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Turn Up the Volume Poetry Challenge

Posted by JoAnne Witcombe Regional Youth and Schools Campaigner

20th Apr 2017

Juliani is a well-known Kenyan rapper and musician, whose songs tackle the inequality, poverty and social injustice he sees in Kenya.

A climate themed challenge for all budding poets aged 11-25 

There are more powerful ways to engage young people with climate change than through a Powerpoint presentation. Young people are hard wired to want to convert passion and knowledge into something more active and meaningful. Martin Luther King once said 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter'.

If you as a teacher can tap into the energy and passion that is already whirring around in your learners' hearts and minds, then you can be part of something truly exciting.

This year Oxfam has once again teamed up with the Young Poet's Network (part of the Poetry Society) to bring you a unique Poetry Challenge  - Turn Up the Volume. It's really simple to take part:

1.       Fire up your students on the subject of climate change

This may be something you have taught about before and you can draw on your students' existing knowledge. However, if the topic of climate change is fairly new to your learners then our Making the Change resource uses a film narrated by poet Roger McGough to explore how women in Bolivia, Philippines, Zimbabwe and the UK have been affected by climate change, and how they are responding.

2.       Put learners in charge of their own motivation and inspiration

The writing challenges on the Young Poet's Network are specifically designed to inspire and motivate young people to create amazing poetry. Share the Turn Up the Volume Poetry Challenge with your students directly: it is written by Harry Man (an esteemed published poet)  and his warm, playful tone will get your students scribbling their musings on the school bus, at the dinner table and by torch light.

3.      Get poetic

If necessary, use some of these brilliant ideas from the Poetry Society to deliver a poetry workshop for your learners and further consolidate their work.

4.       Submit your students' poetry

Visit the Turn Up the Volume Poetry Challenge page. Scroll down to the bottom of the webpage for information about how to enter. Here you will find everything you need to submit your class's poems. And if you're a teacher who happens to be under 25, then why not submit your own work too?

5.       Reap the rewards

To be selected as a winner in a Young Poets Network Challenge is a prestigious accolade which will build any young person's esteem (not to mention their CV).  Your school can also bask in the reflected glory! Oxfam and the Young Poet's Network will select the best poems from the three age categories to be published on the Young Poets Network and Oxfam websites. In addition to this, 18 of the strongest poets (over the age of 16) will be invited to take part in professional poetry workshops and perform at an event in either Oxford, Manchester, or London. All winners will be sent exclusive Oxfam prizes and a Young Poet's Network notebook.

We hope you enjoy taking part in the Turn Up the Volume Poetry Challenge.

Some of last year's winners

The poetry that young people can create is profound and exciting. This is the second year Oxfam has partnered with the Young Poet's Network to bring you a Poetry Challenge and the standard of entries in 2016 was fantastic. Here are two of my favourites on the theme of gender inequality:


I feel you over my shoulder
and I try to remind you that this ring
is not a magnet towards pots and pans.
This ring does not sew a cleaning cloth
to my hand.
This ring does not mean I can't
understand maths.
This ring is not a band of ownership,
like a receipt at the checkout.
This ring means that we are
equals, and both have the world
in our grasp.

Hannah Hodgson

This poem was a winner in Oxfam and the Young Poets Network's Even it Up Poetry Challenge  in 2016.

15-18 age category

The voice of a nation

New life brought into the world
We hold within us
The power to change a nation
A way of thinking

Faces hidden behind veils
Ingenuity on the wrong side of closed doors
Words as old as time tell us that this is how it should be
But we do not have to look far
To know that we do not agree

Wars have raged all through time
A mans domain
Half the world stays at home
Fighting their own battle

As old as the earth
Two sides
We fight for education
Equal pay
The right to speak our minds

Cast a vote
Run a country
Not far now
Don't hold us back

Without us
One world
Two sides
It shouldn't have to be this way
It doesn't have to be this way

To listen to a women
Is to listen to the voice of a nation

Emily Brown

This poem was a winner in Oxfam and the Young Poets Network's Even it Up Poetry Challenge  in 2016.

11-14 age category

Blog post written by JoAnne Witcombe

Regional Youth and Schools Campaigner

More by JoAnne Witcombe