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Hannah Teasdale awarded Fenland Poet Laureate honour

Poet Hannah Teasdale has described the moment she was named the 2024 Fenland Poet Laureate as nothing short of "surreal".

Hannah Teasdale

Hannah, who was born in the Midlands and lived in the South West before moving to The Fens, also said receiving the honour felt like she was finally "at home".

She was announced the sixth Fenland Poet Laureate at the Fenland Poet Laureate Awards ceremony, held at March Town Hall on Friday (15 March).

His Majesty's Deputy Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Dan Schumann, who was among the guests at the evening, said the creativity and talent shown on the night was "truly remarkable".

Hannah Teasdale - group

Pictured at the Fenland Poet Laureate awards are, from left, outgoing Fenland Poet Laureate, judge and co-host Qu Gao, new 2024 Fenland Poet Laureate Hannah Teasdale, His Majesty's Deputy Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Dan Schumann, Fenland Poet Laureate judge and co-host, Cllr Elisabeth Sennitt Clough, and Fenland Poet Laureate runner-up, Pen Avey. Photo: Tim Chapman

Hannah, who has recently published her third poetry collection 'Indelicate Sundays' and runs poetry workshops at local schools, won the appointment with her poem, 'The Un-Coupling', inspired by her winter sightings of migrated swans to the fields of Fenland.

Reflecting on her appointment, she said: "It feels so surreal, but I feel like I'm home. I've got lots of plans for the year ahead and can't wait to get started."

Hannah Teasdale

2024 Fenland Poet Laureate Hannah Teasdale. Photo: Tim Chapman

Award-winning poet and Chair of Fenland District Council's Culture, Arts and Heritage Committee, Cllr Elisabeth Sennitt Clough, who organised this year's awards in partnership with Fenland District Council, described Hannah's poem as "a very worthy winner".

Hannah succeeds Qu Gao, of Chatteris, a third-year undergraduate at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, who had been in the role since November 2022.

This year's Fenland Poet Laureate Awards saw a total of 63 eligible entries - with 28 adult entries and 35 in the Young Fenland Poet Laureate category, open to those aged 17 and under.

The vast array of entries included published poets and creative writing graduates to teachers and NHS staff, and budding writers just starting out on their poetry journey.

The poems were shortlisted by members of the Culture, Arts and Heritage Committee, and judged by Cllr Sennitt Clough and Qu Gao, who were captivated by the variety of forms of poetry employed and emotional depth conveyed in the submitted poems.

"Reading all of the poems, their variations, tonalities, and textures - all of the offerings that have arrived - has been a nourishing experience, demonstrating the growing popularity of poetry within Fenland," said Cllr Sennitt Clough. "Ultimately, they reminded me of the importance of poetry and its hallowed place among the arts."

Author and illustrator Pen Avey, a course director at the College of West Anglia in Wisbech, was the Fenland Poet Laureate runner-up with her poem, 'transient'.

While third place went to Jonathan Moore for his poem, 'A Fenland Ode'.

Shortlisted poets were Catherine Blake, for 'I Left You Once'; Judith King, for 'Moving to the Fens'; Laura Collins, for 'The Legend of the Lost'; Brenda Barber, for 'A picture of Fenland'; and Tony Trayford for 'Wisbech or Bust'.

In the Young Fenland Poet Laureate competition, open to those aged 17 and under, it was Lacey Vinn who was unanimously crowned the winner.

Lacey Vinn

2024 Young Fenland Poet Laureate Lacey Vinn. Photo: Tim Chapman 

The student from Sir Harry Smith Community College in Whittlesey impressed judges with her poem, 'Christmas Truce', inspired by a Christmas Day football match from World War One.

Second place went to Wisbech Grammar School student Nathanael Wilson for his poem, 'River's Rest', and third place was awarded to Lydia Shillings, also from Wisbech Grammar School, for her poem, 'I the eel of Ely'.

Lacey Vinn - group

Pictured at the Fenland Poet Laureate awards are Young Fenland Poet Laureate winner Lacey Vinn (centre), with second place runner-up Nathanael Wilson (right) and third place runner-up Lydia Shillings (left). Photo: Fenland District Council

Shortlisted poets in the Young Fenland Poet Laureate category were Frederick Fox-Brown, for his poem, 'Cricket'; Adriana Mauremootoo, for 'Song of the Fens'; Dadisai Honde, for 'The Wetland Secrets'; Phoebe Trew, for 'A Place of Our Own'; Oscar Wierzba, for 'Fenland Flatlands'; and Oliver Redding, for 'The Wanderer'.

All the winners and runners-up received a trophy, sponsored by the Etec Group, and have had their poems published in a Fenland Poet Laureate anthology.

Read all the winning and shortlisted entries here.

Cllr Elisabeth Sennitt Clough said: "The Fenland Poet Laureate Award is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and showcase the talented writers living, working, or attending school in Fenland. It has been recognised as one of the most prestigious awards of its kind in Cambridgeshire, and you can see why when you look at the literary talent that emerges year after year.

"Congratulations to our winners and runners-up and all the shortlisted finalists for their inspiring work. Our winners can expect a rewarding year ahead as true advocates of poetry and creative writing in Fenland and beyond.

"I would also like to thank Qu Gao for her work over the past year, championing and promoting poetry locally, and for supporting me with judging this year's entries and hosting the awards ceremony event."

Qu Gao said: "Although all the poems varied greatly in tone, topic and structure, every single poem offered a fascinating perspective on the people, histories, and landscapes of Fenland. As a current undergraduate at Cambridge University, where the people and stories that are celebrated tend to be famous and glamorous (think: distinguished academics, Nobel Prize winners, big-screen actors, political leaders), judging the entries for this year's Fenland Poet Laureate competition - reading poems depicting very ordinary and down-to-earth facets of Fenland life, yet with extraordinary creativity and passion - was a truly refreshing and enjoyable experience."

His Majesty's Deputy Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Dan Schumann, who gave closing remarks at the ceremony, said it was an "enormous privilege" to be present at the event on behalf of The King.

"As an office, you can imagine there are many more invitations to events than there is the opportunity to attend them," he said. "However, The King and Queen are huge supporters of the arts, in particular poetry, so in keeping with his priorities, it was only right and proper that I came here tonight.

"To find such creativity and talent in such a small area is hugely impressive and I think it's amazing that the district council and all the supporters continue to put this event on in tough and challenging times when arts are often the first thing to go."

Cllr Chris Seaton, Fenland District Council's Portfolio Holder for Arts, Culture and Heritage, added: "I'd like to say an immense well done to all our finalists and congratulations to our winners! The standard of entries was incredible, and we would like to thank everyone for taking part.

"We're looking forward to working with Hannah and Lacey over the coming year as they share their love for poetry far and wide and attract even more people into the world of creative writing."

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March 2024

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