Danaë Wellington has been announced as the new Poet Laureate of Sheffield. Originally set up by Sheffield City Council with a small honorarium, the position gives the opportunity to a local poet to celebrate and give a profile to the city, its culture and its communities via spoken word.
Danaë is a Jamaican-British author, performance artist, and former neo-soul singer who is based in Sheffield. Her work has been published in a number of anthologies and she has performed at festivals such as Tramlines, Sheaf Poetry Festival, and Off the Shelf Festival of Words. Her vocals are on several records, including her recently released debut LP, “Good Fruit.” She also produced “Passing the Baton: The Legacy of the Windrush Pioneers,” a film about how the Windrush Generation changed Sheffield’s cultural landscape.
Along with the news that she was named Laureate, Danaë recently read some of her poetry, including “The Blue Jeans Asks Her,” at the University of Sheffield’s Firth Hall as part of the Off the Shelf Festival, which takes place every October. Black womanhood, Black creole and Christian faith, freedom, and resistance are major themes of her work.
“The role of Poet Laureate holds significant weight for me. I’m stepping into the role as a Black, immigrant, autistic woman which means I get to be a part of breaking the myth that poetry isn’t for people like me. I’m joining my predecessors in shattering the myth that poetic expression has one voice. Poetry looks and sounds like many things, and during this time I hope to encourage storytellers that have been sitting on the periphery to rise up,” explains Danaë.
Since 2017, Wellington has worked and performed with local organisations such as Hive South Yorkshire, which helps young people ages 14 to 30 improve their writing skills. She also founded Odd Child Productions, a Black and neurodiverse-led events and production company in Sheffield. She aims to improve equity in arts and culture by making accessible local cultural programmes and events for young people, adults, and families, to “bridge the gap between arts and cultural institutions and ethnically minoritised communities.”
Wellington will hold the Laureateship for two years. She succeeds Warda Yassin, who wrote “A Sonnet for Sheffield” for the Off the Shelf Festival of Words in 2021. Otis Mensah, a local poet and performer, is also in their company, appointed the first Laureate for the city in 2018 by former Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Magid Magid.
Magid Magid, former Sheffield Mayor and founder of Sheffield Poet Laureate said: “Danae is an amazing addition to the Sheffield Poet Laureates who came before her. When we established the Laureateship in 2018, the goal was to showcase and support our city’s thriving artistic and cultural scene. As committed to increasing access to the arts as Danae is, paired with her incredible talent for poetry and spoken word, I have no doubt that she will only build on the brilliant foundation laid by Otis and Warda.”
Off the Shelf Festival of Words, from the University of Sheffield, is one of the largest literary festivals in the North of England. Every October the Festival brings the best of local, regional, and international literary talent to Sheffield and South Yorkshire.