In 2013, Changing Our Lives was one of fifteen organisations across the UK to receive a Clore Duffield Poetry and Literature Award to fund a project called ‘Poets First’.

We held poetry workshops for young disabled people across Sandwell and Wolverhampton. The workshops were facilitated by the former Birmingham Poet Laureate of 2006, Dreadlock Alien, who captivated each and every audience with the power of spoken word. Every young person took a subject that was personal to them to develop their own thoughts and experiences and translate this into poetry. The clear message weaving through the poetry was that young disabled people should be seen as ‘people first’ and this unmistakable reality is evident by the subject areas that the young people wrote about.

Young people adopted poetry to use as a vehicle for self-advocacy, raising issues such as: acceptance, bullying, racism, teenage pregnancy, education and depression. The thoughts, experiences and expectations of these young people are no different to those of any other young person. The whole process enabled each and every young person to have a powerful voice and the right to be heard.

Each workshop ended in a ‘poetry slam’, where the young people performed to their peers and a winner was selected by the young poets. The winner’s poems are among many others included in the production of the poetry book, ‘Poets First’.

Click here to read 'Poets First'