St Pancras International will forever be linked with the world of poetry. It was saved from demolition by Sir John Betjeman, who was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1972 until his death.
To celebrate our ties with poetry, not only can you enjoy a statue of John Betjeman on the upper concourse but every year we hold the Betjeman Poetry Prize. First launched in 2006 to mark the centenary of John Betjeman's birth, the prize attracts around 3,000 entries per year from across the UK and aims to foster creativity in young people whilst discovering and encouraging the next generation of British poets.
In 2017, we continued our partnership with Poet in the City to bring a whole schedule of poetry related activities and events to the station. These included poetry buskers, a poetry workshop, the Betjeman Poetry Prize ceremony and an evening poetry performance. Keep your eye on our Events and News pages to be aware of our poetry events!
As part of the National Poetry Day celebrations, St Pancras International announced 12 year-old Ide Crawford, as the winner of the 12th Betjeman Poetry Prize, and the station’s fourth ‘St Pancras Laureate’.
Led by John Betjeman’s granddaughter – and Prize Director - Imogen Lycett Green, and judged by poet Scottish poet laureate and co-judge and poet, Zaffar Kunial, the annual Betjeman Poetry Prize attracts around 3,000 entries per year from talented 10-13 year olds across the UK, all competing to impress the judges with their poetry writing skills.
Thousands of entries were whittled down to a shortlist of just seven young hopefuls, who read their work aloud beneath the station’s famous statue of Sir John Betjeman. The celebrity-attended Betjeman Poetry Prize award ceremony saw last year’s winner, Amineh Abou Kerech, congratulate Ide Crawford on their achievement. Other guests included Penny Mortimer, Nell Dunn, Lauren Child and John Lyons, who gathered to listen to the impressive poetry from some of the country’s youngest poets.
The 2017 Betjeman Poetry Prize named Amineh Abou Kerech the winner with her poem 'Lament for Syria'. This also made Amineh the third St Pancras Poet Laureate. In her role as Poet Laureate, Amineh will write three original poems inspired by the architecture and events of St Pancras International.
You can read Amineh's winning poem below, and as her three poems are released throughout the next year they will also be published here.
Our 2017 ceremony welcomed Rachel Rooney and Chris Riddell as this years judges. The prize ceremony occurred on the Grand Terrace and Amineh was crowed winner infront of a large and delighted audience.
Lament for Syria
by Amineh Abou Kerech (13)
Syrian doves croon above my head
their call cries in my eyes.
I’m trying to design a country
that will go with my poetry
and not get in the way when I’m thinking,
where soldiers don’t walk over my face.
I’m trying to design a country
which will be worthy of me if I’m ever a poet
and make allowances if I burst into tears.
I’m trying to design a City
of Love, Peace, Concord and Virtue,
free of mess, war, wreckage and misery.
Oh Syria, my love
I hear your moaning
in the cries of the doves.
I hear your screaming cry.
I left your land and merciful soil
And your fragrance of jasmine
My wing is broken like your wing.
I am from Syria
From a land where people pick up a discarded piece of bread
So that it does not get trampled on
From a place where a mother teaches her son not to step on an ant at the end of the day.
From a place where a teenager hides his cigarette from his old brother out of respect.
From a place where old ladies would water jasmine trees at dawn.
From the neighbours’ coffee in the morning
From: after you, aunt; as you wish, uncle; with pleasure, sister…
From a place which endured, which waited, which is still waiting for relief.
I will not write poetry for anyone else.
Can anyone teach me
how to make a homeland?
Heartfelt thanks if you can,
from the house-sparrows,
the apple-trees of Syria,
and yours very sincerely.
Congratulations to all the finalists in the 2017 Betjeman Poetry Prize. Thank you for entering and well done for making it to the final out of thousands of entries. The two runners up in the competition were Daisy Foley and Jemima Webster, and Shanelle Furtado, Sammy Leohnis and Niamh McCarthy were all highly commended.