• Hampshire Poet Nazneed ahmed Pathak speaking in front of a lectern

The search for Hampshire’s next poet laureate has begun.

The hunt for the Hampshire Poet 2024 is being led by Hampshire Cultural Trust and Winchester Poetry Festival. The partnership between the two organisations began in 2020 and has since brought a higher profile and new opportunities for the role of Hampshire Poet.

The Hampshire Poet programme, which aims to foster local writing talent, has been running every two years since 2008 and provides the opportunity for a Hampshire-based poet – either resident and/or working in the county (including Southampton and Portsmouth) - to undertake commissions, lead workshops and give readings and talks throughout Hampshire. As well as being a talented poet, the successful candidate will act as a strong advocate for poetry and poets of all ages across the county.

The Hampshire Poet 2024, whose tenure will run from April 2024 – March 2026, will play a significant role in highlighting key cultural events, as well as working with the Winchester Poetry Festival and Hampshire Cultural Trust on a range of varied projects engaging with communities in Hampshire. They will have the chance to create new work, lead wellbeing and youth engagement workshops and connect to planned activities taking place across the county during their two-year tenure.

Hampshire Poet 2022, Nazneen Ahmed Pathak, commented: "Being Hampshire Poet has been a joy and a privilege. I've been able to develop my own poetic practice, particularly in the area of children's poetry, while developing workshops for families and young people in order to share the magic of poetry more widely - and the poetry of magic! I am particularly proud of curating and platforming the rich poetic heritage of the Bengali language, my mother tongue, as part of the Winchester Poetry Festival this year, in an unforgettable event filled with Sylheti, Bengali-language and English poetry by Bengali women poets of both Indian and Bangladeshi origin, music and even Sylheti rap. One of the highlights, for me, is being able to lose myself in the fantastic poetic talent of our young people in Hampshire while judging the Hampshire Young Poets Competition. This year we had over 160 entries - and it was a joy to read each and every poem. 

“It's been a joy to work with the incredibly supportive and enabling teams at Hampshire Cultural Trust and Winchester Poetry Festival too to realise some of my poetry dreams over these two years. I'd encourage anyone in Hampshire who is a passionate writer and lover of poetry, and who is passionate about sharing it with communities across our county, to apply. It's been an incredibly enriching experience for me."

Jane Bryant, Chair of Winchester Poetry Festival, said: “This is such an exciting and creative role! The new Hampshire Poet will not only develop their own practice, but also work in diverse ways to strengthen a sense of community and belonging through poetry, and, take poetry into surprising places!”

Deborah Neubauer, Director of Impact and Community at Hampshire Cultural Trust, added: “We are delighted once again to offer this important opportunity to a talented and dedicated poet in Hampshire. The success of the previous programme in engaging with the community in new and inventive ways just serves to demonstrate the importance of this role within the county.”

More details about the role and how to apply are available at https://www.winchesterpoetryfestival.org/hampshire-poet-2024. Applications close on Wednesday 31 January and interviews for the shortlisted poets will take place in early March 2024.

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