From redundancy to Birmingham Poet Laureate

Before securing a place on the New Writer Development programme, Giovanni had been made redundant from MG Rover and was unemployed, though he was considering going into writing and poetry.


Giovanni had written song lyrics for years and had wanted to find the courage to leave Rover, but always had a family to support.  He was introduced to musical theatre through his children, and wrote a musical in which he starred and produced, feeling that was what he should be doing.  He became involved with a group called the New October Poets, and particularly hit it off with Deadlock Alien.

Suddenly the Rover Longbridge factory was closed – Giovanni found out by watching the news on television “grown men were crying at work – it was awful”.  Dreadlock Alien sent him an e-mail about the New Writer Development programme, and with support from his wife, Giovanni took the leap and turned down a job he had secured in the automotive industry, opting instead for the EQUAL scheme.

Giovanni hoped that the programme might help him to get off the ground with his writing and poetry, and explore whether it may be a financially viable career.  The benefits that he hoped to gain from the programme included honing his writing skills: focusing on the aspects of writing that he was good at, and lifting those that he felt were weaker; getting a feel for what was out there, including fellow writers; and seeking a bit of validation – because Giovanni was relatively new to writing, he didn’t have a grasp of whether his writing was good, bad or indifferent.  These benefits were very important to Giovanni.  He describes the impact that the programme has had on him as “pretty huge really.  I’m now self employed as a freelance writer and poet and I’m doing okay!”

He felt that meeting the other writers, mentors and facilitators on the programme was great.  He really progressed on the course, and was doing more and more work with Dreadlock Alien, with whom he set up a company called Slam Poetry.  Giovanni has been able to generate an income through his creative talent through the delivery of many SLAM poetry workshops in schools, and by producing musicals and plays with community youth theatre groups.  He has also been booked several times by Book Communications via their various projects.  Giovanni has written and piloted a poetry based play, for which he received mentoring from the programme, and has secured funding for the project from the Arts Council.

Giovanni was voted Birmingham Poet Laureate for 2006-2007, after submitting a piece about identity and Rover to the competition (run by Birmingham Libraries).  Winning was a dream come true, and Giovanni felt really validated.

“Towards the end of the course I applied to be Birmingham Poet Laureate – something I would never have considered.  Mentors, tutors and fellow students encouraged me to do this.  In October 2006, I was made Birmingham’s 11th Poet Laureate!”

In five years’ time, Giovanni wants to be doing what he is doing now – he gets a great buzz from working in schools, and fancies writing a film.  The group support provided through the New Writer Development programme was very strong, and the programme made Giovanni feel comfortable about what he was about to launch himself into.

“I feel as if I am living the dream.  The timing was perfect for me – the course changed my life”. changed my life”.



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