Evolving Words 2009

Evolving Words is a poetry writing and performance project spanning six UK cities that engaged 14-25 year olds in marking Darwin200. Darwin200 addressed the impact of Darwin’s ideas about evolution, as well as his approach to the understanding of the natural world and his outstanding example as a scientist, continue to have on our lives. Participants in Evolving Words worked with a poet and a science educator in each city and performed their poems at a range of local events during 2009.

The events built up to November 2009, the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

A selection of the written work, film and live performances was showcased at a public event at the Wellcome Collection Gallery in London. The headline performance was by Soweto Kinch, an award winning writer, hip-hop artist and jazz musician who wrote and composed a new work inspired by Darwin’s science. The event showcased the best work produced by young poets from Liverpool, Manchester, Cambridge, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Newcastle.

The poets involved were Anita Govan, Valerie Laws, Dinesh Allirajah, Shirley May, Kimberly Trusty and Polarbear. The lead partners are National Library of Scotland (John Murray Archive); Centre for Life and Customs House, Newcastle; World Museum Liverpool; University of Liverpool; Manchester Literature Festival & Manchester Museum; University of Birmingham and Cambridge Darwin Festival. Delivery partners include N.Edinburgh Arts, Customs House, Young Identity, NU Century Arts and The Junction.

Happy To Help

Young Identity began developing the material for this show in late August 2008 and the themes that they challenged in this show were the recession, capitalism and child labour. This show illustrated just how much the group has matured to date as they raised awareness of issues that were current in the political arena.

Happy To Help successfully tackled serious issues with quirkiness and also highlighting that they were blossoming as performers. Three members of Young Identity helped to direct the show under the leadership of Florence Wilson, and assisted in choreographing the stage movement. This illustrated the confidence that the poet coaches have in Young Identity and the commitment they have to empowering the young poets to contribute to the group.

Yussuf M’Rabty, Keisha Thompson and Saquib Chowdhury commented that being given the opportunity to have such an active role in the development of Young Identity was an “invaluable experience” and allowed them to gain organisational skills that they would not otherwise have gained.

Photography by Hema Karecha

You Should Blog It! Blog Competition 2011

The Commonword blog is having its first ever competition, with not one but TWO £100 first prizes, for writers living or working in the North of England.

Commonword is North West England’s leading writing development agency and has launched the careers of dozens of writers. The blog site www.commonwordblogs.org.uk was created as a space for writers to get feedback on new work and work in progress.

The blog is free to join and is open to everyone. The competition is free to enter. It is, however, open only to writers living or working in the North of England.

We’re looking for the 6 best posts of the year – 3 winners in the first half of the year and 3 winners in the second half – which can be short fiction, poetry, autobiography, an excerpt from a novel – in fact any kind of writing that works on a blog.

Winners will receive £100 for first place, £50 for second place and £25 for third.

At the end of the competition an eBook of the shortlisted writing will be published by Commonword.

To be eligible for the competition you must:

  • Be a member of the Commonword blog (if you’re not already a member you can sign up for free by emailing us at admin@cultureword.org.uk)
  • Live or work in the North of England
  • Must have made at least 5 useful comments on other writers’ work on the blog
  • Leave all your posts on the blog until the competition ends on 31 December 2011.

For full details of the competition click here

Practical tips 1: the presentation of poetry for submission

If you’re thinking of submitting your poetry to a magazine or publisher, consistent presentation is a must. Whenever you make a submission bear in mind the likely requirements of publication, and the person reading your poems. If they have an hundred submissions on their desk inconsistent or sloppy presentation is likely to mean your work will be ignored.


These won’t be published underlined or UPPERCASE, so just as a matter of habit it’s better to have your titles as you would wish them to be, or as they are likely to be, published.  That is bold, in title case or lowercase. Make sure they’re consistent as well, for example don’t have ‘the’ in one title and ‘The’ in the next.


Left align your poetry. Only under very exceptional circumstances should it be centre aligned (e.g. concrete poetry). Right aligned very occasionally works, but there has to be an effect in doing this that you can defend when asked.


Make sure the font is legible, not too small (12 point is usual) and is consistent, i.e. use the same font for all poems in a submission.


Standard margin size on A4 is 2.54cm on all sides. Don’t have your top margin set at 1cm and your left at 5cm. It’s annoying.

Line length

Manage your line length in accordance with the likely format of publication. Most will be published A5 or smaller. If you are in the habit of writing on A4 with long lines the line breaks will change on publication, though the fact that the line is intended to be longer is generally evident from the indent on the overrun line. If the position of line breaks is important to you take this into account.

By this we mean if you have a long line like this, when it comes to publication it will look more like this;


By this we mean if you have a long line like this, when
…..it comes to publication it will look more like this

And finally

Don’t print your work off when your printer is running out of ink or has problems. Faint or miscoloured text, or text with horizontal or missing lines, is difficult to read and therefore unlikely to be read.

Windrush Drop In

Photographs from the Ghosts Drop In at the Windrush Centre. The food went down well! We made some particularly useful contacts and heard a lot about people’s lives and the history of the African Caribbean community in Manchester that will add significantly to the project.