Untold Stories: Poetry at English Heritage

Untold Stories: Poetry at English Heritage


“Poetry has played such an important role in England’s history, and our poetic tradition reaches back centuries. Writing, and poetry especially, have been ways for artists to explore their ideas about England, from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Blake to Wordsworth. Poetry in the 21st century continues to be a vital medium for understanding who we are.”

Dr Dominique Bouchard, Head of Learning and Interpretation


Untold Stories: Poetry at English Heritage is a programme for autumn 2020, curated in collaboration with Jacob Sam-La Rose, English Heritage’s Poet in Residence. Launching on National Poetry Day (1 October), Untold Stories will help to explore the hidden histories and contemporary resonances of English Heritage sites. The programme will include some of England’s best poets, both established and emerging, including Malika Booker and Esme Allman.

The programme will run throughout Black History Month (October) and beyond, and will highlight the voices and vision of Black poets. The poets were asked to reflect on the history, fabric and atmosphere of our sites, using their creativity to enable us to look beyond the surface of our heritage for stories and people that may have been untold, forgotten or unseen.

The programme, which includes new commissions for English Heritage, workshops and an open competition, offers opportunities for everyone to explore our past through poetry.

On National Poetry Day, English Heritage’s Poet in Residence for 2020, Jacob Sam-La Rose, will release the first poem of his residency. A new commissioned poem will be published each day of the last week of October, establishing a new digital poetry anthology on the English Heritage website which will grow over time. Throughout the autumn and winter, the public will be able to get involved through a poetry competition, workshops with the poets, schools activities and other events.


“Poetry is a powerful medium that we can use to reflect and question, convey emotion and tell stories. We can engage with poetry on so many levels, from listening to a poet perform to writing our own and by doing so, set new narratives for future generations to inherit. It is the perfect art form to engage audiences new and old in England’s untold stories!”

Caroline Moore, Creative Programme Manager

Commissioned Poets

Poets Esme Allman, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Jay Bernard, Malika Booker and Safiya Kinshasa have been commissioned by English Heritage to write new poems inspired by a range of English Heritage sites selected by Poet in Residence Jacob Sam-La Rose.

Jacob Sam-La Rose is a poet, programme director, educator and editor. His poetry has been translated into Portuguese, Latvian, French and Dutch, and is studied at A Level. He has been responsible for the Spoken Word Education Programme, Shake the Dust (national youth poetry slam) and leads Barbican Young Poets, which he established in 2009.

How to Get Involved

Poetry Competition

The poetry competition is a chance for everyone to participate in the Untold Stories programme, and use poetry as a way to explore the past, to tell the stories that get left out of the history books, and share their story. Participants will be invited to explore their heritage by capturing the people, places, and communities that have shaped them, and contribute to the heritage that will be handed down to future generations.

A winner from each age category (5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17+) will be selected to be included in the Untold Stories digital poetry anthology alongside poems commissioned by English Heritage by poets including Jacob Sam-La Rose and Malika Booker through the Untold Stories: Poetry at English Heritage programme.

The Untold Stories Poetry Competition is open to anyone aged 5+ and opens at midday on National Poetry Day (1 October 2020). Entries must be received by midnight on 13th November 2020. Find out more here.

Youth Poetry Programme

Young people involved in the Shout Out Loud project, English Heritage’s national youth engagement programme will participate in a series of three online poetry workshops, led by Untold Stories commissioned poet Malika Booker. These playful workshops will offer insight into the incredible hidden stories held at a range of English Heritage sites and will support you to write new poetry in response to England’s multicultural past.

The workshops will culminate in an online sharing, allowing others to experience the stories of England through new writing. This event will be curated in collaboration with workshop participants, Malika Booker/other Poet and the English Heritage team.