Words that Burn – Amnesty International and the Cheltenham Literature Festival

A new national poetry and human rights education project, Words that Burn, from Amnesty International is working in partnership with Cheltenham Literature Festival, supported by leading UK poets and spoken word artists including Inja, Sarah Crossan, Amy Leon, Sabrina Mahfouz and Hollie McNish.

Developed with the support of Lord Saatchi and The Poetry Hour, and in partnership with Cheltenham Festivals, the free teaching resource will help secondary school students explore human rights and express themselves through poetry. Each term Amnesty will provide information about an individual who has had their human rights violated. Students will be able to have their solidarity or protest poems sent to the individual or the relevant authority by Amnesty, so their literary creations can have direct impact and contribute to human rights change. Engaging with classical and contemporary poems and exploring spoken word performances, Words That Burn aims to help young people discover that their voice matters and their words can make a difference.

There’s also interview time with the project’s ambassadors, including top poets Keith Jarrett, Sarah Crossan, Inja, Amy Leon and Sabrina Mahfouz, who are famed for their works that speak out for basic human rights – from Keith Jarrett’s A Gay Poem, to Inja’s Freedom which wasinspired by two of the most prominent campaigners against the Transatlantic Slave Trade, mixed with his own experiences – and have each recorded Make a Difference in a Minute poems for the project.

When solo Inja provides the ‘Page to a Rave’ show where anything goes from poetry, reggae, hiphop, grime, drum and bass and anything that brings vibes. As well as running creative writing workshops, appearing at poetry events around the UK, Inja hosts for the DMC World Championships, the legendary Dj Die and his two time Redbull Cultureclash winning Gutterfunk label and is a regular feature with hip hop reggae-inspired Dj Vadim.

Sabrina Mahfouz was raised in London and Cairo. Her work includes the plays Chef, With a Little Bit of Luck, Clean, Battleface and the love i feel is red; the poetry collection How You Might Know Me; the literary anthology The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write and the BBC shows Breaking the Code, Railway Nation: A Journey In Verse and We Are Here. She received a Fringe First Award for Chef and won a Sky Arts Academy Poetry Award.


Amnesty International do such an amazing job standing up for infringed human rights around the world and Cheltenham Festivals are proud to help instil the importance of this work in the next generation. The Words that Burn project not only educates children about those that don’t enjoy the freedoms they might, it also builds their confidence in their own words and the importance of using that power to help others. They will each produce poetic works based around Amnesty International cases which will be sent to the persecuted and the authorities responsible.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s