Teesside High alumni scoops Café Writers prize

Thursday 19 January 2017 | By Samantha Hockney

A former pupil of Teesside High School has been recognised at the 2016 Café Writers Competition with a poem about her native Tees Valley.
Emily Willis, who studied at Teesside High from 2004-2012, has claimed the 2016 Norfolk Prize at the annual competition, which was judged by renowned poet Andrew McMillan.
Emily’s poem, entitled ‘Steelworks, Redcar’,  captures the demise of Redcar’s SSI plant, but provides hope for the regional landmark in retaining its proud history.
She said: “I was inspired by a piece of writing ‘Noces A Tipasa’ which talks about the beauty of ruins of a church in Algeria and how they have shed their history. I wanted to use this in contrast to Redcar to imply that the ruins of the steelworks should refuse to be obliterated by time; how they will retain their history and, in a metaphorical sense, resist decay.
“I remember walking along the beach in Redcar last year and thinking about how the steelworks have always provided a backdrop to such a beautiful landscape. At this time, however, the blast furnace had been put out and there was no light. It really hit me that things had changed.
“There’s not much industrial heritage reflected in literature and, as such a huge part of Teesside’s culture, I wanted the steelworks to live on in my writing.”
Emily, who is currently studying for a Masters degree in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, will now host a reading session with competition judge Andrew McMillan.
Mr McMillan said of Emily’s work: “The Norfolk Prize is, ironically, for a poem set in Redcar. Steelworks, Redcar is a brilliant evocation of post-industrial decline set against intellectual nourishment.”