Jessica Mason Wins National Poetry By Heart Competition
The Cardinal in college
Top: National competition winner Jessica Mason. Bottom left: Homerton College, Cambridge. Bottom right: Jessica's win is applauded by former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion

Former Hawkley Hall High School student and current Year 12 student Jessica Mason has won the national Poetry By Heart competition held at Homerton College, Cambridge.

Jessica entered the competition in January and went on to win the regional heat at the Portico Library in Manchester. Jessica was required to memorise and recite two poems in front of a large audience and a panel of expert judges.

Her poems of choice were William Blake’s ‘The Chimney Sweeper’ and ‘How to Kill’ by Keith Douglas. For the finals Jessica had to learn and recite an additional poem, ‘My Grandfather at the Pool’ by Glyn Maxwell, one of the competition’s judges.

Aside from the nerve wracking competition itself, Jessica and the other finalists were invited to participate in a range of activities during their stay in Cambridge, including a welcome dinner in the Great Hall and walking tours of the campus and surrounding areas. The group were also treated to poetry readings and book signings by the poets judging the competition, as well as recording a special edition of Radio 4’s ‘Poetry Please’ programme.

After her performance in the regional semi-finals on Friday, Jessica was chosen as one of eight regional champions who would compete in the grand final on Saturday 19 March. Her eloquent and emotive recital proved to be the clear winner for the panel, with Jessica left speechless as she was announced the winner.

Lancaster Royal Grammar School English teacher Nicholas Rafferty commented, “Jessica deserves a huge congratulations. A thoroughly deserved winner and a credit to the North West!”

Jessica said ““I still can’t believe I’ve won the whole competition, it doesn’t seem real! The other contestants really were amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Cambridge, especially meeting the poets.”

All of the staff at St John Rigby College are extremely proud of Jessica’s achievements, particularly the English department, including English teacher Toby Lynch, who coached Jessica from the beginning of the competition. He said “Jess is an inspiration and we hope that her success will encourage others to take part in Poetry By Heart in the future. She is a real testament to where hard work and passion can lead.”