A HARD-hitting poetry project for young people in Keighley has been adopted by major new arts initiative The LEAP.

Keighley poet Simon Pickles will deliver REALITY (Rhymes Equal Actual Life in the Youth) as one of the first projects with the 10-year LEAP programme.

Simon, who runs the Spoken Worth poetry group in Keighley, will lead workshops with groups of marginalised youths, who will listen to incredible spoken word performances, share their experiences, then transform them into poems of their own.

REALITY is one of four projects planned for Keighley by The LEAP, which are due to go ahead once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, and aim to encourage ‘community-led culture’ while develop a new pool of creative leaders.

In Keighley the projects will include a children’s trail at Cliffe Castle Park, a photography project amongst women and girls, a mural at Project 6 drug and alcohol service, and arts workshops in Bracken Bank.

Spoken Worth was established last year by Simon, and is one of the only alcohol-free spoken word events in Yorkshire, attracting talent from first-time readers to 50-year-old veterans of performance poetry.

Simon wanted to build on this with REALITY, teaming under-pressure teenagers with cutting-edge professional writers to write hard-hitting poems about their lives.

Before the lockdown stopped activities, REALITY was due to involve poets Phil Pearce, an anti knife crime activist, hip-hop artist Lence, and Toria Garbutt who supports iconic poet John Cooper Clarke.

A series of one-day workshops will culminate in a final performance at Keighley Creative Space, which provides workshop and gallery space for artists in the former Sunwin House Whole story Hanover Street.

Simon said: “REALITY aims to engage the disaffected youth in Keighley using poetry/spoken word as a vehicle to express the struggles they face growing up in Keighley.”

Simon knows the power of poetry after writing rhymes to help turn his own life around and conquer an addiction to alcohol. Encouraged to write poetry as part of his therapy, he went on to start performing around West Yorkshire.

Simon said: “This helped me to understand my mental health problems better as a lot of my poetry is self-reflective. It’s helping me overcome bad anxiety. It’s the best therapy I’ve ever found.”

Visit theleapbradford.co.uk for further information about the local projects.