A TWO-TIME winner of a North-East poetry prize has lent her support to this year’s competition.

Lauren Aspery, 22, won the over-16’s category of Terry Kelly Poetry Prize in 2016. She won the category again in 2018 with My First Pair and was invited to join the judging panel last year.

This year, she is co-ordinating the project – a cornerstone of The Takeover youth arts festival run by young people, for young people – at The Customs House, South Shields, during the May half-term holiday.

Lauren is a student at Newcastle University. Originally from Middlesbrough, she now lives in Gateshead and her poems are about memories, relationships and family.

Lauren said: “I have had a lot of opportunities with poetry since I won the prize in 2016. I performed a poem at The Poetry Café for The British Academy in London and I was longlisted for a Young Poets Network nonsense poetry competition.

“I am doing a masters in children’s literature, carrying out research into children’s poetry prizes, which has stemmed from my involvement in the Terry Kelly Poetry Prize and the work of The Customs House.”

She said: “I love that the Terry Kelly Poetry Prize is open to all types of poetry. The only advice I would give, which is advice that was given to me, is to write what you know.”

The Terry Kelly Poetry Prize is open to anyone aged 25 and under in the North-East and there are five categories, two of which are new for 2020. They are: Primary, Secondary, Post-16, Outstanding Group Poem and the Galvanize Prize for boys under 16.

Poems should be original and no more than 40 lines long. Shortlisted poems will be included in an anthology. The closing date for entries is 9am on Friday, April 24, 2020, and the award ceremony will be held during The Takeover festival.

The Terry Kelly Poetry Prize was established by the family of the late Terry Kelly, a dedicated journalist and poetry enthusiast. His brother, Tom, a poet and playwright, acts as head judge and has also created a learning resource for potential entrants.

Elizabeth Kane, Learning Officer at The Customs House, said: “The Terry Kelly Poetry Prize is now in its fifth year and we are delighted to include two new categories to encourage even more young people to enter.

“The Galvanise Prize puts boys’ writing in the spotlight and the group category gives schools and youth groups the chance to voice what’s important to them. I look forward to another spectacular evening of words and celebration in May.”

For more information, email elizabeth@customshouse.co.uk or visit https://www.customshouse.co.uk/terry-kelly-poetry-prize-2020/.