News | Wednesday, 10th April 2019

Poet Laureate’s Dinner: A celebration of the power of poetry

Special event marks the Poet Laureateship of Professor Dame Carol Ann Duffy

Poet Laureate Professor Dame Carol Ann Duffy
Poet Laureate Professor Dame Carol Ann Duffy

The University has held a special event to mark the Poet Laureateship of Professor Dame Carol Ann Duffy and highlight the success of the world-renowned Manchester Writing School.

The Poet Laureate’s Dinner saw an invited audience, including Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and China’s Consul General Mr Zheng Xiyuan, hear about the public engagement work that Carol Ann instigated with her Writing School colleagues, such as the Manchester Children’s Book Festival and the Mother Tongue Other Tongue poetry competition, plus the future plans for a Poetry Library within the new Arts and Humanities building.

The event heard poetry readings from alumni Mark Pajak and Keith Hutson, plus Carol Ann’s daughter Ella, who is following in her mother’s footsteps and forging a career as a poet. There was also a reading of a special poem written for Carol Ann by PhD student Zaffar Kunial.

Carol Ann has been Poet Laureate since 2009, the first woman to hold the post in the near 350-year period of the laureateship. Her ten-year period in the post ends this month.   

Voice for the people

Mayor Burnham, who recommended Carol Ann for the laureateship when he was Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, praised her work saying she was “a voice for the people, a voice for compassion, a voice for humanity in these very, very divided times in which we live. A voice that has sought to bring people together.”

But in addition to being Poet Laureate, Carol Ann has also been the Creative Director of our Writing School since 2006. During that period her primary objectives have been about nurturing new talent and introducing children to the joy of books and reading, working with schools, arts-based organisations and local communities.

The Writing School has a dual strategy for social engagement: it aims to widen access to poetry across languages, cultures and media and to enable new writing in contexts from schools to professional publishing. This strategy has driven long-term engagement through poetry with communities whose creativity, literature and languages are less visible and valued in mainstream arts and culture.

It informed Manchester’s successful 2017 bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature, which was made in partnership by Manchester Metropolitan, the University of Manchester and Manchester City Council, helping to define Manchester’s aspiration to be a City of Literature for all of its diverse communities, as one of the most multicultural cities on earth.

Cultural heart

Vice-Chancellor Professor Malcolm Press said: “This was a celebration of the contribution Carol Ann has made to our University. Carol Ann has led some fantastic projects over the course of her Poet Laureateship and she is also an integral part of our Writing School.

“I think if anything defines our Writing School it’s the success of the staff and the students who comprise it. The poetry we produce is second-to-none. Our poets have won every major poetry prize in existence and we can really lay claim to a very proud heritage.

“We have more than 90 Writing School alumni who have gone on to publishing careers and that is a remarkable achievement. Many of those people are significant literature prize winners.

“The Writing School has played a major role in placing the University at the heart of Manchester culture and we are enormously proud of the work we do with our partners around the city.”

A film was produced for the evening to highlight the work of The Writing School and you can view that here:

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