By using this website you are agreeing to the use of cookies. Please read our Use of Cookies policy.

National Poetry Day - Freedom.jpg

Calling all young poets: Art UK and National Poetry Day want you to help us look at the nation's art in an entirely different way...

We want you to find a painting on Art UK that inspires you to get creative. Maybe it's a portrait of someone you can identify with, maybe it's beautiful scenery or industrial gloom that inspires you, or maybe it's a painting of a submarine: whatever it is, we want you to take the inspiration and run with it, using the painting as a starting point to create a brand new poem.

The brief

Art Speaks is an initiative started by Art UK in May 2017. We challenged four performance poets to write an original piece in response to a painting of their choice. You can see what they came up with on our Art Speaks playlist.

Art Speaks is about celebrating the impact art can have, and all of the different perspectives people can bring to it. You don't have to be an art buff, or to know anything about the history of an artwork or artist: we just want to know what a painting makes you think, and how it makes you feel. 

What you can win

A single winner will be chosen by our panel of judges and will receive £500. They will also have the opportunity to work with Art UK to create a new poem and have it professionally filmed and featured on Art UK. The film will go out on National Poetry Day. 

How to enter

To enter, you need to upload a film of yourself to YouTube, reciting an original poem that you have created in response to an artwork of your choice on Art UK. It doesn't need to be a high quality film: phone or laptop will be fine, as we're looking for the quality of the poem, not production values. You don't need to have memorised the poem.

You need to:

  • Upload the film to YouTube by midnight BST, 28th August 2017
  • Name your film with the name of your poem and #artspeaks
  • Send an email with the subject line 'Art Speaks' to including your full name, your age, the link to your film on YouTube and a link to the painting you have chosen
  • Add the link to the artwork in the description box of your YouTube film

Guidelines for entry

  • Films should be no longer than two minutes
  • Only open to 13 to 24 year olds living in the UK
  • Entrants must be available between 6th and 20th September 2017 for professional filming
  • Entrants give Art UK and National Poetry Day rights to use the poem and film in connection with the competition
  • Artworks must be on
  • Don’t be rude. Anything defamatory or obscene won’t be accepted
  • For more information and questions, contact 
  • For full terms and conditions see the PDF on the right hand side of the page

The judges

Jacob Sam-La Rose

Jacob Sam-La Rose.jpg

photo credit: Amaal Said

Jacob is a poet, educator and editor whose writing has been characterised as vivid, masterly and carefully structured. His work has helped to shape the landscape of contemporary poetry and spoken word in London and across England, through initiative such as Barbican Young Poets, the London Teenage Poetry Slam, Shake the Dust (in partnership with Apples and Snakes), the Roundhouse Poetry Programme, Spoken Word Educators (in partnership with Goldsmiths University) and more.

Widely recognised as a tireless facilitator and mentor of young and emerging poets, Jacob works with schools and universities, arts/cultural venues, and in community settings, engaging participants who range from young, relucant or first-time writers to more established poets, writers and educators in need of professional or artistic development. 

Jacob's writing has been featured in anthologies such as Out of Bounds: British Black and Asian Poets, Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets, Penguin's Poems for Love and In Their Own Words. His most recent collection Breaking Silence is taught as an A Level set text.

Sabrina Mahfouz


photo credit: Northern Town

Sabrina was raised in London and Cairo. Her work includes the plays Chef, With a Little Bit of Luck, CleanBattleface and the love i feel is red; the poetry collection How You Might Know Me; the literary anthology The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write and the BBC shows Breaking the CodeRailway Nation: A Journey In Verse and We Are Here. She received a Fringe First Award for Chef and won a Sky Arts Academy Poetry Award. She made an Art Speaks film with Art UK, basing her poem around the theme of immigration, inspired by a dramatic seascape at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Sophia Thakur


Sophia's work includes two TEDx talks, campaigns for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, SBTV, MTV, YouTube and Walkers Books, and her own personal projects. She performed at Glastonbury for the first time this year, and was one of the first four poets to make an Art Speaks film with Art UK, taking inspiration from a Joshua Reynolds painting at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery to create a poem dealing with themes of mental health.

Anthony Anaxagorou


Anthony is an award-winning poet, short story writer, publisher and poetry educator. He has published several volumes of poems and essays, a spoken word EP and a collection of short stories whilst having also written for theatre.

His poetry has appeared on both national television and radio as well as being published in various literary magazines and anthologies.  He was a judge for the 2016 BBC Young Writers Award and is currently the poet in residence at several London schools where he teaches poetry and creative writing.

He founded Out-Spoken (a live poetry night) in 2012 and Out-Spoken Press in 2013. 

What is Art UK?

Art UK is the online home for art from every public collection in the United Kingdom. We work in partnership with over 3,000 public art collections and have over 200,000 works on the site – and the number is always growing.

The art is from museums, universities, town halls, hospitals – and even a lighthouse. Much of it isn't usually on display. At the moment it’s mainly oil paintings but we’re adding watercolours and works on paper, with the nation’s sculpture planned to join soon.

We commission and write about artists, artworks, exhibitions and the stories behind paintings, from the world famous to the obscure.

What is National Poetry Day?

NPD logo red amber landscape.jpg

National Poetry Day is a mass participation campaign that inspires people throughout the UK to enjoy, discover and share poems. The celebrations this year are on 28th September and everyone is invited to join in, whether by organising an event or simply posting favourite lines of poetry on social media using #nationalpoetryday.

National Poetry Day has been running for 26 years. It is co-ordinated by Forward Arts Foundation and enjoys the support of the BBC, Arts Council England, the Royal Mail and leading literary and cultural organisations, alongside booksellers, publishers, libraries and schools.

This year, the theme for National Poetry Day is 'Freedom'.

Where do I get started?

On Art UK you can search for specific artworks and artists

Or, if you don't have a single painting in mind, you can search by keyword: see what comes up when you search for 'sea', 'sport', 'hat', 'fish' – or any other word you can think of. 

National Poetry Day's theme this year is 'freedom': what about starting with Escape from the Circusor The Pipe of Freedom (originally rejected by the Royal Academy because of its subject matter).

Let yourself follow random paths: try clicking on artists you've never heard of before and browsing their works, and you'll be surprised at what you find.

Good luck!