Culture Vultures

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Editor Sally Themans visits Shropshire’s Young Poet Laureate and is ushered into a multi-generational household, bursting with creativity….

Mia Cunningham is Shropshire’s first ever Young Poet Laureate. Hailing from Much Wenlock, the William Brookes schoolgirl lives in ‘communal artistic harmony’ with three generations of the same family on Barrow Street. Mother Lucia is an artist and art lecturer and her grandfather Paul Evans, who I had come to talk to with Mia, has enjoyed a long and distinguished writing career.

Paul’s creative life has taken him all over, including a stint living and working in New York. He now runs creative writing courses and works for the BBC Natural History. His forthcoming book ‘Herbaceous’ is described as a series of short pieces of ‘poetic nature writing’.

A rich and varied working life
I wondered if this had been the inspiration to spark Mia’s poetry career. “There’s a common interest” said Paul “but Mia’s got her own voice – I’m careful not to interfere”. Indeed when you hear Mia perform her poetry there is no mistaking that it comes deep from her own consciousness as she articulates her own emotions.

Finding her inspiration
So where does her inspiration come from? “In this household we share lots of different heritages – with numerous cultures at work – my poetry incorporates all these” says Mia.

About winning the Poet Laureate competition Mia is very humble, “I was enjoying my poetry – but didn’t think it would be what the judges were looking for as it’s quite political and is very much performance poetry – designed to be heard and seen rather than read”. To Mia poetry is, like music, a shared experience between audience and poet, and like any normal teenager – Mia is not afraid to embrace some taboo subjects and be challenging.

Mia is a natural performer and becomes completely focused and engaged. “I want people to feel a certain way when they hear my poetry. Not just hear it – but listen to it. I hope that people can feel what I am saying.”

A role to relish
The role of Young Poet Laureate lasts a year and Mia takes the job seriously. She is businesslike and mature about her responsibilities: as well as a number of performances around the county, she also runs workshops for younger children, helping them to release their creativity.

Paul added, “Too often creativity is suppressed in our culture, particularly as we move into adulthood. That’s why competitions and events such as the Wenlock Live Arts competition and the poetry festival are so important.”

What advice would Mia have for people who want to write poetry? “Think of a word you like, or a theme, and add that word at the end of your first sentence – that will get you going!”

You can view Mia’s performances on YouTube: Mia Cunningham or on Twitter: MiaPoet2013. Mia will be featuring in a number of performances at the Wenlock Poetry Festival.

When I Talk About Shropshire’ by Mia Cunningham

When I talk about Shropshire it all comes down to the people: English, European, Asian, Bajan and Caribbean.

Immigration is a part of Shropshire’s cultural dedication to everyone willing to participate in our landscape’s evolution.

Save our countryside! The Shropshire Hills will stay alive with the sound of music like Bhangra, Reggae, Soul and Tribal beats.

Shout it from the roof tops, sing it in the street!

I’m just a Shropshire Lass – so raise your glass to difference.

Chalk or cheese, birds or bees, come rain or shine, make Shropshire yours – I’ve made it mine!

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