Caleb Femi crowned London’s first Young People’s Laureate

Caleb Femi crowned London’s first Young People’s Laureate


Photo by Lee Townsend

Spread the Word, London’s writer development agency, named Peckham’s Caleb Femi the first Young People’s Laureate for London at Penguin’s Random House headquarters.

The capital’s first ever Young People’s Laureate will be an advocate for young Londoners working to create opportunities for emerging writers, aged 13 to 25, across the city as part of a year-long programme of exciting and interactive activities, including regional competitions and prizes.

Caleb Femi, a 26 year old English teacher, filmmaker, creative director, photographer and poet from Peckham, was selected through a competitive nomination process, to be the capital’s Young People’s Laureate. Femi will work with Spread the Word, London’s writer development agency, for a year on youth-focused residencies across the capital, and will receive a range of poetry-development opportunities to assist his career progression.

“I feel honoured and excited to be the first Young People’s Laureate for London. I know what a huge role it is and I am ready to give it my all,” said Femi. “I hope to re-engage young people, who have long been disenfranchised, through poetry.”

Among the new projects to be led by Femi in his role as laureate are: Heading a panel of judges in The Young People’s Poetry Prize, working with established poetry mentors and practitioners to co-host a special development project: The Young People’s PoetryLab and curating and leading an in-depth development day featuring a showcase of the finest, new, young poetry talent in London at The Young People’s Poetry Salon.

“I don’t see it as far-fetched to normalise poetry among all demographics of young people in London. As long as you have thoughts you can have poetry. At its best, it allows us to communicate from an honest and safe place. And young people deserve to be included in such spaces,” said Femi.

Director of Spread the Word, Ruth Harrison believes that there is a culture gap amongst young people that needs to be plugged:

“London is one of most exciting cities in the world for arts and culture, yet engagement among young people with what is on ‘offer’ remains low, partly due to economic barriers and access. This is why London deserves a dynamic Young People’s Laureate, who will have a positive impact on our young people’s lives. Caleb Femi’s work is exciting, authentic, sophisticated and accessible. Most of all, he has a genuine desire to help young people discover their own voice in poetry.”

how to pronounce: Peckham

*After Nate Marshall’s Pronounce


fold your lips like uniform of de.. boy
parents said it was when he was most
happy so they buried him in it along with 24
classmates’ colouring pencils
not the right kind of stick that’ll keep at bay
the jaw of news jingle another one de… look… see
how the mourning hangs in the air as if thick pollen
and like all fevers not everyone is affected Mrs
George (flat beneath us) who can’t hear too good and turns
the volume to the max during Countdown says
it’s a shame what you people do to each other

now punch the sound through even
though the nasal clasps in the way
fingers of the brothers who didn’t think
he would actually d..


this time the tongue leans on the mouth’s roof
like winter on the shoulder of these blocks trying
to catch its breath
the right place to find a really bad day or stashes
of hard food though we be manning them most time

we must have watched a Vietnam war film
and saw a regular Tuesday
just more confetti
though their trenches weren’t
suspended corridors like ours
the gist was the same
death -the way things ended there
and here
the sound of both places must do so too

Peckham [pĕk nărm]



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