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New Poet Laureate will help to promote literacy and the love of words

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: May 09, 2014

  • A moving scene from "Hard Graft"

  • Brendan Hawthorne, Wednesbury's first poet laureate

  • Brendan performing at the world premiere of "Hard Graft : All for 23 Bob" at Wednesbury Town Hall in December 2013

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A LITERARY first has taken place in Wednesbury with the creation of the town's first official Poet Laureate in the person of Brendan Hawthorne.

At the "Wednesbury C elebrates" annual awards event on April 17, and in the presence of the Mayor of Sandwell, Councillor Linda Horton, the new post of Poet Laureate was bestowed upon fifty-three year old Brendan Hawthorne in front of an appreciative audience, and the local poet and writer was presented with a framed certificate and trophy to officially recognise his post.

In her presentation speech Wednesbury councillor and town lead Elaine Costigan spoke of the dedication and hard work that Brendan had shown over the years towards promoting the region, borough and dialect, and the pride he has encouraged within Wednesbury. She said, "I am proud to bestow this honour on Brendan as a true ambassador of our town." She also acknowledged the support of fellow councillors, including Ian and Olwen Jones, who had persuaded Sandwell Council to create the non-stipendary post of Poet Laureate.

Brendan made a short but heartfelt acceptance speech, expressing his delight and surprise at receiving the accolade. "I love the town of Wednesbury and thank everyone who has worked hard to instigate this post. I shall do my utmost to promote literacy and the love of words and language in the town and the wider borough and shall develop projects to enable local people to get involved with recording their dialect and telling their stories."

Brendan, who lives in Wednesbury, has written several books including one on the Black Country dialect that has even been used to teach Dudley Zoo's new tiger how to understand the lingo, which to all intents and purposes has been a roaring success. He has also established the Wednesbury Civic Players, who last December performed to tremendous acclaim the play he wrote all about the 1913 Wednesbury Tube Strike called "Hard Graft : All for 23 Bob".

The role of a Poet Laureate stretches back to ancient times when the Greeks traditionally crowned their most celebrated poets with laurels. Originally the office involved writing court odes to mark occasions such as the sovereign's birthday, but today the job is purely honorary.

Since 1790 the title of national poet laureate has been awarded on the advice of the Prime Minister and some memorable names have occupied the role, and even though the first appointment was made to Bernard Andre by King Henry VII, the first recognised national Poet Laureate was Edmund Spenser (1591-1599).

From the start of the 17th century other Poet Laureates have included Ben Jonson, William Wordsworth, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Sir John Betjeman, and currently the first woman Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. Traditionally the holder is awarded a butt of canary or sack, approximately 477 litres of sherry, but Brendan will probably be just as happy enjoying a few pints at his local to celebrate becoming Wedensbury's first Poet Laureate.

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