After a two-year absence, the CLiPPA, CLPE Children’s Poetry Award, stormed into the South Bank on 8 July, filling the Queen Elizabeth Hall with children’s poetry, children’s poets, and children. Even compared to previous CLiPPA ceremonies, the 2022 award had a special momentum; this wasn’t the first celebration of the year, but the third.
The excitement began in May with the announcement of the shortlist at the Manchester Poetry Library at Manchester Metropolitan University, hosted by Kaye Tew and Becky Swain. Four of the six shortlisted poets took part, Valerie Bloom, Matt Goodfellow, Laura Mucha, and Kate Wakeling.
They were joined by classes of children from local schools, who had been reading the shortlisted collections and were partisan in their championing of their favourites. Here’s Poyvaz of Lily Lane Primary School summing up Being Me by Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow and Laura Mucha perfectly, ‘I think this book should get an award because it is thought-inducing and it opens your eyes to the people around you. This book gives a voice to the people who don’t have a voice.’ Louise Fazackerley, Poet-in-Residence at Lily Lane, explains just what a special event it was, ‘The children were enthralled by the words of the world-class poets at this event. They loved visiting the university and feeling that their opinions about books are important. We saw the confidence of the children grow as they took their place onstage, just like their writing heroes.’
From Manchester, next stop was The Globe in June, a CLiPPA showcase for the Poetry By Heart finals. All six shortlisted poets were able to take part, Liz Brownlee and Manjeet Mann joining Valerie, Matt, Laura and Kate. There too, of course, children were at the heart of the programme, ten-year-old Alfie giving a solo performance of Water from Michael Rosen’s 2021 CLiPPA-winner, On the Move,
and eight-year-olds Jozef, Giulia and Muneef from Swaffield Primary School, Wandsworth giving a spirited performance of Cheers from Matt Goodfellow’s Bright Bursts of Colour. Swaffield are Shadowing regulars, teacher Jean Bennett says, ‘Our whole school waits in anticipation for the Shadowing scheme to be launched. There is a buzz of energy from Years 1 – 6, every class wanting their representatives to be selected.’
And then on 8 July the CLiPPA rolled into the Queen Elizabeth Hall, bringing old and new friends together. Valerie, Liz, Matt, Manjeet, Laura and Kate were joined by Michael Rosen as show host. Chris Riddell returned to take up his pen and live-draw proceedings. Excitement levels rose as the Shadowing winners arrived, including the entire Reception year from Churchend Primary Academy, Tilehurst, who would wow the audience with their performance of Caterpillar Cake, title poem in Matt Goodfellow’s shortlisted collection; and eight students from Levenshulme High School, Manchester, stars of the shortlist event, who moved many to tears with their sensitive interpretation of 336 Days Before from Manjeet Mann’s The Crossing. An audience of 800 watched in person, while across the country, schools were glued to the livestream – CLPE estimate as many as 9,000 viewers in total.
That party that began in March in Manchester finally ended with huge, joyful applause for Valerie Bloom, announced as winner of the 2022 CLiPPA for her collection Stars with Flaming Tails, described by Philip Gross as ‘poetry that can go anywhere’. (Isaac in Manchester will be pleased, he made a strong case for Valerie being ‘one of the greatest poets in history’). Except we all know that’s not the end, because the experience of taking part, of reading poetry, learning poetry, and writing their own poetry, will enrich the lives of all the thousands of CLiPPA participants for ever.
Andrea Reece worked as publicist on the CLiPPA 2022. She is editor of Books for Keeps, she reviews for Lovereading4kids and is director of the children’s programme of the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival. She runs the Klaus Flugge Prize and also works on the Branford Boase Award.