Introducing the Manchester City Poets

22 February 2022 - News
Manchester City of Literature and partners have introduced Manchester’s inaugural team of Multilingual City Poets, three talented creatives who have been appointed to produce a series of original works on behalf of the City throughout 2022, as part of International Mother Language Day 2022.

The City’s new Multilingual City Poets team has been created to work across its partnership network, acting as ambassadors for Manchester’s residents, communities, and literature organisations.

The Launch of Multilingual City Poets took place at Manchester Poetry Library and included a welcome from Ivan Wadeson, Executive Director of Manchester UNESCO City of Literature, an address from Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, readings from the three Multilingual City Poets, as well as music from Pringle Gulzar, a tabla player based in Oldham guided by faith and celebrating South Asian culture.

New City Poet Anjum Malik is an established scriptwriter, poet, performer, and senior lecturer in creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University who has written several much-acclaimed original plays for BBC, ITV and theatre. Her first languages were Urdu, American English and Panjabi; born of Pakistani parents in Saudi Arabia; she was multilingual and international before she could walk.

Joining Anjum will be Jova Bagioli Reyes, a queer, neurodiverse immigrant hailing from Colombia and Chile. As a poet and musician, they are heavily inspired by the long history of struggle of Abya Yala (so-called Latin America) and so their work deals with themes of decolonization, autonomy, and liberation.

Also on the City Poet team is Arabic poet, teacher and producer Ali Al-Jamri; a writer of prose and poetry and passionate about translation and its role within diasporic Arabic-language communities in the UK. Ali’s Between Two Islands project was funded by Arts Council England and brought poetry workshops to the UK’s Bahraini community.

The City Poet roles carry a civic responsibility, much like conventional Poet Laureate designations, and the appointees will be commissioned to produce five original poems on behalf of the City.

Three of these poems will respond to Manchester Day, World Poetry Day and the Festival of Libraries; all of which will be taking place in 2022. The two other commissioned poems will be delivered to respond to other exciting public events, projects and community outreach programmes coordinated by Manchester City of Literature and its partnership network. The poets will also translate other poets’ writing.

Anjum Malik says: “To be a City Poet for Manchester with Manchester City Of Literature partnered with UNESCO is a huge honour, exciting, to be doing it in our fantastic city of Manchester. Celebrating Multilingualism through poetry working across communities and being at the heart of the literary scene in the coming year is absolutely amazing and ever so representative of the incredible creative work going on in our city.”

Jova Bagioli Reyes says: “For me being a city poet means having my reality as a queer immigrant in Manchester be acknowledged. My voice is one of hundreds of thousands that make up this city and it feels both cathartic and intimate to have it be heard.”

Ali Al-Jamri: says: “Like so many people raised between cultures, I didn’t have the opportunity to nurture my bilingualism and celebrate my mother tongue. Manchester is the city that honed me into a poet and translator, so I am excited not only to represent the place I call home, but to also share my passion for multilingualism.”

This is Manchester’s fifth consecutive IMLD series, and this year 2022 the cultural content of the programme is increasing, making international links with other UNESCO Creative Cities, particularly through online platforms, in addition to events across the city at venues including Manchester Libraries, Manchester Poetry Library at Manchester Metropolitan University and Creative Manchester, and many more.

In 2019 and 2020 over 5,000 people engaged with activity across Manchester’s city centre and neighbourhoods, and in 2021, 18 digital events ensured the significance of languages to Manchester was still honoured, even while the nation had to stay at home during the pandemic.

IMLD has been observed globally since 2000 and has important historical roots. In Bangladesh, the 21st February is the anniversary of the day when Bangladeshis fought for recognition for the Bangla language.