When Covid-19 closed schools and cancelled exams in 2020, it had wide and diverse effects on all of us working and studying in education. For Josh Pinnock, then an upper-sixth Loreto student, one of these missed opportunities was the chance to celebrate the fantastic achievement of being awarded runner-up in a national poetry recitation competition, Poetry by Heart. We had cheered him on, the train to London was booked for March 2020 to attend the finals… and we all know what happened next.

But on Monday 19th July 2021, the former student got the chance to celebrate his fabulous achievement. Josh, who is now studying for a drama degree in London, was invited to attend a prestigious ceremony at the Globe theatre, to recite his choice of poem, hear finalists from around the country reciting their selections, and hear readings and talks from exciting guest poets such as Michael Rosen and Simon Armitage! We also attended a play performance of As You Like It at The Globe on the night before the event, and were put up in LSE’s student accommodation overlooking the Thames on the South Bank.

Josh did himself and the college proud with a beautiful, sensitive rendition of ‘We Wear the Mask’ by Paul Dunbar. The poem, from 1896, is a painful account of the collective suffering of African-American people which makes use of conflicting images and sounds, conveyed by Josh with a comprehensive understanding, and a maturity commented on by last year’s judging panel. Over a century old, the poem may have taken on even more poignancy for many listeners in the light of heightened Black Lives Matter protests since the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

We are all very proud of Josh and it was a treat for Ms Warburg to accompany him to the event and experience his rightful celebration! Hopefully Josh’s experience in the competition will encourage those interested in poetry to get involved in Poetry by Heart at Loreto in future years. Those taking part find it a very worthwhile experience that deepens their relationship with the craft of poetry, as well as improving self-esteem and communication skills. A great competition that is highly recommended!