Thameslink launches poetry competition to get kids' imaginations back on track

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Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has launched a national poetry competition in partnership with Children’s Laureate, Joseph Coelho.

Open for six weeks, the competition aims to encourage children’s creativity and reduce screen time by tasking young people to write a short poem about somewhere they love to visit by train.

With 80% of parents wishing they could keep kids entertained on the train without the help of tech, the competition is a perfect distraction for the Easter school holidays; especially as only one in five families (20 per cent) are now playing traditional travel games such as I Spy.

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To enter the competition, children aged between 5 and 13-years-old simply need to write a short poem about somewhere they love to visit by train, or think others should visit by train, on the Southern, Great Northern or Thameslink network. With a rail network spanning 11 counties, there are hundreds of great destinations to choose from.

Children's Laureate and author, Joseph CoelhoChildren's Laureate and author, Joseph Coelho
Children's Laureate and author, Joseph Coelho

With the help of Children’s Laureate, Joseph Coelho, 10 lucky winners will have their poems displayed on trains and at stations across the GTR network, so they can be read and admired by travellers far-and-wide. They will also receive complementary return rail travel for themselves and four family members, perfect for a summer adventure!

To provide inspiration to young, budding poets, Joseph Coelho has written his own piece, titled ‘To Hastings We Go!’ and inspired by a family’s exciting trip to Hastings on a train.

Joseph Coelho, who will be judging the winning entries, said: “Poetry is a wonderful way to get children exploring their innate creativity and their voice, helping them to see that their words have power. One of my earliest memories of writing is during a poetry competition when I was twelve years old, so I am truly looking forward to reading the entries. I encourage the youngsters who get involved in GTR’s poetry competition to have fun with it and good luck to all who enter.”

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When it comes to keeping children entertained when travelling by train, many parents opt for tech-based gadgets such as tablets (e.g., iPads) (32 per cent), phones (25 per cent), and gaming devices (e.g., Nintendo Switch’s) (19 per cent). GTR is hoping that by launching the competition, they will be able to support parents and carers in getting children off screens whilst on the train – putting their creativity and imagination to the test.

On the competition, Jenny Saunders, Customer Services Director at GTR said: “Travelling by train is a great way to entertain kids, as the journey becomes part of the experience, but as a mother myself, I know how hard it can be to keep children occupied when on the move. This poetry competition is a fantastic distraction aimed at sparking children’s creativity. We hope to inspire young explorers to take on an adventure by train this summer, with our far-reaching network that helps open the door to more!”

Submissions are open now and close 23:59, 10 May 2024. Poems will be judged by Govia Thameslink Railway and Joseph Coelho based on: language and structure; theme; creativity; and uniqueness and inspiration. Winners will be contacted between 3-14 June before the official announcement on 24 June.

To enter GTR’s Poetry in Motion competition and view full T&C’s, visit:

‘To Hastings We Go!’ by Joseph Coelho

To Hastings we go,

to Hastings we go.

Where smugglers

tell tales from long, long ago.

Antiques line the streets

from the pebbly shore.

Where art makes us think

and arcades galore.

To Hastings we go,

to Hastings we go,

back in 1066

what a royal show!

King Harold defeated

"Yikes what a blow!"

Shame he didn't see

that naughty arrow.

To Hastings we go,

to Hastings we go,

take a funicular ride

"Look out below!"

Go-karts whizz

by the swishing sea.

Candy floss, rock -

fish and chips for me.

To Hastings we go,

to Hastings we go,

a daytrip by train

little did we know...

So much to discover

on the southern shore

just my family and me

and a whole coast to explore.