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Winner of first 'Jo Cox Poetry Prize' announced

22 September 2017

The winner of Carers UK’s first ‘Jo Cox Poetry Prize’ has been announced today, following a month-long focus on the loneliness experienced by unpaid carers led by Carers UK as part of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.

The award for poems exploring loneliness was launched in honour of the former Batley and Spen MP’s work tackling isolation through conversations across communities.

The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, launched in January 2017 following Jo Cox’s death, sees MPs and leading organisations come together to shine a light on loneliness and share the positive steps we can all take to combat it.

Research released by Carers UK’s during the Commission’s spotlight on carers found that 8 in 10 (81%) carers felt “lonely or isolated” and a third (29%) felt “uncomfortable” discussing their responsibilities with friends or family.

Carers and former carers were invited to contribute poems for the special award as part of Carers UK’s creative writing and photography competition, with both well-established and newer writers sharing their personal reflections on isolation and caring. The poems were picked by award-winning poet Cheryl Moskowitz, with the remaining winners of the competition set to be announced on the 24 October.

Having followed the work of Carers UK and the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness closely Catherine Graham, winner of the Jo Cox Poetry Prize, explained how much the accolade means to her:

“I cannot tell you how proud and humbled I am to win the Jo Cox Poetry Prize after all Jo Cox has done to support the lonely in society.

“As a carer, you don’t have to be alone to feel lonely. Little things, those times when your mother doesn't smile back at you, can make you feel so alone, so isolated. I would tell other carers feeling overwhelmed to write a few lines of poetry, tear it up if you choose, to process things too difficult to say. In my own experience, poetry has rescued me.”

Catherine’s poem and highly commended entries will be included in Carers UK’s creative writing anthology, set to be released on 24 November and sponsored by Specsavers Healthcall. The book will include winning entries from the competition, available to preorder here. All proceeds will help to fund the charity’s work supporting those caring for ill, older, or disabled loved ones.

Carers UK’s Chief Executive, Heléna Herklots said:

“Almost all of us will care for a loved one, or need care ourselves, at some point in our lives. Yet, our findings for the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness demonstrate that too many carers still feel the need to stay silent about feelings of isolation that can often accompany caring for a loved one. 

We are delighted to be able to share these powerful poems as part of the Jo Cox Poetry Prize, which pay tribute to the legacy of Jo Cox’s work shining a light on loneliness in every corner of society.”

Seema Kennedy MP and Rachel Reeves MP, Co-chairs of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, said:

 “While there is no ‘quick fix’ to the challenges associated with looking after a loved one, the powerful stories behind these winning poems will further a much-needed dialogue on the reality of caring. Creativity can act as an important outlet for those of us who ordinarily struggle to convey the challenges we face, and the breadth of experiences outlined by these poems shows just how diverse loneliness can be. As Jo Cox said: ‘Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate’”.

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