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Young Political Poet Wins Prestigious Orwell Youth Prize

Young Political Poet Wins Prestigious Orwell Youth Prize
3 min read

An up-and-coming political film maker is among four senior winners of the prestigious Orwell Youth Prize.

Jude Leese, an 18-year-old film student from London, wowed judges with his poem “Work Experience as a Young Campaigner”. The piece captures Leese’s personal experience of grassroots politics and is intended as a tribute to the “hard work done by local councillors everywhere”.

“While I entered a poem for the prize, my main area of interest is film, and I hope to combine both my interests in film and politics in my future work,” Leese told The House.

“My influences include such directors as Hal Ashby, Stanley Kubrick and Jean-Luc Godard, and my favourite book is Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind.”

This year, the Orwell Youth Prize tasked entrants with suggesting “one positive change” they would like to see in their lives. Answers ranged from suggestions on how to solve racial and gender inequality, to discussions around tackling the climate crisis. Judges reported being impressed by the “inventive, bold and optimistic” approaches entrants took to answering the question. 

Alongside fellow winners Max Baker, Isabella Rew and Faith Falayi, Leese will receive a cash prize and a copy of George Orwell’s entire works. 

Work Experience As A Young Campaigner 

Our mission is
the gurgling grind of a working printer
surrounding itself in scents of red ink,
and spitting leaflet after leaflet into the pile
in the hope that their lifespans will be longer than
seconds between door and the bin.

Our mission is
breaking up boxes
of figureheads in cut-outs.
Then breaking the numbers down too,
reading addresses in your head
as maps come into view.
Repeat the tasks again and again,
being useful with the envelope machine.

Starting small is
walking through frost-covered afternoons,
knuckles turning purple as they rap on unforgiving doors –
Straightening your badge again
and carrying on.

Starting small is
choosing not to “Beware Of The Dog”,
because there isn’t one.
Only bright blue flags taped to windows
can cause problems for us.

Starting small
Is learning
The correct method of pushing a leaflet through a letterbox –
“Like that, see?”
Just in case.

Starting small is saying:
Excuse me sir, but may I ask-
as the flat’s old chipped door is slammed in your face,
blocking out the light again,
soundtracked by the muttering of dismayed apathy.

Starting small is
Feeling the reassuring warmth of an occasional ally
and learning how they talk
before tripping down echoing steps,
holding their names tight to your chest
in hastily scrawled clipboard code.

Starting small
Is being invited in,
inviting them to talk – honestly,
and realising how hard it is to convince them that
this is their town too.

Starting small is
showing to them that
every back alley sewer and public park dustbin
is part of a community bigger than just Europe.

Starting small is
knowing that you are closer than the statistics now,
as the car takes you down the streets again
which beg you not to forget them,
as snow starts to cover the rooftops.

Starting small is
meetings. But not the business kind.
Here we sit in tiny offices where
the cold wind vents through windows,
telling us stories of struggle and loss
and planning permission for the drone-flying club.

Starting small is trying to be something.
To mean something.
To change something.
To help someone.
Starting small is
trying
trying
trying.

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