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GP Receptionist Wins National Poetry Competition on Key Workers

The first poetry competition run by a cleaning company, Poetry for Good received nearly 500 submissions from across the UK in less than 10 weeks.

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.

Taking home the Spoken Word award was The Front Desk by Gemma Barnett from 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 Intensive Care Unit with Covid, whilst others had lost family members but still continued to show up to work.

The ‘Top 100’ poems from the competition, including the winners, are available 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.

Tim Thorlby, Managing Director of Clean for Good, said: 

So many of these poems share personal and moving stories from the sharp end of life over the last year. If anyone was in any doubt that something needs to change for millions of low paid workers in the UK today, then this selection of stories surely settles that debate for good.

Katherine Lockton, one of the competition’s poets on the Judging Panel, said: 

They celebrated everyone from cleaners to nurses and shop keepers. There was everything from free verse, rhymed poems to villanelles. It was clear that a lot of talented writers had submitted.

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash