Young Poet Laureate Caleb Femi returns to stage to inspire ‘forgotten’ youth

Naomi Ackerman

London's Young Poet Laureate today revealed he will take to the stage again to inspire “forgotten” young people.

Caleb Femi, 28, a former English teacher, was appointed in October 2016 and had his year-long stint extended for six months.

He leaves the role this month and told the Standard: “It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s been so fulfilling. Some experiences were very difficult and heartbreaking, especially listening to the lack of engagement in the outer boroughs. In Mitcham there was a huge contingent of young people in the library, but they only go there for the wifi. There isn’t much else that they have in their area. They think the council, the Government, have just forgotten them.”

Femi moved from Nigeria to London aged seven and grew up in Peckham before studying at Queen Mary and King’s College. In 2011 his friend Azezur Khan, 21, was shot dead outside Camberwell Old Cemetery at the funeral of Joel Morgan, 17, who had died in a car crash.

Femi said: “Even when I was at university — I thought ‘OK, I’m living in Hampstead Heath now, I’m in a really good university’ — one of my friends who lived in south London died so we went to his funeral. Then another friend was shot and killed at the funeral, so you’re still affected even if you tell yourself you’re removed from the situation.”

Femi can currently be seen on screens around Heathrow airport narrating his spoken-word poem A Tale Of Modern Britain. In May he will stage Goldfish Bowl at the Battersea Arts Centre and the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm.

He said: “It kind of maps out an experience of coming from another country and growing up in a north Peckham estate, listening to grime music, and just how easily you can get caught up in some things like stabbings and shootings. But also how having a love for something can be a way of escaping so many things.”

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