Secret ode: Children’s poetry appears across Hoxton in unexpected places

A poem projected in a railway tunnel. Photograph: Tom Oldham

If you go down to Hoxton today, you’re sure of a big surprise. Poems by children are springing up in cafes, on walls, at bus stops and even on pets’ collars.

The verses are all written by local kids aged between eight and 15 who have been taking part in literacy charity Ministry of Stories’ free Community Writing Labs.

Over 50 poems have been installed throughout the area, with some making a fleeting appearance and others designed to be found throughout spring.

David’s creation has been lasered onto breadsticks, Sabine has hidden hers in a library book, Anah’s is being projected onto the wall of a railway tunnel and Marcel’s is pinned to the collar of local dog Cotton.

Twelve-year-old Keira said she was “proud” to see her writing out in the world: “People are going to see that, it might make their day. I’m excited to see what people are going to think.”

She added: “First I thought I wasn’t that good at poetry – it wasn’t really my thing or maybe that I wasn’t good at it – but I’ve gained a lot of confidence and have shared a lot with the mentors.

“I can definitely write a lot more poems now. Not only that, I can take feedback and improve.”

The youngsters have been meeting online every week since last autumn, and have had three sessions in which they explored place, persona and protest and tried their hand at these different styles.

They then spent some time thinking about how they wanted people to experience their work before picking out locations.

Ministry of Stories director Rob Smith said: “These poems will stop people in their tracks and encourage them to pause for a moment. Despite numerous challenges and having to work online, our writers have approached this project with so much hope and optimism.”

He also thanked the community around Hoxton Street, adding: “So many local businesses and organisations across our neighbourhood have come together to support this project and bring it to life.”

Local design agency make:good helped out with the idea, with director George Koutas calling it a “truly joyful endeavour”.

He said: “We always learn a lot from our work designing with children and young people – their ideas and unfiltered feedback challenged us to reconnect with our most imaginative and zany selves. They’ve certainly kept us on our toes finding a happy medium between the scale of their ideas and what’s actually possible to make in real life!”

Ministry of Stories is currently recruiting for its Community Writing Labs. Children must be aged 8-15 and attend a school in Hoxton. Find out more at