Simon Armitage, the UK Poet Laureate, has convened 30 poets from around the world to create a new response to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

The new Poetic Declaration will be unveiled at three events on 17, 18 and 19 September at Manchester’s HOME multi arts venue in September as part of the Ripples of Hope Festival, organised by Robert F Kennedy Human Rights UK.

Poets who responded to the Declaration include Imtiaz Dharker,  Sjón and Raymond Antrobus.

Simon said: “Can there be a more important time for focusing on human rights?  Through poetry – that most democratic of art forms – and through other creative expressions, Ripples of Hope will be a meeting of thoughts and feelings on what it means to be a citizen of this world.  A chance to talk and to listen and to share.”

Jude Kelly CBE, Artistic Director of the festival, said: “In ‘The Defence of Poetry’ 1821, Shelley claimed that ‘poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world’. suggesting that, through their writing, they offer a deep moral instinct. Simon Armitage has gathered 30 poets to speak to the articles of Human Rights at a time when the turmoil and sadness of the world needs tender intelligent guidance. The writers create a magnificent response to the Universal Declaration of 1948 full of contemporary relevance and immediacy.”

Alongside Dharker, Sjon and Antrobus, the full list of poets brought together by Armitage features Mona Arshi, Shivanee Ramlochan, Kwame Dawes, Tishani Doshi, Malika Booker, Glyn Maxwell, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Togara Muzanenhamo, Victoria Redel, Vona Groake, Caroline Bird, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Jennifer Wong, Luke Wright, Sean Borodale, Kimberley Campanello, Keisha Thompson, Mike Garry, Maura Dooley, Joelle Taylor, Jay Bernard and Zaffar Kunial.

Also featured in the Declaration are three poets from Young Identity, HOME’s Resident Artists, Demani, PA Bitez and Isaiah Hull. 

Dave Moutrey, Director and CEO of HOME, said: “We’re delighted to welcome these poets to the stage at HOME to celebrate this powerful poetic response to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At a time when divisions in society seem deeper than ever, and inequality has been heightened by the pandemic, this is a timely reminder of the relevance and importance of human rights to all of us.” 

The Ripples of Hope festival spans five days from Wednesday, 15 September to Sunday, 19 September, and celebrates the power of people to make human rights a reality for all.

After a year that has isolated and divided us, the Festival is a place to meet, share ideas and experiences – and to get excited about changing the world for the better. 

Audiences are invited to add their voice to a weekend of exhilarating and challenging debate, intimate conversations, inspiring stories, workshops and performances, as we explore the world we can create together.

Also announced today is the PEN HG Wells lecture, on 17 September, to be delivered by the award-winning British-Turkish novelist Elif Shafak and presented in partnership with English PEN.

Shafak has published 19 books, 12 of which are novels. She is a bestselling author in many countries around the world and her work has been translated into 55 languages. Her latest novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and RSL Ondaatje Prize; and was Blackwell’s Book of the Year. The Forty Rules of Love was chosen by BBC among the 100 Novels that Shaped Our World.

The PEN HG Wells Lecture showcases visionary writing and new thinking, and is held in honour of the former PEN president, author, visionary and human rights campaigner HG Wells. Wells foresaw the creation of the worldwide web, most notably in a series of talks and essays entitled World Brain. Other revolutionary ideas set out in The Rights of Man influenced the development of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Three day-long events on Friday, 17 September, Saturday, 18 September and Sunday, 19 September, will feature speakers including Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, journalist Amelia Gentleman; CEO of In Place of War Ruth Daniel; former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal OBE; Director of English PEN Daniel Gorman, Manchester Museum Director Esme Ward; founder of Arts and Homelessness International Matt Peacock, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi; and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson.

A series of additional evening events will also include an In Conversation event with Hillary Rodham Clinton and the presentation of the first Ripple of Hope Next Generation Award to Marcus Rashford MBE. 


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