Yesterday was National Poetry Day and so the perfect occasion to announce Croydon’s first ever Poet Laureate!
We’re delighted to see the cover star of The Cronx Effect (the e-zine we created with other locals), Shaniqua Benjamin, receive this prestigious title. Shaniqua is a spoken word poet, writer and creative workshop facilitator who has used her passion for making a difference to found Young People Insight CIC, a platform that inspires young people through creativity, conversation and writing. A former pupil at Winterbourne Primary School and Norbury Manor Secondary School, she was born and raised in Thornton Heath, and has previously written and performed poems to mark occasions of cultural significance for Croydon, including the reopening of Fairfield Halls in September 2019.
On Sunday 27 September, Shaniqua was joined by other local artists who have inspired her and been part of her journey, to celebrate her laureateship with an afternoon of poetry and spoken word. She performed her first commission as Poet Laureate for Croydon, Come Together, which explores how the borough has united during the pandemic. You can watch it here.
Shaniqua will hold her laureateship until October 2023, when she will lead in the selection of the new laureate. Shaniqua’s journey to 2023 will see her undertake a number of residences with organisations and community groups to delve into the Croydon experience and identity, empowering others to find their voices through poetry.
She said of her new title: “I love my home of Croydon and poetry is one of my great loves, so becoming Croydon’s first Poet Laureate means more than words can describe. I’m looking forward to hearing the voices of the beautiful people all over Croydon and making poetry more accessible.”
Councillor Oliver Lewis, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport added “The appointment of our first Poet Laureate is a significant milestone for Croydon. We are incredibly proud of our borough’s thriving spoken word and poetry scene and Shaniqua has been a true champion for these art forms. She has been instrumental in telling Croydon’s story and importantly, she inspires and empowers our residents to raise their voices and tell theirs – something which has never felt more important in these challenging times.”
We loved working with Shaniqua on the The Cronx Effect; an e-zine that celebrates the people and places of Croydon. The first issue (launched on International Women’s Day, was entitled #CroydonGirl and celebrated local women who are doing amazing things to inspire creativity, develop young talent, empower others and effect social change both within the Borough and beyond. To read the e-zine, click here.