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Speak it! 2018

Published: 18 Jun 2018


Our newest youth project Speak it!, a supercharged introduction to spoken work, took place last week in partnership with longstanding supporter Proms at St Jude’s and their principal sponsor Investec.

Over the last month, young people aged 14-16 worked with Nicholas Chalmers, Artistic Director of Nevill Holt Opera, and soprano Sky Ingram to explore the classic opera The Marriage of Figaro. They then built on the themes of the story and music with award winning poet Anthony Anaxagorou through a series of creative workshops before they wrote their own pieces on the theme of identity.

The students read their poems to a panel of volunteer judges from Investec, Toynbee Hall and the Proms at St Jude’s, who selected a winner from each school. All students who took part are graduates of Make it!, Toynbee Hall’s flagship youth project which aims to cultivate critical thinking skills.

The quality of poems this year was exceptionally high. Well done to all the young people who submitted entries and congratulations to the winners Volkan O’Grady from George Greens School, Nicole Barrios from Kingsland School and Henoc Lingomba from Lister School. You can read the winning entries below.

The winners of the competition will perform their pieces to a sell-out crowd at the Proms at St Jude’s a festival of music and arts and long-term charity supporter, which begins on Saturday June 23rd. They will read their poems on the night featuring The Kanneh-Mason trio, following Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s fantastic performance at the royal wedding.

You can find ticket details for the Proms here.

It was a joy to be involved in the Speak it! School Workshops with poet, Anthony Anaxagorou. There were two standout points I noticed to each school workshop... Firstly, there was the glorious breakdown in stereotypes and preconceptions of what an opera singer, a conductor, and a poet look & sound like. Then, after learning to think outside the box, describing operatic sounds in terms of colour, and challenge what 'identity' truly means, we witnessed some incredible moments where students embraced their new way of thinking to write their very own poem. We certainly learnt as much as the students and felt so privileged to bond artistically with them all."
Sky Ingram, Nevill Holt Opera Company

The students had such interesting ideas which they were able to convey in a powerful and vivid way.  I felt privileged to have been able to hear their poems, some of which clearly took them out of their comfort zones and made them reflect on some very personal issues.  I hope they enjoyed the project, I certainly enjoyed meeting them and hearing their poems.”
Judy Knox, Proms at St Jude’s

I was hugely impressed with the quality and variety of the pupils’ poems. A fantastic example of the power of poetry to communicate to its audience in multiple levels”
Investec judge Eddy Hargreaves 

The winning poems:


By Volkan O’Grady

The sky was cold grey, the angry thunder striking and the happy birds scared.

There he lay dead on the floor. Eagles surrounding him like mice to cheese.

How did this happen? Murder or suicide?

If it was murder where would they hide?

What should I do, confused and puzzled, should I go or stay?

No one around

The eagles are hungry

He opens his eyes, birds fly formula one fast

He grabbed me and gripped on me

That’s when I smelt the ketchup

Moon running away from the day, laughing.


A Shark’s Secret Make-up

By Nicole Barrios

I am a fuse that swims

The sun’s skin colour

I am a chip on a board

The wrong religion

I am paper kissing the wall

Background noise

I am a praying fly

Food in a dungeon

I am a piano on a glass of water


I am a shoe on a sock


I am a paper on a screw

Stereotyping twin

I am a dirty shoe

Family prisoner

I am a tattoo on a pen

Past dreaming

I am a nail on an eye

School/ job

I am a scratch on a dress

Secret lock and key

I am a bread on hair


I am a tight shirt on a fat person

Godly hair

I am a pencil that writes history



by Henoc Lingomba

I am struggling money

Crawling towards a trustworthy


I am interesting culture

Slipping finance into my

Back pocket.

I am a greedy & book keeping

All the words for myself

I am caring religion

Laying myself beside the homeless

The underclass dreaming of jewellery

Diamonds to Eat.