With a background in mental health and education, Clare is a keen advocate for writing as a tool of social and personal change, and as Project Lead for the Royal Literary Fund, they were responsible for setting up writing projects in workplaces across the UK. Clare was the resident poet for Lancashire Wildlife Trust in 2021 and they continue to use poetry to engage communities with wildlife and ecology. In collaboration with the novelist Winnie M Li, Clare was the recipient of a Royal Society of Literature Literature Matters Award in 2019, creating workshops and a free online resource for survivors of trauma: available via this link:  http://clearlines.org.uk/our-free-creative-writing-guide-for-survivors-available-here/

Kit Fan

Kit Fan is a poet, novelist and critic. His first book of poems, Paper Scissors Stone (2011), won the inaugural HKU International Poetry Prize. As Slow As Possible (2018) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and one of the Irish Times Books of the Year. He was shortlisted twice for the Guardian 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize.  He has won Northern Writers Awards for Fiction and for Poetry, the Times Stephen Spender Poetry Translation Prize, and a Poetry Editors’ Prize for Reviewing. His debut novel is Diamond Hill (2021). His third collection The Ink Cloud Reader will be published by Carcanet in April 2023.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Holly Hopkins

Holly Hopkins grew up in Berkshire, grew up even more in London and now lives in Manchester. Holly’s first collection The English Summer (Penned in the Margins) is shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and was awarded the Poetry Book Society’s Special Commendation. Her debut pamphlet, Soon Every House Will Have One, won the Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition and Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice. Holly has been an assistant editor of The Rialto. She has received an Eric Gregory Award, a Hawthornden Fellowship and was shortlisted for the inaugural Women Poets’ Prize. Her poems feature in Carcanet New Poetries VIII and have been published in The GuardianThe Telegraph and The TLS.

Hyphenation Duo

Jessie-May Wilson   flute
Holly-Alice Morton   harp

The Hyphenation duo formed in 2020 and having had limited performance opportunities during the last two years, they thoroughly look forward to performing in many more concerts in the years to come.

From a young age, Jessie-May has been a keen musician and has grown up surrounded by a love of classical music. She started the flute at the age of 9 and has found a passion for ensemble music and playing with others. Jessie-May has always thrown herself into her music-making and participated in her local orchestras, being fortunate enough to be able to perform a number of concertos and solos including Malcolm Arnold’s Flute Concerto and Krommer’s Flute Concerto in E Minor. While at school, she attended the Junior Royal College of Music where she was taught by Andrea Charles. At the Royal Northern College of Music, Jessie-May learns with Laura Jellicoe and continues to grow her love of performing by taking part in Orchestral projects and Chamber music groups including the Eros Wind Quintet. She particularly enjoys playing with this duo, being a harpist herself.

Holly-Alice has been playing the harp since she was 10. Growing up in Northamptonshire, she was taught by Soraya Vermeulen and attended the Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust, developing her musical experience by participating in orchestras from 12 years old. Since studying at the Royal Northern College of Music, she has been taught by Eira Lynn Jones and Dr Anne-Marie O’Farrell. Some highlights of her first two years of music college include, playing with the RNCM Session Orchestra, performing new works by RNCM composers with the Brand New Orchestra and performing with RNCM Harp Ensemble at the World Harp Congress in Cardiff.

The Hyphenation Duo appear by kind permission of the RNCM.

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Fiona Benson, Anthony Anaxagorou, Qudsia Akhtar and music from Tom Harris & Nishla Smith: Saturday 24 September

Hi Everyone,

We are sad to announce that we are no longer able to host events at the Whitworth Art Gallery. We would like to thank the staff at the Whitworth for their kindness, efficiency and support over the last 18 years. But as the Whitworth events are now managed by the University of Manchester we can no longer afford to pay the significantly increased fee.

But change is inevitable and we happily embrace it and are now excited to embark upon a new chapter and hope you will continue to attend our free events at a wonderful venue that I’m sure many of you will have visited before, The International Anthony Burgess Foundation.

So please join us on Saturday 24 September, 2.30-4.00 the International Anthony Burgess Foundation for a wonderful line-up of poets and musicians.

You will find all the information you need regarding visiting the IABF on their website here. The event is free and everyone is welcome. Read all about the poets and musicians below:

Fiona Benson

Photo credit: Jessica Farmer of Perspectives Photography

Fiona Benson was educated at Trinity College, Oxford and then St Andrews University, where she completed the MLitt and a PhD in early modern drama. Her pamphlet was ‘Faber New Poets 1’ in the Faber New Poets series, and her full-length collection  Bright Travellers (Cape, 2014) received the Seamus Heaney Prize for first collection and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. Her second book,  Vertigo & Ghost (Cape, 2019) won the Roehampton Poetry Prize and the Forward Poetry Prize. Her third collection is  Ephemeron (2022). She lives in mid-Devon with her husband and their two daughters.

Anthony Anaxagorou

© Photo by Alessandro Furchino Capria

Anthony Anaxagorou is a British-born Cypriot poet, fiction writer, essayist, publisher and poetry educator. His poetry has been published in POETRY, The Poetry Review, Poetry London, New Statesman, Granta, and elsewhere. His work has also appeared on BBC Newsnight, BBC Radio 4, ITV, Vice UK, Channel 4 and Sky Arts.

His second collection After the Formalities published with Penned in the Margins is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and was shortlisted for the 2019 T.S Eliot Prize along with the 2021 Ledbury Munthe Poetry Prize for Second Collections. It was also a Telegraph and Guardian poetry book of the year.

In 2020 he published How To Write It with Merky Books; a practical guide fused with tips and memoir looking at the politics of writing as well as the craft of poetry and fiction along with the wider publishing industry.

He was awarded the 2019 H-100 Award for writing and publishing, and the 2015 Groucho Maverick Award for his poetry and fiction. In 2019 he was made an honorary fellow of the University of Roehampton. Anthony is artistic director of Out-Spoken, a monthly poetry and music night held at London’s Southbank Centre, and publisher of Out-Spoken Press.

His forthcoming poetry collection Heritage Aesthetics will be published by Granta in 2022.

Qudsia Akhtar

Qudsia Akhtar is in the second year of her Creative Writing PhD at the University of Salford exploring British-Pakistani experience. Her poetry has appeared in the  Acumen,  Tower Poetry Anthology, The Ofi Press, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, and  Wildness. Qudsia’s work has also been commissioned by the New Creatives scheme. Her debut collection of poems Khamoshi is out with Verve Poetry Press.

Tom Harris & Nishla Smith

Photo credit Pincushion Media

Tom Harris is a Mancunian pianist, improviser, composer, and educator, most heavily inspired by Black American Music. Since dropping out of formal music education in 2018, he has developed his practice through collaborative work with artists such as Rosie Tee, Marco Woolf, and Nishla Smith.

Photo credit Benjamin Ealovega

Nishla Smith is an artist driven by a desire to tell stories. Her unique musical sensibility, along with this preoccupation with narrative, is recurrent throughout a diverse array of musical projects. She’s recently made work for Opera North, Lancaster Jazz Festival and Manchester Collective.


Artwork created by Molly O’Donoghue

The pair come together through ‘Moments’ – a collaborative project in which original songs, snatches of poetry, and musical interludes are woven together to form brand new stories for each performance.

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The winners of 2022 competition judged by Kim Moore: Isabelle Thompson (1st), Kathryn Bevis (2nd), Rosie Rockel (3rd)

The winners of the 2022 competition, judged by Kim Moore (the poems are below as are videos of the three winners reading their winning poems).

1st prize: Isabelle Thompson, ‘The Weight of Sparrows’

2nd prize: Kathryn Bevis, ‘The Smuggler’

3rd prize: Rosie Rockel, ‘Whooper Swans’

Commended poets:

Julia Deakin, Rosie Jackson, Justina Hart, Grevel Lindop, Day Mattar, Maria Ferguson

Judge Kim Moore’s Report:

I always enjoy judging competitions and have said before that it feels like getting a glimpse into hundreds of windows, scattered far across the country, perhaps the world.  I thought it would be relatively easy to get down from nearly a 1000 poems to a manageable number. I don’t know if it is the calibre of entrants that this competition attracts because of the regular reading series that runs, but the quality was very high, and it took me a long time, probably twice as long as it would normally take me to get down to a long list.

This year I also noticed a larger-than-usual number of ekphrastic poems – perhaps this is the legacy of the Poets and Players reading series and its strong association with the beautiful surroundings of the Whitworth Art Gallery.  I am ashamed to admit, previous to reading for this competition, I had an unfounded and illogical prejudice towards ekphrastic poetry – often finding myself impatient with poems that needed the reflection of another work of art to truly sing. However, after reading the many wonderful entries which in fact didn’t need the painting or work of art to lift from the page, I am now a convert! I’ve even given first place to one.  I might even try and write my own.

So it took me a lot longer than expected to get from 1000 to 150, and then even longer to get down to 50 poems and a week to get from there to my final few. I feel really sad still when I think of those last 50 poems, that their authors might give up on them, thinking they have no value, because they weren’t in the top three. Please don’t! Your poem may have been one of the ones that just missed out and I don’t like to think of any of those poems languishing unrecognised or unloved. I hope you send them out into the world again.

I would like to say congratulations to everyone who submitted a poem, who put a small piece of themselves out there – thank you for making my job so enjoyable.

Isabelle Thompson: 1st Prize

Isabelle Thompson is a graduate with Distinction of Bath Spa University’s MA in Creative Writing, where she now works part time as a research assistant. She has been published or has work forthcoming in The Interpreter’s House, Rattle, 14 Magazine and The New Welsh Review, among others. She was a finalist in the 2021 Mslexia poetry competition. Her reviews appear regularly in Sphinx

Judge’s comments

This poem was at the top of the pile – I think it was the fourth poem I read, and it completely took me by surprise.  It actually frightened me – I didn’t expect to find something so good so quickly. I knew after one reading that it would be in my top three.  It has a strange, surreal quality to it which begins in the first sentence and continues throughout but this strangeness is always held in check by its own inner logic.  I was transfixed by the imagery used throughout – the sparrows pouring from the empty eye sockets of a horse, the horse as an angry moon.  The idea of the removal of eyes as a kindness. This is a poem about looking – who gets to look, who decides who looks, and about what happens when we look away. It’s a poem that leaves readers room to move around inside its empty spaces, inside its mysteries. Watch how that sparrow flies from a woman’s chest to the eye of a horse in despair.  Doesn’t it make you want to follow?

Kathryn Bevis: 2nd Prize

Kathryn Bevis is a neurodivergent poet and poetry teacher. She was Hampshire Poet Laureate in 2020-21 and is the Selected Poet for Magma’s Solitude issue Her poems have appeared in Poetry Wales, Poetry Ireland ReviewThe London Magazine, Mslexia, and The Interpreter’s HouseIn 2019, she won the Poets & Players and the Against the Grain competitions. This past year, her poems have come second in the York Poetry Prize and the Edward Thomas Prize, have been commended in the Verve Poetry Competition and longlisted for the National Poetry Competition. Her pamphlet manuscript was highly commended in the 2021 Mslexia Pamphlet Competition.  She designs and delivers Poetry for Wellbeing courses for adults in mental health settings, substance-misuse recovery settings, and prisons and is working towards her first collection.

Judge’s comments

It took me a lot of reading to find this poem – I think this was entrant 364! I loved the playfulness of this straight away, and the way the rhymes seemed to slip around on the lines, in the same way the reader’s perception of the ‘she’ slips from being someone completely in control, who is taking everything they can when leaving a relationship or situation, to being someone who is abused, and finally escaping.  This darkness that erupts at the end, with the revelation of the ‘he’ shouting, comes as a surprise, and is more chilling because of this. By the end of the poem, the strangely detached voice that tells this story, that makes the comments ‘What a boon!’ and ‘how droll!’ enacts all of our complicity when we sit back and watch violence acted out.  I also found myself strangely and disturbingly sympathetic to the figure at the end of the poem ‘crouched on all fours, howling at the moon’.

Rosie Rockel: 3rd Prize

Rosie Rockel works in television and writes poems in the notes app of her phone

Judge’s comments

Here is entrant number 436 – this poem I put to one side to come back to and read more slowly later on, and unlike the other two poems, it grew on me with every re-reading.  It feels as if this is a poem that has the scope of a novel – it starts at the end of a relationship, although we are not told what caused this ending.  The description of the swans as ‘Big lovely swoopy’ (I won’t go on – read the poem!) could just as well describe this poem – it swoops along, creating its own charge of energy, from one train of thought to the next, full of wonderful details – the ‘bluebottle corpses’, the unheeded advice that ‘You can’t fall in love / with someone’s potential’, the strange and heartbreaking realisation that ‘When I think of you, / I think of something just out of sight’.  It’s exploration of beauty and love as something we can never quite see, and its detailing of the way the mind searches and tries to make meaning from pain, is both fearless and compelling.

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Workshop with Richard Scott: 14 May 2022

We are pleased to host a workshop with Richard Scott on Saturday 14 May 2020, 10.30-12.30 at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester.

The fee is £20. Please book your ticket through Eventbrite.

Richard Scott

Richard Scott’s first book Soho (Faber & Faber, 2018) was a Gay’s the Word book of the year and shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot prize. Recent works include ‘Quartz’ published in the Poetry Review and ‘Amethyst’ in the anthology Queer Life, Queer Love (Muswell Press). Richard’s poetry has been translated into German and French. He is a lecturer in creative writing at Goldsmiths, University of London and he teaches poetry at the Faber Academy.



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Hannah Lowe, Richard Scott, Sarah-Clare Conlon, music from The Aaben Duo: Saturday 14 May 2022

Please join us on Saturday 14 May, 2.30-4.00 at the Whitworth Art Gallery for a wonderful line-up of poets and musicians. You will find all the information you need regarding visiting the Gallery on the Whitworth’s website here. The event is free and everyone is welcome. Read all about the poets and musicians below:

Hannah Lowe

Hannah Lowe is a poet, memoirist and academic. Her latest book, The Kids, a Poetry Book Society ‘Choice’ for Autumn, won the Costa Poetry Award and the Costa Book of the Year, 2021. Her first poetry collection Chick (Bloodaxe, 2013) won the Michael Murphy Memorial Award for Best First Collection. In September 2014, she was named as one of 20 Next Generation poets. Her family memoir Long Time, No See (Periscope, 2015) featured as Radio 4’s Book of the Week. Her second collection, Chan, is published by Bloodaxe. (2016). She teaches Creative Writing at Brunel University. @hannahlowepoet

Richard Scott

Richard Scott’s first book Soho (Faber & Faber, 2018) was a Gay’s the Word book of the year and shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot prize. Recent works include ‘Quartz’ published in the Poetry Review and ‘Amethyst’ in the anthology Queer Life, Queer Love (Muswell Press). Richard’s poetry has been translated into German and French. He is a lecturer in creative writing at Goldsmiths, University of London and he teaches poetry at the Faber Academy.



Sarah-Clare Conlon

Photo credit: Gwen Riley Jones

Sarah-Clare Conlon is an editor and copywriter based in Manchester, where she is Victoria Baths’ inaugural Writer-in-Residence. She studied French and Creative Writing at the University of Manchester, and had work in the Manchester Open. Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and a Salt Prizes winner, her prose and poetry has appeared in anthologies from Dostoyevsky Wannabe, Dunlin Press and Speculative Books, and journals including Lighthouse, PN Review, Poetry Scotland and Stand. This year, Sarah-Clare has three books out: poetry pamphlets cache-cache with Contraband Books and Using Language with Invisible Hand Press, and prose pamphlet Marine Drive with Broken Sleep Books.

The Aaben Duo

The Aaben Duo are Nathan Holroyd on saxophone and Jess Hughes on harp. The saxophone and harp duo community is an exciting up-and-coming genre, which is internationally recognised, but also spearheaded by Manchester musicians. As part of the Aaben Duo, established in 2018, Nathan Holroyd and Jess Hughes have given several performances of new and traditional works, including many pieces which they arranged for the duo themselves. Notable performances include their showcase of Andy Scott’s contemporary Sonata at the RNCM in 2019; a concert of female composers for International Women’s Day at the Anthony Burgess Foundation in 2022; and a concert of popular French Classics (such as Debussy,Ravel and Fauré) arranged entirely by the two performers at RNCM in 2022.Saxophonist Nathan Holroyd is in his fourth year studying a Graduate Diploma in saxophone performance at the college under the tutelage of Rob Buckland, Carl Raven, Andy Scott, Iain Dixon and Dr Timothy McAllister. In the summer of 2021,whilst studying at RNCM, Nathan graduated from the University of Manchester with a First Class Undergraduate Degree in Music as part of the RNCM and University’s‘Joint Course’. Nathan’s central passion is new music, with a view to create new commissions and collaborations through ensembles he has founded such as Northern Reeds and the Aaben Duo.Harpist Jess Hughes is also in her fourth year of study on the Bachelor of Music with Honours course at RNCM, with Anne-Marie O’Farrell as her principal tutor.Throughout her undergraduate course, Jess has performed with many of the RNCM Orchestras and Ensembles, as well as with the RNCM Harp Ensemble (led by her former tutor Eira Lynn Jones) and her harp duo ‘Tegid Duo’. :She has also performed as a soloist in venues all over her home county of Somerset, including The Pump Rooms in Bath and Glastonbury Abbey. Jess’s main love is Romantic and 20th century French harp repertoire but has also recently discovered the infinite library of contemporary works, especially those by female composers. She hopes to continue to share her passion for the harp through performances of these wonderful, inspiring pieces.The Aaben Duo appear by kind permission of the RNCM.


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