Olympic Poet Lemn Sissay inspires North East youth for Cultural Olympiad

PUBLISHED: 14:36 14 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:30 20 February 2013

Lemn Sissay Olympic Poet and Ben Ayrton, NE-Generation programme manager

Lemn Sissay Olympic Poet and Ben Ayrton, NE-Generation programme manager

The official poet of the London 2012 Olympics visited theatres in Durham and Newcastle last week to mentor aspiring young writers and perform at an arts festival organised by young people as part of the Cultural Olympiad.

The official poet of the London 2012 Olympics visited theatres in Durham and Newcastle last week to mentor aspiring young writers and perform at an arts festival organised by young people as part of the Cultural Olympiad.

Lemn Sissay, one of Britains most acclaimed poets and playwrights, delivered poetry masterclasses at Northern Stage in Newcastle and at Durhams Gala Theatre, as part of the NE-Generation Workshop Festival.

The festival runs from June 6-17 and was organised by young producers from NE-Generation, the Legacy Trust UK programme for the North East; creating a lasting impact from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by funding ideas and local talent to inspire creativity across the UK.

The free workshops are taking place at museums, theatres and cultural venues across the North East from Northumberland to Teesside and are part of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival. Workshops include African musical storytelling, guerrilla poetry, creative sculpture and improvisational theatre.

It was timed to mark 50 days until the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27.

Sara Jackson, festival producer at NE-Generation, said: This is great news for the North East cultural sector and was an incredible opportunity for our young people to work with one of our nations greatest wordsmiths.

People often say that when it comes to culture all roads lead to London. The NE-Generation Workshop Festival was designed to show that the Olympics are about more than just sport and more than London. Young people in the North East are playing a big part in this summers sporting and cultural celebrations.

Wigan born Sissays masterclasses saw around 20 aspiring young writers aged 12-22 write an eight line poem about someone they love but have never told.

The sessions brought together school children and University undergraduates studying English Literature to benefit from Lemns first hand advice about making a living as a professional poet and writer.

NE-Generation is based at the Regional Youth Work Unit North East in Gateshead and since 2009 has worked with around 25 young leaders to allocate 1m of funding for 15 youth participation projects.

It has worked directly with over 4,000 young people and already reached audiences of over 175,000 people. The workshop festival is one of a program of events, showcases, exhibitions and performances scheduled throughout the summer for the London 2012 Festival and Cultural Olympiad.

Ben Ayrton, programme manager of NE-Generation, said: Lemn was so passionate about writing and the young people could feel his energy. He told them to just write, write for friends, family, for publication, but just write and be proud of the work you do.

He did what the Cultural Olympiad is meant to do and inspired those people.

These events show why young people are important and represent hope and ambition for a better future. We want young people to be at the heart of developing a vibrant and successful cultural sector in North East England.

Lemn Sissay, has received the MBE for services to literature during his 25-year career and is currently Associate Artist at The Southbank Centre, Europes largest arts complex. He is most famous for his large scale landmark poems which are etched into buildings, walls, stones and sculptures around the UK.

For more information about the NE-Generation Workshop Festival events visit: www.ne-generation.org.uk/events

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