YOUNG people throughout Otley took part in a celebration of verse and musical language, featuring a showcase of nationally known poets, creative writing workshops and a competition for aspiring wordsmiths.

The scheme, curated by the official Town Poet, Matthew Hedley Stoppard, was a season-long festival of poetry in partnership with Otley Town Council, Prince Henry’s Grammar School, Leeds Libraries, Leeds City Council and Otley Courthouse, and boasted a variety of literary activity.

It kicked off on March 1 with a poetry competition for under 19s on the theme of Our Town, Our Time, judged by Matthew. The competition closed on April 8, and the winners were presented their prizes at a ceremony at Otley Community Hub and Library on May 14. The winning and commended poems will be published as an e-anthology available from Leeds Libraries BorrowBox app.

First prize went to Eva Webster, second prize Melissa Keshtar, third prize Georgie Cocks, and the commended poets were George Feathers, Evan Done, Rufus Cook, Ollie Holder, Rosa McNulla, and Raheema Waqar.

Otley Town Councillor, Paul Carter, said: “Otley Town Council was delighted to sponsor the Poetry Festival and hope that it will become a regular part of the event calendar in Otley and inspire more young people to discover and enjoy poetry.”

The project culminated in a spoken word showcase at Otley Courthouse on May 15 featuring the poets who delivered workshops at Prince Henry’s in the week leading up to the showcase.

The poets are - Toria Garbutt, a Knottingley-born poet who has both published a full-length collection of poetry and produced a spoken-word album. She is Dr John Cooper Clarke’s regular support act, performing throughout the UK and Europe, and has been described as “powerful, accessible, intelligent and musical” by Professor Benjamin Zephaniah. Kirsty Taylor is a poet, playwright and educator from Bradford who is proud of her roots. She blends hip hop influences with kitchen-sink realism and her unique and powerful approach to poetry earnt her a place on The Verb’s New Voices scheme on BBC Radio 3. Simone Yasmin is a Black writer, spoken-word artist and vocal soul, born in Leeds. Simone writes about all things people leave unsaid and pulls no punches when it comes to unpacking racism, feminism and other humanitarian issues, in her blog ‘Ethereal Truth’. Jack Collins, a poet, teacher and events host was a former student at Prince Henry's.

Matthew said: “This has been such an inspiring project. The poetry produced by the town’s teenagers has been incredibly insightful, exploring Otley’s history and environmental concerns.

"The contributions from Jack, Toria, Simone and Kirsty have been fantastic, too. I consider them to be among the finest and most vital poets in the country and they certainly brought that to their school workshops and performances. I’m extremely grateful to all the organisations that backed the project.”