Blog: Connor Allen reflecting on his time as Children’s Laureate Wales
Where to even start…?
When I got that phone call two years ago stating that I was being offered the role of Children’s Laureate Wales, never in my wildest dreams did I think this journey and adventure would take me to where it has.
Full transparency – I didn’t know the magnitude and weight of what a laureate was. It was months into the role when my nan proclaimed to me that Maya Angelou was a laureate. I thought she was taking the mick and was only until I Googled it and found she was actually telling the truth and Maya Angelou was indeed a laureate, along with another favourite of mine, Malorie Blackman, and more recently, Caleb Femi. A long list of talented and trailblazing writers were laureates and I was a part of this club. That’s when it began to sink in and for a mixed-race kid from a single mother on a Newport council estate – this kid did good.
A favourite of mine and probably in my top three superheroes is Spider-Man. Even growing up he was always in the action figures I played with and the TV shows I watched (90s Spider-Man TV series with the guitar solo in the opening credits is top tier – just saying) But with the story of Spider-Man comes the classic line, “With great power comes great responsibility” and I really felt myself faced with this quote during the early days of my tenure and really questioning what do I do with this position and power that I now have.
My theory is that every single person is a miracle on this planet. Eight billion people but only one YOU. No one can feel the way that you do, emote the way that you do, process the world around you like you do because there is only one YOU. May be 20,000 people that share the same name but only one YOU. How can I empower children and young people to understand that they are miracles and their superpower lies in the fact that there is no one on the planet, in the entire universe like them? That’s where they need to write and express from.
Empowerment is the greatest creative tool that we possess and if I could empower children and young people to look behind their doors and realise their potential then I would be doing this role a service.
Every person has their own door (Like Monsters Inc); different shapes and sizes, colours and patterns and all I wanted to do and believe I have done is open a lot of children’s doors over the last two years to make them understand all their potential is behind their door. They truly are miracles.
Lately and probably for the first time in my life I am taking the time to reflect. A friend of mine recently said “you never know or realise you’ve been on a journey until you take the time to look behind at all the footprints that have led to where you are now”. And looking back at all the footprints over the past two years fills me with so many emotions.
From a kid who almost went to prison to become the Children’s Laureate of an entire country is beyond anything teenage me would ever have imagined. And as I sit and reflect I am so proud that if my tenure has opened the door for one ‘Connor’ around Wales to understand their potential and make a different choice then I am happy.
If children who grew up like me can understand that they can be so much more than the labels society puts on them then it was all worth it.
This role made a local school (Somerton Primary) pick me as an inspirational person for Black History Month, which I was humbled by as naively when I used to think of BHM I’d always think of the inspirational people who have made global change. So to be recognised locally in my community for making and inspiring change was grounding, as was having a library in a Newport high school (St Joseph’s) named after me which is INSANE!
Officially name ‘The Connor Allen Library’ for the work I have done and the contributions I have made.
It took me to the largest book festival in the world to perform on a stage and sign books that I have written and took me to Windsor Castle to meet royalty. I got to travel the country and see the next generation in all their glory.
All these things and so much more, they don’t happen to people like me is what I used to believe. A kid from a council estate in Newport who was raised by a single mum.
But as I end this chapter, I can say I am living proof that it can happen and has happened.
I wouldn’t change one moment of this journey because it has given me so much joy and taught me so much that I am grateful to have had this opportunity and join the elite club of laureates.
A quote that always sticks with me is “Don’t just aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference”. And this role has given me the platform to make a difference – in so many ways.
It’s been a madness.
So thank you to each person that has followed this journey.
Thank you to everyone who has believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself.
And thank you to everyone who allowed me to be Children’s Laureate Wales.