I joined Cuckoo Young Writers just over a year ago, when I dragged my best friend, Shana, to the Cramlington summer schools in July 2015, after being recommended the group by our amazing school librarian, Miss Armstrong. We loved the sessions (and company) so much that we decided to give Cuckoo a permanent spot in our diary. Since then, we’ve been given nothing but opportunity after opportunity, total creative freedom, and a chance to develop not only our writing, but our confidence, self belief, and group skills too.
As well as Cuckoo giving us an abundance of amazing opportunities, we’ve had the chance to meet so many amazing people – group leaders and members alike. Cuckoo is a place of complete freedom – a place that you can go to write whatever about whatever, and receive zero judgment for doing so. There are currently not enough creative safe spaces for young people in the North East, and I feel that they are so pivotal to the social and creative development of young people like me, who crave the opportunity to express ourselves in a creative way. For giving me, and others like me, this safe space, I cannot thank (or praise) Cuckoo Young Writers enough.
The 30 October 2015 was the first MASSIVE opportunity that we (Shana and I) had been given. It was a chance to perform our protest poem to an audience at the Northern Stage in Newcastle, amongst other amazing writers. We had never performed our poetry previously, but we had complete belief and confidence from our wonderful group leaders Paul Summers and Hannah Morpeth, and Cuckoo’s young people’s programme manager, Laura Brewis.
We were incredibly nervous before going on stage, but being part of Cuckoo had given us confidence in our writing, and so we went for it. I’ve never felt such pride as I do when I perform, and standing up on that stage with my best friend was so incredibly exhilarating. That was the first time that we performed our protest poem ‘The Competencies of Rage’.
Earlier this year, we received an email from Laura Brewis to tell us that we had been nominated for a Northern Writers’ Award. We were ecstatic! For a long time we didn’t believe it, but when it came to the night of the awards ceremony it dawned on us – THIS WAS ACTUALLY HAPPENING!
The Northern Writers’ Award that we were receiving was in honour of Matthew Hale, a wonderfully talented young man dedicated to the arts. We were lucky enough to meet his parents Spike and Jeanne Hale and to sit on a table with Spike. Before collecting our award, we heard a beautiful speech made by Spike about Matthew, and how the award was a commemoration to his devotion to the arts. Needless to say, we were both incredibly honoured to receive such a meaningful award.
Near the end of the evening, Shana and I performed our award winning poem- ‘The Competencies of Rage’. I can be honest in saying that that was a moment of the most intense pride and disbelief, but what made it even more surreal, was that we had published writers and publishers come up to us and congratulated us on our award and our performance. It was amazing!
With our award, we each won £250 to spend on arts related things, so we decided to visit the Edinburgh Fringe together. We travelled to Edinburgh with Rachael Walsh. Neither of us had ever been to anything like this before, and we were unbelievably excited. While in Edinburgh, we got to see the wonderful ‘Bridget Christie comedy show’, ‘Les Miserables’, and ‘Revolt! Revolt Again’ by The Royal Shakespeare Company. It was honestly such an amazing, hectic day and I will never forget it.
As I said, I can never thank or praise Cuckoo enough for the amazing opportunities that they give us young writers, and I can honestly say that I can attribute a huge amount of my confidence and self belief to Cuckoo, and all of the experience that it has provided me with over the last year. I am so grateful for every opportunity I have been given, and I hope there will be many more in the future.
Amy Langdown and Shana Nichols were awarded the Matthew Hale Award in 2016.
Nominations are now open for the Matthew Hale Award 2017, as part of the Northern Writers’ Awards. The award is worth £500 to support the creative development of a young writer who might otherwise lack the opportunity this offers. We invite nominations from teachers, parents and other adults. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday 2 February including samples of the young writer’s work (if possible) and a short statement. See www.northernwritersawards.com/enter .