We just want to say a massive, heartfelt thank you to everyone involved in the 10th birthday of the Youth Word Up last night and every young person who took to the stage bravely and brilliantly. We all found it an emotional evening with many returning from over the years to show how the Youth Word Up has impacted their lives for the better including Sheffield Poet Laureate Warda Yassin and rapper HYPHYN. Dom Heslop/the1Devotion and Sile Sibanda did a stellar job of hosting and thanks as always to the team at Off the Shelf.
In a lasting celebration – a limited-edition 10-year anniversary anthology book featuring over 100 poems written by young people over the years is available to buy for just £5 (email us at firstname.lastname@example.org before they all go!) Inside you’ll find poems that speak of the complexities of young lives: from flights of fancy and joy to grief and heartache, family love and family struggle, discrimination, good times and bad times. Here young people tell you who they are and how it is for them. As always, they ask you not to judge, only to listen. The book thanks all the young writers, services and workers by name who have taken part and supported us over the years.
Photos courtesy of Tim Cleasby Photographer
(more photos to come of individual performances)
Forming part of his guest curation of the Off the Shelf Festival in 2012, poet and activist, Benjamin Zephaniah, created the Youth Word Up, a project designed to give young people – particularly those from backgrounds and groups often marginalised – the opportunity to have their voices heard alongside an established poet.
The following year, writer and creative educator, Vicky Morris took up the reins of the project keeping the same aims at its heart. Now celebrating its 10th birthday year, the Youth Word Up has provided a safe and nurturing space for the voices of over 200 young people through workshop, print, digital and performance platforms. At yearly Off the Shelf events, young people have shared the stage with poets such as Hollie McNish, Andy Craven Griffiths, and Joelle Taylor.
In 2013, a Youth Word Up audio-visual installation of young people’s poetry was showcased in Sheffield’s Winter Gardens, and, since 2014, a Word Up print publication has been produced each year. A podcast replaced it during the pandemic in 2020. After first joining us back in 2016, returning to the stage to celebrate our 10th Birthday with us is Joelle Taylor. Joelle is an active advocate for poetry as an empowering form of expression for young people, and the founder of The Poetry Society’s national youth slam poetry championship, SLAMbassadors.
With big thanks to:
The following services who’ve supported us over the years.
Sheffield Community Youth Teams, Sheffield Youth Justice Service, Sheffield Futures, Sheffield Children in Care Council, Sheffield Care Leavers, Sheffield Young Carers, Chilipep Sheffield & Barnsley, Really Neet Project, STAMP, Doncaster Foyer, Doncaster Healthwatch, SayIt/Fruitbowl LGBT+
And to our headline poets over the years: Benjamin Zephaniah, Hollie McNish, Joelle Taylor, Mark Grist, Toria Garbutt, Andy Craven Griffith, Vanessa Kisuule, Saju Ahmed
Heartfelt thanks to: Benjamin Zephaniah, Fionn Mccloskey, Joel Hanna, Nik Perring, Janet Holmes, Zoe Cox, Daniel Bernard, Wes Brown and Michelle Beck. Hive young writers: Jess Wood, Will Banks, Beth Pearson, Vertaa Lune, Georgie Woodhead, Phoenix McAndrew, Fran Critchlow, Joe O’Brien, Gina Elby, Caitlin Taff, Abdullah BHM Rep (SHU)
And we couldn’t have made it to ten without you: Dominic Heslop, Jen Booth, Warda Yassin, Sile Sibanda, Danae Wellington, Vertaa Luna, Johnny Albrow, Lesley Webster, Maria de Souza, Sara Unwin, Su Walker, Louise Perch, Maxine Greaves (SHU) & Vicky Morris
And big thanks to funders and supported over the years: Arts Council England, South Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner, Sheffield Youth Justice Service,
Sheffield Futures, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Sheffield, Hive South Yorkshire Young Writers’ Network