It’s Back! Bigger, Better and Bolder than Before: The Poet Laureate Launches Mother Tongue Other Tongue 2013

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Thursday, 31st January, 2013

Words and photgraphs by Claudia Conerney

Carol Ann Duffy introduces Mother Tongue Other Tongue

The Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has announced that Mother Tongue Other Tongue will be her next Laureate Education Project. An idea originally developed by the Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Science at MMU, and Routes into Languages North West, this national multilingual poetry competition aims to celebrate cultural diversity and the many languages currently spoken in schools across the UK.

On Wednesday morning, Carol Ann paid a special visit to Webster Primary School in Moss Side where she launched the North West version of the competition, the first of a series of launches that will take place throughout the year up and down the country.

In keeping with the spirit of the competition, during the morning pupils of all ages and nationalities from Webster primary school, Manchester Academy and Trinity High School worked in collaboration with mentors from Loreto Sixth form and PGCE students from Manchester Metropolitan University’s School of Education, to create original multilingual poems. The workshop, led by poet, Mandy Coe, demonstrated the benefits of using multilingual poetry in the classroom to lift barriers to learning and to teach children about different cultures.

Mandy Coe looks on as children from Webster Primary School and Manchester Academy share ideas

Carol Ann Duffy was very impressed with the creativity and enthusiasm displayed by the students: “differences in language and culture are often considered to be a barrier to communication, but the language of poetry is universal. Children are the best poets because they see the world with fresh eyes, they do not see barriers in the way that adults sometimes do. If children can use the language of poetry to share their languages and cultures, perhaps these barriers can be removed for adults. Maybe we can learn to appreciate each other’s differences and similarities. I look forward to what the North West’s talented and inspirational children will share with us this year.”

Head Teacher of Webster primary school, Jeremy Jackson, agrees: “We do value the multitude of languages spoken here at school, but the pressure is always on to get pupils up to speed with their English very quickly. It is refreshing, therefore, to have the opportunity to hear the children use their languages in a creative and collaborative way.”

MMU’s Vice Chancellor, Professor John Brooks, “The schools who took part in the launch were selected because of their relationship to MMU and to represent the age-range of the competition, which is from 8 to 18. All of the schools are from the Birley Fields area and we are delighted, as ever, to continue working both with and in our local community. One of our partners for this project is the Manchester Mela and MMU students will be running a multi-lingual poetry and storytelling tent at the Mela in July.”

John Sampson delights the audience with his musical talent
In the afternoon the celebrations moved over to MMU’s Humanities Faculty where 300 year 10 pupils from secondary schools across Greater Manchester joined the schools from the morning session at Webster to watch them perform alongside the Poet Laureate, accompanied by musician John Sampson. Cheers and applause ricocheted off the walls of Lecture Theatre 1 as the children took to the stage to deliver their poetic offerings.

12 year old Destiny Cross from  Trinity High School was moved by the day’s events, “I will remember today for a very long time because I had the privilege to perform my poem alongside Carol Ann Duffy.”

Manchester Academy pupil, Nashif Nawferdeen aged 11 “I have really enjoyed learning about the different languages that the pupils speak here today. I think the competition is a fantastic idea and I look forward to entering!”

The Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, tells pupils from Webster primary schools, Manchester Academy and Trinity High Schools why children make the best poets
Even the year 10 pupils were astonished by the very high standard of the work produced by the younger pupils. 14 year old Megan Sutcliffe from Lowton C of E High School said, “It was awesome. I had no idea poetry could be so much fun and I can’t believe that the pupils only had a morning to put all of this together.”

Mother Tongue Other Tongue is a free to enter competition open to pupils aged between 8 and 18. “Mother Tongue” asks pupils, who do not have English as a first language, to write about what a lullaby, poem or song in their native language means to them, while “Other Tongue” asks pupils to create an original poem in a second language they are learning at school.” Winners of the competition will have their poems published in an anthology and will be invited back to MMU in October for a special National celebration event.

Pupils from Webster Primary schools and schools in South Manchester pose for a photo with the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, and fellow poet, Mandy Coe
For further information about the competition, including details about how to enter, please visit

Teachers are also invited to attend a free CPD taking place on February 12thwhere they will be able to find out more about the project, the workshops we run in school and what resources are available to support teachers. To book your free place please visit

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