Poetry can bring Peterborough together

Being first in the line-up of performances at the finalist competition gave me the advantage of relaxing and enjoying the rest of the performances – well, as much as you can while you’re anticipating the winner of the title, writes Peterborough Poet Laureate Malika Speaks in her first monthly column for the PT.

Saturday, 7th December 2019, 5:00 am
Malika pictured with host Kat Francois

As each performer entered and left the stage my realisation that I was up against impeccable talent grew, alongside my nerves. Despite this it made me proud to see so much talent inside our city; words decorated the entire room with emotion, memories, and ambition. It really could be anyone.

This was it. The announcement of Poet Laureate Peterborough 2019/2020. Snippets of all the performances from the night raced through my head as I attempted to make some sort of evaluation of the probability I would be crowned.

I had to remind myself to breathe as Charley Genever resumed her position on the stage and quietened the audience. She was about to announce the runners up. “The first runner up, is….”. I squeezed my hands together in anticipation. “Sandy Wardrop!” Everyone applauded in congratulation, was I going to be second runner up? My mind raced as the room settled. “The next runner up, is… Amber-Page Marilyn!”. Once again, a wave of applause loudened the room, as did the anxiety inside me about the next announcement.

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At this moment it felt like all or nothing. My inner voice attempted to make a soft landing in the event I went home without a prize; ‘whatever happens it’s okay, you pushed yourself and gave it your all entering the competition. You made the finals. You already won against yourself’. “Drum roll please…” my heart matched the thudding of the audience’s hands hammering their laps, “MALIKA SPEAKS!” …

Now here I sit with a wave of events and workshops lined up, typing out my first column for the Peterborough Telegraph - a place where I will keep you informed about (and hopefully entertained with) the events, workshops and all the behind the scenes action in this position.

I am excited to use this platform as a means to bring Peterborough closer together in way that I hope will echo into our everyday lives and the wider community.

My Laureate ‘manifesto’, if you like, promises spaces which aim to create cohesion across demographics and empower youth. As I always say, there is a deep power in words – what and how we communicate holds the potential to inspire, empower, and revolutionise hearts. I am determined through the power of linguistic artistry we can build bridges and empower individuals.

Please feel free to get in touch with me through Instagram or Twitter! @MalikaSpeaks.