With a distinct sense of wonder and adventure, 28 poets approached the gates of Buckingham Palace on Tuesday 16 October 2007 and were directed in to the red-carpeted entrance. What followed was rather extraordinary: six grand rooms in the Palace – the Ball Supper Room, the State Dining Room, the Blue Drawing Room, The Music Room, the White Drawing Room and the Green Drawing Room – slowly filled up with 200 schoolchildren and the poets, in pairs, proceeded to engage them for an hour and a half of writing, reading and reciting poetry.
The poets, schoolchildren, teachers, and by this time members of the press association, local authorities, the QCA and DCSF, filed into The Ballroom to witness lively performances by poet laureate Andrew Motion followed by three enthralling young poets - Jay Bernard, Kayo Chingonyi and Helen Mort. Professor Motion then invited the audience to proceed into the Picture Gallery where they would be greeted by Her Majesty the Queen.
The majority of young people in the room enjoyed a few words with the Queen; it took 45 minutes for her to make her way through and, at the end, she graciously awarded one of the young budding poets a prize for the most interesting poem selected (by Andrew Motion) from the day of poetry.
Each year, Buckingham Palace opens its doors to bring in school children to experience a themed day, including a reception with the Queen. Last year, the theme was Music, and the previous year saw a day devoted to Science. In 2007, it was “Poetry Day at the Palace”, involving nearly 200 secondary school children drawn from schools located in the London boroughs of Barking & Dagenham, Brent, Hackney, Lambeth, Newham and Westminster. In advance of the day itself pupils were presented with images of five objects from the Royal Collection. They used these objects as inspiration for an original poem which they then brought with them on the day. At the Palace, they were able to see the objects themselves, in addition to the opportunity of redrafting and performing their piece with the help of a professional poet.
The Poetry Society arranged for 28 poets to come into Buckingham Palace on the day - 14 established poets were paired up with 14 talented young poets whom we selected from previous winners of our Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award and Londonwide Slam Championship projects. Together they led workshops focusing on the redrafting and performance of poems that the students had already written using objects from the Royal Collection.
Poets involved: Moniza Alvi, Wendy French, Chrissie Gittins, Karen McCarthy, Roger McGough, Valeria Melchioretto, Cheryl Moskowitz, Mario Petrucci, Jacob Sam-La Rose, Coral Rumble, Dorothea Smartt, Joelle Taylor, Philip Wells, and Jackie Wills.
Young poets involved: Jay Bernard, Kayo Chingonyi, Gloria Dawson, Michael Donkor, Charlotte Geater, Jozef Korbel, Natalie Leer, Emily Middleton, Helen Mort, Chinedum Nwokonkor, PACE, Emily Tesh, and Stephanie Turner.
Who won the competition?
During the workshops at Buckingham Palace, the poets were seeking out a single poem from their group of students that showed real enthusiasm and potential. A poem from each workshop was plucked out, contributing to a shortlist of 14. From these fourteen, the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion selected Zainab Ahmed’s portrayal of the Sun God, Apollo. Zainab Ahmed is a 14 year old student attending Sarah Bonnell School in Forest Gate in the Borough of Newham. Her poem has been published on the official Royal website.