Keele student to champion creative writing as city’s first poet laureate

Stephen Seabridge A Keele University student with a love of Stoke-on-Trent has claimed the honour of being the city’s first ever poet laureate.

Stephen Seabridge, aged 25, was awarded the title after a citywide search to find someone who can raise the profile of poetry in the area.

The competition, organised by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Stoke-on-Trent Libraries, was open to anyone aged 18 or over who lives, works or studies in the city. Stephen, who is a poet and PhD Creative Writing student at Keele University, submitted original work for the contest. Judges said they chose him as the winner because his writing is ‘engaging and mesmeric’. They also said his poetry readings were ‘very thoughtful, fluent, and drew the listeners in’.

Stephen, who grew up in Stoke-on-Trent, will now hold the unpaid post for two years from June. His role will include writing commissioned pieces, performing poetry, running workshops, being involved in cultural events and working with community groups. He will receive at least one paid poetry commission, performance and workshop during his tenure.

He said: “I’m very grateful and thrilled to be Stoke-on-Trent’s first honorary poet laureate. It’s incredibly exciting to be working with members of the public in this role. I hope that being poet laureate can help to open up new audiences to poetry and creative writing. I want to use these creative arts to cement and celebrate Stoke-on-Trent’s vast wealth of culture.

“I’m most looking forward to working with and discussing poetry with people who may not have experienced the form before. Those who know me know that I can talk for England, and I can't wait to engage with members of the public in the city who might be receptive to a form of expression like poetry. During the laureate tenure I will be running workshops that aim to introduce members of the public to poetry and I am excited to hear the words of those in the city who may never have done this before.”

Stephen’s writing focuses on growing up in Stoke-on-Trent, and his PhD explores the history and geography of the area.

He added: “I was inspired to apply for poet laureate by many things, but one of the most powerful drives was my appreciation and respect for Stoke-on-Trent as a diverse, resilient and fascinating city. I saw this opportunity as a way of celebrating Stoke-on-Trent's unique cultural heritage whilst working on and producing the poetry that I love. Another inspiration was the feeling that, despite missing out on the City of Culture, Stoke-on-Trent is undergoing a moment in its history where its citizens are coming to realise the true potential of the place as a Midlands cultural powerhouse.”

Councillor Anthony Munday, Cabinet Member for Greener City, Development and Leisure, said:
“We’re really delighted that someone as creative and passionate as Stephen has been chosen to represent the city and inspire other people. We know his work will capture the public’s imagination and help to get more people involved with poetry.

“Arts and culture are engrained in Stoke-on-Trent’s DNA and this new role will be another way of celebrating this. This city is a unique and wonderful place which offers so much inspiration for creative people such as Stephen to produce fantastic work. This new role also comes at a time of great optimism and confidence surrounding culture in Stoke-on-Trent. There has been significant investment in the city’s cultural offer and this will be complemented by further capital developments in the future.”