A university student with a love of Stoke-on-Trent has claimed the honour of being the city’s first ever poet laureate.
Stephen Seabridge, aged 25, was awarded the title after a citywide search to find someone who can raise the profile of poetry in the area.
The competition, organised by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Stoke-on-Trent Libraries, was open to anyone aged 18 or over who lives, works or studies in the city.
Stephen, who is a poet and PhD creative writing student at Keele University, submitted original work for the contest. Judges said they chose him as the winner because his writing is ‘engaging and mesmeric’. They also said his poetry readings were ‘very thoughtful, fluent, and drew the listeners in’.
Stephen, who grew up in Sneyd Green, will now hold the unpaid post for two years from June. His role will include writing pieces to commission, performing poetry, running workshops, being involved in cultural events and working with community groups. He will receive at least one paid poetry commission, performance and workshop during his tenure.
During the two years there will be a programme of poetry activities, managed by the city council, Stoke-on-Trent Libraries and Poetry on Loan, with support from an independent steering group.
Stephen’s first official appearance will be at the popular Festival in a Factory poetry event at the Emma Bridgewater factory, on Friday, June 8.
He said: “I’m very grateful and thrilled to be Stoke-on-Trent’s first honorary poet laureate. It’s incredibly exciting to be working with members of the public in this role.
“I hope that being poet laureate can help to open up new audiences to poetry and creative writing. I want to use these creative arts to cement and celebrate Stoke-on-Trent’s vast wealth of culture.”
Local author and playwright Dan Weatherer originally suggested the idea of having a poet laureate for the city. He was then involved in starting the process and the shortlisting.
Councillor Anthony Munday, cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure, said: “I would like to personally thank Dan Weatherer for coming to see me with the idea for a Stoke-on-Trent poet laureate – and for setting the wheels in motion.
“We’re really delighted that someone as creative and passionate as Stephen has been chosen to represent the city and inspire other people. We know his work will capture the public’s imagination and help to get more people involved with poetry.
“Arts and culture are engrained in Stoke-on-Trent’s DNA and this new role will be another way of celebrating this. This city is a unique and wonderful place which offers so much inspiration for creative people such as Stephen to produce fantastic work.
“This new role also comes at a time of great optimism and confidence surrounding culture in Stoke-on-Trent. There has been significant investment in the city’s cultural offer and this will be complemented by further capital developments in the future. And we are also pitching to be a creative hub for Channel 4, with the first bid being submitted today.”
Stoke-on-Trent’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Ross Irving, said: “Stoke-on-Trent is home to an increasing wealth of creative talent and cultural festivals. It’s a really exciting time to be a part of everything that’s happening here.
“This role of poet laureate is a fabulous addition to that mix and we’re looking forward to seeing everything Stephen gets involved with during his tenure.”
Emma George, senior librarian - outreach, engagement and information, of Stoke-on-Trent Libraries, said: “We are very keen on collaborations with creative writers in the city and are particularly looking forward to working with Stephen as he raises the profile of poetry across the area.”
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