A passionate, versatile and truly inspiring educator, Tony has been invited to lead poetry sessions for The Prince’s Teaching Institute, The Prince’s Trust, BBC Blast, the School Library Association, The National Football Museum, Opera North and for a huge range of primary and secondary schools around the UK and beyond, as well as in colleges, universities and with writers of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
Tony was elected as an FRSA, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2015 and presented with an honorary doctorate, D. Litt, Doctor of Letters, by The University of Salford in 2018. In 201X he was invited to perform and hand out Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards to north-west young people at a ceremony in St James’s Palace, London. He was commissioned by the BBC to write the poem to mark the 60th anniversary of the flagship Blue Peter programme, earning a standing ovation at the 2018 Children’s BAFTA Awards, and has also presented items for BBC Newsround and BBCTeach. In 2021 he chaired the judging panel of children’s category of the prestigious Sandford St Martin Broadcasting Awards.
I love the quotes “education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire” and “good teachers teach, great teachers inspire. I often only get an hour or two to work with a group, maybe only 20 minutes in an assembly. But whilst there is a practical limit to what I can teach in that time, I firmly believe that there is no limit to how much I can inspire, what I can spark, the fires I can light. Often with those who have been written off or who have written themselves off, sometimes with the gifted and talented.
Even though I’ve written poetry since the age of just 5, I didn’t share my work in public until I was 39. 39! What stopped me were my low horizons, the absence of opportunities, shyness, anxiety, insecurity, and a crippling lack of confidence. “A scruffy kid from a council estate can’t be a poet. Who’s going to listen to you?”.
Giving young people “permission” to be writers, to find their creativity, to raise their horizons, to own their voice and tell their truths – it’s a massive and important part of my creative practice. As a working-class kid myself, my poetry, my life story, my family’s journey, and my motivational talks seem to really resonate with people from all walks of life. “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle” said James Keller and that’s what I love to do. Light candles. Make sparks. Start fires.
I work with all ages and levels of experience – from Key Stage 1 to MA Students, and with writers’ groups of all kinds. Do please click on the options below to find out what I can offer to the various categories.
Watch Tony perform “Take This Pen” for National Poetry Day
Extract from “Take This Pen”
To the kid they pick on, ‘cos you’re small.
The kid they kick because you’re tall.
The kid they trip to watch you fall.
Poetry is for you. It’s for you!
To the kid who’s anxious, every day.
The last kid, when they’re picked to play.
The quiet kid with lots to say.
Poetry is for you.
To the kid who hides behind their hair.
Who’s scared and scarred by every stare.
The kid who cries when no-one’s there.
Poetry is for you.