Words of Colour announces Poets of Colour Incubator with Manchester Poetry Library

New mentoring and creative development incubator for emerging poets of colour in the North of England aims to inspire a ‘poetic response’ to global challenges

Award-winning poets, including Roger Robinson, Malika Booker and Kit Fan, confirmed as mentors and advisers

The Poets of Colour Incubator is open to applications until 5pm on Monday 24th July 2023.


A new 12-month mentoring and creative development incubator for emerging poets of colour in the North of England, which aims to inspire a ‘poetic response’ to global challenges, launches today.

The Poets of Colour Incubator, a collaboration between Words of Colour and Manchester Poetry Library at Manchester Metropolitan University, will provide vital support for talented poets of colour to build sustainable careers amid racial inequity.

Three successful Incubator poets will each receive a £6,000 Creative Action Bursary to innovate their practice and create dynamic new work in ‘poetic response’ to a global challenge they want to explore. An additional five shortlisted poets will receive career signposting, professional guidance and be part of a community of practice.

Starting in September 2023, the three Incubator poets will access creative wellbeing and creative entrepreneurship mentoring, masterclasses and support to test, develop and perform their poetry through artistic co-production. Poets will also work with the public on idea development through Incubator drop-ins and scratch performances, and co-develop a live, end of programme showcase.

Joy Francis, Words of Colour’s Executive Director and the Poets of Colour Incubator Co-Lead, said: “There are enduring gaps facing poets of colour due to a colonial legacy and racial inequity which undermines their ability to have sustainable careers and the confidence to develop work that speaks to their lived experience and authentic selves. The Incubator will help us amplify Northern-based poets of colour’s presence to counter the London-centric poetry narrative and increase their contribution to the poetry canon. Thanks to our Steering Advisory Group member Alex Wheatle for encouraging us to develop an idea for creatives of colour in the North. ”

Becky Swain, Director, Manchester Poetry Library, and the Poets of Colour Incubator Co-Lead added: We’re excited to be collaborating with Words of Colour on such a fantastic new programme that will offer invaluable support to talented and emerging poets of colour from the North. We know from research and experience that mentoring and support for talented poets of colour early in their career can be critical to enabling the development of creative work in a supportive environment. We’re looking forward to welcoming the three Incubator poets onto the programme, as well as supporting five shortlisted poets.”

Funded by Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants programme, the Incubator is supported by partners, including Contact, HOME, Manchester UNESCO City of Literature and New Writing North.

Writer, educator and TS Eliot Prize winning poet Roger Robinson will be the Incubator’s professional mentor with masterclasses led by Brunel International African Poetry Prize winner Nick Makoha; poet, resilience and success coach Shamshad Khan; BSL interpreter and digital access specialist Nakisayi Musungwa and change agent specialist Suzanne Lyn-Cook.

Roger Robinson said: “I believe that the Poets of Colour Incubator will build community, which is important for emerging poets to be able to gain perspective and support for their work. The fact that the programme provides mentorship from people who not only can impart knowledge but also have experience within the industry is of paramount importance.”

Poets Kit Fan and Malika Booker will be part of the Incubator’s selection panel and serve as programme advisers, providing support to the poets.

Kit Fan, winner of the inaugural HKU International Poetry Prize, said: “As a poet from Hong Kong, and having lived in the North of England for over 20 years, I’m honoured to be on the selection panel for this new, exciting and crucial initiative which will not only showcase the fireworks of creativity, but offer invaluable, unique support for poets of colour to develop their craft. The challenges a poet of colour faces and the risks they take may be different, not only at an individual level but also at cultural and linguistic levels.”

Malika Booker, winner of The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem and a lecturer in creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “I’m honoured to be playing a role in this programme helping to nurture and support the chosen Northern poets, as a part of the Incubator’s selection panel. It will enable me to bring my considerable knowledge from running Malika’s Poetry Kitchen and being a part of The Complete Works, initiatives that have supported writers of colour’s development and made a big difference to the literary sector.”

The Poets of Colour Incubator is open to applications until 5pm on Monday 24th July 2023.

Find more details about the programme, eligibility criteria and application process can be found on the Poets of Colour Incubator Programme website: bit.ly/PoCIncubator