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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Bradford poet Sheena Hussain publishes kids Covid-19 poetry entries

Four winners of the competition recieved £50 as well as getting their work published.

A new collection of children’s poetry has been published by Bradford lawyer-turned-poet Sheena Hussain following a writing competition based on the Coronavirus.

The competition which was open to young people aged between five and fifteen produced four winners, each receiving a £50 cash prize and a signed copy of their poems. The winners of the competition are:

  • 5-7 category: Amelia Riaz
  • 8-10 category: Salma Trivedi
  • 11-13 category: Troy Lakota Atherton
  • 14-16 category: Madiya Jahangir
Winner of the 5-7 category: Amelia Riaz.

The competition which was launched in collaboration with Sheena Hussain and charity, Better Communities Bradford, came about during lockdown last year after Ms Hussain wanted to document the impact that the global pandemic had on children in Bradford. Ms Hussain then decided to publish the entries and sell copies of the book to document and share how young people feel about the pandemic.

Ms Hussain, who already runs a successful annual poetry competition, Poem:99, was knocked back by the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council who declined to run the contest. Instead, Ms Hussain went to Abbas Najib, the programme manager for charity Better Communities Bradford, who was on board straight away after hearing Ms Hussain’s request.

Ms Hussain said: “Well just before lockdown happened my path had crossed with Abbas Najib the Programme Manager for Better Communities Bradford. I think as a creative person Abbas was keen to collaborate with someone with fresh ideas. When I proposed the idea of a children’s competition and telling him about the already successful annual competition that I established and run myself, called Poem:99, I think he was instantly on board.

Winner of the 8-10 category: Salma Trivedi.

“For a community group such as BCB who are keen to transform the lives of people in underprivileged communities emphasis added on children we thought that this was a worthy project to invest time and a modest pot of money.

“As a poet, I knew when lockdown fell upon us that I would want to document the impact it had on children. Capturing poetry from children thus seemed a natural project to pursue.”

Winner of the 11-13 category: Troy Lakota Atherton.

Dr Chris Bem, a consultant from the Bradford Royal Infirmary, who has a keen interest in literature and arts was the sole judge of the competition. With Dr Bem’s background being in science and medicine, it made him the perfect judge for the competition.

Each recipient of the award won a cash prize of £50, free for the winners to spend on whatever they choose. Ms Hussain said: “Indeed, £50 cash prize was a lot of money. Usually, in any competitions that I run, we present the prize fund in vouchers.

However given the nature of the circumstances and how financially crippling the pandemic left many families during the lockdowns, cash was provided to each winner instead. The money is pooled from generous donors who like to remain anonymous and like me share the importance of investing in the young.”

“As a poet, I knew when lockdown fell upon us that I would want to document the impact it had on children. Capturing poetry from children thus seemed a natural project to pursue.” 

Winner of the 14-16 category: Madiya Jahangir.

After the competition finished, Ms Hussain had the brilliant idea to publish the entries. She said: “I knew the poems couldn’t just be left resting on my laptop. As someone who has self-published her own debut collection of poetry, I took it upon myself to set the challenge and get the poems put into book form and published.

“The book was subsequently published in March. It has been received really well with the parents of the children who entered. Dr Bem introduced the book to the hospital and discussions are to take place as to how the book could benefit the children in the hospital. I am really grateful to New Writing North for promoting it in their online newsletter so more people can learn and benefit from it.”

Poetry is very important to Ms Hussian, who came to poetry after being diagnosed with cancer. She said: “The single most empowering thing a human can do is connect to their own narrative and make sense of it. I think poetry is a medium that can help you achieve that.

“I think it is vital for children to be given the basic tools to know what poetry is and how to write it and also connect with it. By giving them this gift I personally think we are setting them up in readiness to deal with lives many woes.

“The story/the narrative/the poem whether it’s coming from the head, heart or the mouth must come out, if it doesn’t it remains within and harbouring emotions internally can cause physical and mental harm.

Dr Chris Bem from Bradford Royal Infirmary.

“So the children who were given an opportunity through this competition to express their concerns/anxieties/frustrations I believe will be able to handle life a bit better as we come out of this dark period which will be noted in history.

“Having a curated collection of the poems in a little book that they can read and dip into and out of whenever they feel the need to go back and revisit what happened, is what I call acceptance. When you have the realisation of acceptance you are free to move on with your life.”



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