Winners announced for the first poetry competition celebrating the UK's key workers :: NEWS

Winners announced for the first poetry competition celebrating the UK's key workers

10 June 2021 Share

Anthology of 'Top 100' poems also published online

Clean for Good, an award-winning ethically conscious cleaning business, has announced the winners of Poetry for Good, the first ever nationwide poetry competition celebrating the lives and careers of the UK’s key workers. 

The first poetry competition ever run by a cleaning company, Poetry for Good received nearly 500 submissions from across the UK in less than 10 weeks, with participants aged 11 years old and upwards. It attracted interest from established poets as well as first-timers, was adopted by schools as a project, and has produced poems celebrating nurses, teachers, shopkeepers, scaffolders, chaplains, cleaners and even undertakers, written by key workers themselves, their children, or by those inspired by key workers.

The Growing Word category showcased poems written by ages 11-15, and first prize was won by Jacinta-Maria Ifeoluwapo Chidiebere Wajero (Liverpool) for their poem Life Support. It was praised by the judges for the “careful thought and commitment to the metaphor of oxygen”, used as a symbol for the essential, exposed, often invisible role of a key member of society.  

Taking home the Spoken Word award (for spoken poetry from those aged 16 or more) was The Front Desk by Gemma Barnett (London). An actress who found herself out of work in 2020, Gemma got a job working as a receptionist in a GP surgery. In her poem, she pays tribute to her “empathetic, gutsy, blunt, charming, and hilarious colleagues”, who powered through the whole pandemic no matter what – some fell ill and were in the ICU with Covid, whilst others had lost family members but still continued to show up to work. 

The winner of the Written Word category (written poems from those aged 16 or more) was the poem Night Shift by Violet Smart (London), a poem inspired by a cleaner who worked at her university, but moved on to working in hospitals. The judges praised the poem for creating ”a stunning visual and intimate painting of the NHS and life as a key worker through the use of the rich and sensory language”, and for its “dynamic integration of Spanish, which really adds both colour and life to the poem as well as playing homage to the vast Latinx community which holds up the NHS.”

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Dunford (Nottingham) was Highly Commended in the same category for her poem Kate, inspired by the “energy, kindness and humour” of a carer working in the residential home of her 91-year-old father, and so was Always under the COSHH by Mark Cowan (Stockton on Tees), a teacher who also worked as a cleaner in his early twenties; Mark noted a cleaner’s work “is most noticed when it isn't completed. We take it for granted that the dirty floors that we left behind yesterday will shine and sparkle by the following morning.”

The ‘Top 100’ poems from the competition across all categories, including the winners, are now published online as a permanent celebration of the sacrifices made over the last year by millions of workers. This is a unique anthology of poems, heart-breaking, inspiring, and sometimes amusing, and a testament to the work of all those who have kept our nation safe, well and on the move over the past year.

Poetry for Good was judged by three internationally acclaimed poets: Cecilia Knapp, Rachel Long and Katherine Lockton.

For more information and to read the 'Top 100' anthology collection, visit