The organisation Global Acts of Unity (GAU) has launched a new poetry competition and it’s asking young people (aged 11-18) to enter by expressing what ‘unity’ means to them, for a chance to win £100 worth of vouchers and £500 worth of supplies for their school.
The contest aims to encourage children to use the power of poetry as a form of expression to capture how they feel about ‘unity’ in their school and their wider community. The goal is also to encourage students to explore its meaning, strengthen their barriers against intolerance, and become closer as a community within the school and beyond.
The organisation itself was born of an episode of extreme personal tragedy. In 2014, the terrorist group Daesh kidnapped and later executed David Haines, a humanitarian aid worker who was helping Syrian refugees. They held him captive for 18 months before he was publicly executed. Daesh used footage of his murder to try and sow division and fear.
David’s brother, Mike Haines, founded Global Acts of Unity to both honour him and defy the terrorists’ aims. He has spoken to over 90,000 people to date, visiting hundreds of schools, talking about how we can harness the power of unity to defeat those who seek to divide us.
Haines, now awarded an OBE for his work, has said: “I’ve been inspired by many young people on my journey but I want to hear from many more. That’s why we have created Words of Unity to invite young people, as the leaders of tomorrow, to add their powerful and unique voices to this call for unity, acceptance, and understanding.”
With the recent boom in the number of Instagram poets and spoken word artists, GAU is aiming to capture young people’s imagination with the poetry competition.
Haines continued: “There is always a very powerful reaction from young people when I tell my family’s story. In one particular school recently a young student approached me after my presentation. She had written me a poem – and it was a moving message of hope and unity. That poem inspired me to create this Words of Unity poetry competition. I want to encourage as many young people across the country to think about what unity means to them, how they might bring people together, and what examples there are of unity in their school and community. I know these poems will inspire people across generations and would encourage anyone aged 11-18 to enter.”
The competition is open until February 28th, 2020, and written poetry as well as spoken word performances are being accepted, covering everything from haiku, to limericks, to rap. The competition ties in with the national curriculum and Key Stage 3 English learning resources and an assembly kit for teachers is available on the Global Acts of Unity website.
Open to all schools across the country, a winner will be selected from each region. The regional winners will then be pitted against each other, before an overall winner is chosen in March this year.
Jade Cuttle graduated from the University of Cambridge with First-Class Honours in Literature, going on to undertake an MA in Poetry at the University of East Anglia. Selected by Ledbury Poetry Festival as an Emerging Critic and winning Best Reviewer (Editor's Choice) in the 2018 Saboteur Awards, Jade has written for the Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, The Spectator, The Times & The Sunday Times, the Observer, BBC Radio 3, BBC Proms, The Poetry Review and elsewhere. She is Deputy Poetry Editor at Ambit and judging the Costa Book Awards 2019. You can find out more on her website: www.jadecuttle.com