THE Barbican Centre is well-known for being a hub of arts and culture, presenting the best of theatre, music, film and art from all over the world.
But for every established photographer to decorate its walls or award-winning actor to grace its stage, the centre is also hard at work building the next generation through the Barbican Guildhall creative learning programmes.
The Barbican Young Poets is one such initiative established by poet Jacob Sam-La Rose as a year-long development programme for budding poets between the ages of 14 and 25.
Participants complete a series of workshops and activities that aim to develop their approach to the written word, expand critical skills and engage with a network of young artists from the Barbican and neighbouring Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
At the end of the programme they produce a portfolio of work and contribute to a published poetry anthology in addition to various public readings and performances throughout the year.
Jacob says he was inspired to launch the programme after collaboration with other creatives played such an important part of his own development as an artist.
“I was fortunate as a poet to have access to a community of poets and I’ve tried to stay true to it [by] creating paths of progression for poets in a creative and professional sense.”
Megha Harish, 22, was part of the 2016 cohort and says the number of arts venues involved means they get opportunities to work on a broad range of projects.
She adds that working collaboratively has also led to other creative talents coming out of the woodwork, pointing to peer Gabriel Jones’ talent as a sound designer leading to his developing background tracks for the other poets to use while performing.
Megha’s poem Arboretum explores the journey of growing up. She writes mostly about identity, movement and belonging, and says that being part of the group has “made me feel like a writer”.
“People want to hear what you have to say,” she adds.
“[It] made something I saw as a hobby a more concrete and permanent part of my identity.”
Applications are currently open for another group of budding poets to team up, with over 200 applicants for just 25 spots in the programme.
Nevertheless, Jacob notes that several of this year’s cohort are people who had applied several times, in acknowledgement of their tenacity.
He says that the programme has “grown each year in terms of diversity of voices and range of vision” and that this time around he is “expecting more of the same”.
His advice to prospective poets is to “read as much as you can, as widely as you can” and “be willing to risk failure, risk making a mistake.”
“Don’t always take the safe option. Mistakes help you to grow.”
Learn more about Barbican Young Poets at barbican.org.uk/education