Impact case study: Robert Hall 

“It was like a second chance…” 

Robert won the Matthew Hale Young Writers Award in 2023, after discovering writing as a way to channel difficult emotions into an artistic form that helped him to manage his mental health.

“I find that the coping mechanism of physically getting down the emotions that I struggle to even comprehend, to begin to understand why I feel them… it’s best to just write them down. I can derive multiple connotations from them; I don’t have to have one specific meaning for something. It seems to help with the confusion of it all – when things contradict, I can put it down on paper. I can put my feelings into something artistic that I can face. I’m not scared of it, because I’ve created it.”

For Robert, writing poetry became “a coping mechanism” at a time when his future felt “bleak”, but he also began to develop a distinctive artistic voice and ambition, which the Matthew Hale Award panel immediately recognised in his submission.

What stood out to the panel was not only a singular poetic style, remarkable for a writer of his age (16 at the time) but also the fact that Robert was clearly incredibly driven, despite the fact his writing made him unusual among his peers: “Where I’m from, there’s a stigma around poetry. I come from, not a toxic masculine area, but a laddish area… I was the naughty kid who was writing poetry.” It was his English teacher, Miss Granton, who initially recognised Robert’s potential and encouraged him to apply.

In the past, Robert has explained, the ‘usual’ phone calls home from school tended not to be positive: “[winning the Matthew Hale Award] was my first opening into something academic, something that was good, to do with education”. When the school phoned Robert and his family to say that he had won the Award, his father was so proud he cried.

Robert received his award at the 2023 Northern Writers’ Awards ceremony, which he attended with his parents and English teachers: “When I arrived at the Awards, I felt I was a bit of an outsider at first. All of the people there seemed so much more clever… But I don’t think I would feel out of place now, I think I’ve proved to myself that I am as good as my work. I have a new perspective on my own ability.” 

The Award supported Robert to work with writers Bob Beagrie and David Brewis. They mentored him on the development of his writing. He has since joined New Writing North’s First Edition programme for 18–25-year-olds interested in developing careers in the arts. New Writing North continues to support him to develop his voice as a young Northern writer with remarkable talent and drive.