By Terence Dooley
Bolton’s Amir Khan, 28-3 (19), may have lost out in the Floyd Mayweather sweepstakes after the American opted for a fight with Rene Marcos Maidana instead of the British boxer, but the 27-year-old has vowed to put the disappointment behind him as he bids to get back amongst the world titles.
Khan’s quest to get back to the top has received the backing of Carol Ann Duffy, Britain’s Poet Laureate, who expressed her admiration for the 2004 Olympic silver medalist after he endorsed Manchester Metropolitan University’s Mother Tongue Other Tongue competition. Mother Tongue Other Tongue is a national multilingual poetry project, led by Duffy, Director of the Manchester Writing School at MMU, and coordinated by Routes into Languages.
Khan and his brother Haroon, who represented Pakistan at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, have given their backing to the contest and its aim of encouraging children who are learning another language, or who have English as an additional language, to celebrate these skills and become creative with their Mother and Other Tongues.
The Northwest final was held at MMU’s Capitol Theatre on 13th September. The awards were presented to the children by Carol Ann Duffy. All of the winners and specially commended entrants’ work has been published in the Northwest anthology.
“Differences in language and culture are often considered to be barriers to communication, but the language of poetry is read all over the world and all cultures have their own poets and poetry,” said Duffy. “The young people who took part in the competition are poetry’s children and the way they see our world is fresh and inspiring.”
This year’s winners are: Muhammad Awais Khan — Chapel Street Primary School, Manchester. Habeebah Naseer — Abraham Moss High School, Manchester. Khaibar Sarwari — Burnage Media Arts College, Manchester. Veronika Sukhareva — Loreto Sixth Form College, Manchester. Emily Davenport — Holy Family RC and C of E High School, Rochdale. David Ashworth — Hazel Grove High School, Stockport. Basira-Tul-Ann Shahid — Manchester High School for Girls. Elizabeth Bodley and Olivia Murray — Cheadle Hulme High School.
Dr. Sharon Handley is the Dean of the Humanities faculty at MMU and Director of Routes into Languages North West, she said: “I was extremely impressed with the creativity displayed in this collection and touched by how they have engaged with very powerful issues, including immigration, war, family and relationships.”
“This is a fantastic project and initiative which helps to bring a better understanding between the many diverse people that make up this great country,” said former world light-welterweight champion Khan when speaking to BoxingScene about the project earlier this year.
“It’s a chance for us to celebrate multiculturalism and for us to get to know one another even better. Speaking another language is a great asset to have and to express that through poetry shows a really high level of skill. It’s something to truly admire because I know, like boxing, it’s not easy to do. I encourage all the young people to enjoy the competition and to give it a go.”
“This is a brilliant competition and one that can help break down barriers,” added Haroon. “I give my full backing to it and wish everyone competing the very best. It’s a chance to be creative and express yourself in your mother tongue or in a language which you are not so familiar with. It’s an opportunity for everyone taking part to learn and progress which is really excellent to see.”
The Guardian described the current Poet Laureate as a ‘superstar’ of British poetry; Khan is a big star in the sport of boxing and Duffy is delighted that the Khans have united sport and the arts once again.
“I am delighted that Amir Khan has lent his support to the project,” said Duffy. “He is an outstanding role model to so many young people, and for him to make a connection between sport and poetry is the true spirit of the early Olympics.”
Carol Ann Duffy’s quote alludes to the almost forgotten Olympic Art Contests, which were part of the Games between 1912 and 1948—the year London hosted the Summer Games. The Art Contests boasted five categories: architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture.
Finland’s Aale Tynni took home the Gold for Lyric works in the London Games; she was the last winner of the title. The International Olympic Committee decided to abandon the Art Games in 1949 and opted for art exhibitions instead. These Olympic Art Festivals began in 1952 and have continued ever since.
Mother Tongue Other Tongue regional events and competitions are taking place throughout 2014, for more information visit:
In Search Of The Lost Champions Of The Olympic Art Contests by Bernhard Kramer:
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