Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Our First Prize-Winner Returns

Azfa is infamous at Oxford Spires and First Story. In 2013, she won the Christopher Tower Poetry Prize with her poem 'Origins'. Now, she has become Oxford Youth Ambassador for Poetry, and we are incredibly excited that she has continued to work with us.

Over the last six months, Azfa has been called upon for a variety of responsibilities and opportunities. Amongst these, we have asked her to judge in-school poetry competitions, known to be a horrendously difficult job. She has been around during our First Story sessions, contributing to and continuing to learn from Kate's workshops. She has worked with some of our Year 7 students, engaging them in creative writing by leading classes and inspiring them to express themselves. And she has visited local primary schools, working with gifted and talented children to push them above and beyond the national curriculum.

It has been a privilege to watch Azfa blossom into a brilliant young writer. When I first met her, she was quiet and thoughtful, always with her head in a book, scribbling away. In February of 2013, I escorted her and a group of girls on an Arvon residential to Shropshire, where she benefited from the peace and quiet, an opportunity to escape the everyday. Since then, she has worked closely with Kate Clanchy, slowly becoming more independent. A few weeks ago, she performed with several of her peers for the Oxford Brookes Outburst Festival at the Pegasus Theatre, and I was blown away by the writing she has produced since officially leaving Oxford Spires. Her poetry is powerful, passionate and personal, engaging with subjects that have touched her and affected her life.

Azfa has done so much for us - too much to list - but her impact is profound, and I am so grateful to have her around. Next year, she shall be leaving Oxford to embark on her university education, and I am not sure what Kate and I will do without her.

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