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Richard O'Brien - Birmingham poet laureate 2018 to 2020

Photograph of Richard O'Brien, Birmingham's poet laureate 2018 to 2020

Richard O’Brien's publications include The Emmores (The Emma Press, 2014) and A Bloody Mess (Valley Press, 2015), and work in a range of magazines and anthologies. He won an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 2017, and is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Northumbria University. He has also been a commissioning editor at the Emma Press, and was the Birmingham Poet Laureate 2018 to 2020.

Richard said, "When I applied for the role of Birmingham Poet Laureate, I was really keen to engage with the city's rich and varied heritage, especially around manufacturing and industry. Though I didn't grow up here, living in the Jewellery Quarter I recognised how important these kinds of trades had been for the city, and how they continue to play a big role in people's lives. Poetry is often also described as a craft activity, and I wanted to write poems that reflected these histories for Birmingham residents today. In my time as Laureate I wrote poems about master jewellers and tired outworkers, bespoke cufflinks and adult education classes. One of my highlights was reading at a state reception for Irish President Michael D. Higgins; another was meeting the subject of one of my jewellery-trade poems and having him explain to me how casting works. Along with museums and heritage bodies, the role also got me involved in a day planting trees with Birmingham Trees for Life and a neighbourhood consultation with Stirchley Art Room. I'm also proud of the work I did in schools across the West Midlands region, getting young people to explore their own creative ideas, in conjunction with organisations like the Lapworth Museum and the Barber Institute. A couple of examples of my commissioned work, and an interview with myself and the 2018 to 2020 Young Poet Laureate Aliyah Begum, can be found below. If you love writing and love finding out about what matters to people in your community, the Laureate role might be an exciting opportunity for you as well, and I'm happy to answer any questions from prospective applicants on my social media, @notrockyhorror on Twitter."

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