Alex Wharton named Children’s Laureate Wales 2023-25
The announcement took place on Friday 2 June, during a special event on The Hive stage at the Hay Festival, led by current Children’s Laureate Wales, Connor Allen. Poet and playwright Nia Morais was named the next Bardd Plant Cymru (Welsh-language poet laureate of Wales) for 2023-25 the previous day (Thursday 1 June) at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Llandovery. Both poets will start in their two-year roles in September.
Following an open call out in January, Literature Wales was delighted to receive an astonishing number of high-quality applications for the role this year, resulting in a highly competitive process that included trial workshops and interviews.
Alex Wharton is an award-winning writer and performer of poetry for adults and children. His First Book of poetry for children, Daydreams and Jellybeans, was shortlisted for the Wales Book of The Year Award 2022, The North Somerset Teacher’s Book Awards, The Laugh Out Loud Book Awards and was named as a National Poetry Day Recommended Read. Alex won the Rising Stars Wales Award in 2020, held by Literature Wales and Firefly Press. He has collaborated with key national organisations such as Cadw, National Dance Company Wales, Welsh Government, British Council of Literature and Welsh Libraries, and has also appeared in festivals such as Hay Festival and Edinburgh International Book Festival. Alex’s second and third collections of poetry Poems for Brilliant Brains and Red Sky at Night: A Poet’s Delight will be published with Firefly Press in 2023 and 2024.
Alex Wharton said:
“I am here to share the deep and wonderful power of poetry with the children and young people of Wales. It’s a special language, the art of words. And it is there for us to use, to enrich our lives and the way that we explore our emotions, experiences, our earthly and spiritual connections and imagination. To be awarded the role of a laureate is an incredibly special and honorary tradition.
“To uphold this title, I seek to challenge and elevate my own writing over the two years, and to celebrate the rich selection of writers here in Wales that are scratching away at stories, songs, poetry and plays – to embrace us in some way, allowing us to travel and feel seen.”
The Children’s Laureate Wales is a national ambassadorial role which aims to inspire and empower children and young people across Wales through literature. Founded in 2019, it is awarded every two years to a talented and visionary Wales-based writer who is passionate about ensuring more children and young people discover the joy and well-being benefits of engaging with literature.
The Children’s Laureate Wales is committed to:
- Expanding children and young people’s access to literature, in particular children and young people from marginalised and under-represented backgrounds
- Improving children and young people’s physical and mental health and well-being through literature
- Increasing children and young people’s enjoyment of literature
- Empowering children and young people through creativity
The interview panel included former Children’s Laureate Wales, Eloise Williams and writer, teacher and researcher, Darren Chetty, alongside two Literature Wales staff members. As part of the process, the shortlisted poets also ran a trial workshop with Year 6 pupils from Tonyrefail Community School, and the children themselves shared their own thoughts on the workshop and the poet.
Eloise Williams said:
‘Being the inaugural Children’s Laureate Wales was an enormous honour and I’m delighted that Alex Wharton will now be taking up the role, following the excellent work of Connor Allen. The young people of Wales deserve to be recognised and celebrated, and I know that Alex will raise their voices, enabling them to be an integral part of the literature of Wales.
Over the next few months, Alex will be working with Literature Wales on a programme of activity for the first year of his tenure.
His key aims include:
- Inviting children and young people to explore the magic and playfulness of the poetic language, learning how this artistic and creative expression can enhance how we live, feel, imagine, create, and communicate, making them feel understood and inspired by the joy and freedom of writing.
- Demonstrating how literature can improve lives, even save lives.
- Designing and collaborating on community projects that celebrate people, diversity, place, history, and a vision for the future.
- Speaking for nature and illuminating the wonders of our natural world, our soul stirring connection with it and our duty to protect and improve it.
- Combining poetry with a variety of artistic disciplines: dance, film, performance, visual art and public exhibitions.
To learn more about the Children’s Laureate Wales and Bardd Plant Cymru projects, and to discuss collaborating, get in touch through our website.