Youth Advisory Board

Introducing our new Youth Advisory Board!

Our new youth advisory board members, aged between 16 and 25, will be helping us in our mission to build a better world with words.

The board will play a key role in shaping the future of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature as we place young people at the forefront of the organisation and continue to advocate for accessibility, diversity, and inclusion.

But who are our new board members? We asked them to introduce themselves in their own words.

Connor Brown Youth Advisory Board MemberConnor Brown

I am 19 and I have been in Nottingham all my life. I started writing when I was 13 and I have been through many stages with my writing. I now use writing as a way of expressing myself in a way I don’t feel capable of with normal words. I write in a wide range of genres around many different topics, the main thing I write is poetry around heartbreak and mental health. Outside of the world of words I really enjoy playing football and listening to music, I am pretty much always found listening to music.

Growing up I was really into reading Manga, especially the Yu-Gi-Oh! series. For me reading is a way of escaping reality and moving into a completely different world for a while, the best part about this is there are so many different worlds out there to escape to. Writing can take so many different forms whether that be on a page, in a song or even as the backbone of a film/video. I feel as though my writing is heavily influenced by the music I listen to, artists such as Witt Lowry and Mokita are so poetic in the way they write and deliver their work.


Emani Francis Youth Advisory Board Member Emani Francis

I am excited to join the Nottingham Literature Youth Advisory Board, as I have always been passionate about the importance of reading and am looking forward to contributing towards projects that make reading accessible to everyone. I grew up in Kuwait but have lived in many countries since then, including South Korea, America and now Nottingham, England. Moving around, I got to experience many different cultures and turned to books to learn more about the world. I now study Journalism at Nottingham College, as I also have a keen interest in Politics and the media. However, in my free time I enjoy more creative outlets, such as cooking and painting.

Growing up in Kuwait there were no real public libraries or creative programmes outside of school, which is why I heavily relied on book fairs and class reading time to discover my passion for reading. I had a very active imagination as a child, and I originally began reading to escape into mythical worlds that break the boundaries of reality. I have always seen reading as a way to experience life through alternative perspectives, and now enjoy reading thought-provoking books that make me question myself and the world around me.

A book that I deeply connected with is ‘Sex and Lies’ by journalist Leila Slimani, which confronts conservative sex laws experienced by Moroccan women, told from their own perspectives. Their accounts resonate with young women around the world and Leila Slimani gives an important voice to those who may normally be silenced.


Joe Hood Youth Advisory Board Member Joe Hood

I was born on the 26th of June 2004 in Nottingham city hospital and went to Mapperley plains primary school. I joined Arnold hill academy and have recently begun to attend their sixth form studying Philosophy and Ethics, Geography and Product design. I am one of the longest standing members of the Nottingham East Midlands writing group having been there right from the start. The writing group gave me opportunities to grow as a person and develop my own writing much further than I ever could have imagined. My main hobbies include writing and playing guitar which has grown to be one of my favourite pastimes within the last year.

For the most part I read as a form of distraction, I’ve recently found it to be a great way to pass the time in current circumstances. There are several writers who have influenced me, such as Steven Fry, I found his combination of witty humour and excellent language to be entertaining in his books Mythos and Heroes. Within poetry two of my greatest inspirations and influences must be Jim Hall and Maresa Mackeith. Both of them played a major role in keeping me going in my early days of writing. They have offered support on numerous occasions (Jim leading the Nottingham Writing group I’ve been a part of for many years). They can both be attributed to my current involvement in writing and how huge a part of my life it has become.

"I'm excited to share my love of writing with more young people"


Abigail Hutchinson Youth Advisory Board Member Abigail Hutchinson

Hey :), As a writer I spend a lot of time fictionalising characters and telling their stories instead of my own, but I’ll give it a shot. I’m Abigail, I’m 17 and I have been writing poetry since the age of around 9. Writing not only allows me to express my anger for inequality and injustice in a way that may benefit others but also gives me access to literature I would otherwise struggle to understand.

I have been asked the question of why I read many times in my life and I always answer it honestly. I read now because I never saw value in it growing up. As a child I always struggled with the concept of sitting down and escaping reality through other people words when you could just use your own. However, as I have grown older I have become aware of the value of reading. An author who showed me this was Sara Barnard who was actually shortlisted for the big city reads project created in Nottingham in the summer of 2019. Her book fierce fragile hearts allowed me to feel less alone in a time of mental isolation and opened my eyes to the harsh and necessary reality of teenage mental health issues.

"From poet to performer; I found my voice through literature and hope my involvement within the youth advisory board will allow me to help others find theirs"


Zach Omitowoju Youth Advisory Board Member Zach Omitowoju

Joining the Nottingham City of Literature Youth Advisory Board is an honour because it means I now get share Nottingham’s literary history (and a passion of mine) with even more people, and from a cultural perspective as well. As I have experience in the world of literature, I look forward to seeing how we can expand this to more people withing our community as well and have fun doing so!

Reading has definitely helped me cope with taking or reducing my thought impact, on life’s problems. I love different types of books, but I would say I read humorous, mysterious and romantic books the most. The realisation of my decreased stress levels also makes me happy as I am doing what I love and finding it relaxing simultaneously. It has definitely improved my reading, by myself and publicly, my spelling and my overall vocabulary.

In terms of memorisation as well, I find that I am able to remember a lot more and often enjoy the anticipation whenever I take a pause from reading. The memorisation is a good, long-term skill which has proven useful to me in the workplace. I love that there is also a good chance that I might learn a new word anytime I pick up a new book.


Nidaa Raoof Youth Advisory Board Member Nidaa Raoof

Hi, I’m Nidaa. I am a former first story writer. My work has been published in five anthologies and I was a Rathbones Folio Prize mentee. I also made an instagram poetry account @worlds_to_come. I write because it’s an escape from the real world and an excellent way to look after mental health.

As a member of the youth advisory board I hope to bring ideas which will improve how writing is seen by young people in Nottingham. I want to explore different ways of encouraging writing and help provide opportunities in writing for as many individuals as possible.

I LOVE reading! Alongside writing and art, it is another world to dive into and ‘hide’ from stress or worries. There are many great writers who have influenced me in many ways! My First Story writers, Jim Hall & Ioney Smallhorne, influenced my work greatly. They developed my writing to a level where I became confident enough to revolve my work around themes I am passionate about, like climate change, animals, art & people’s emotions.

Lucy Caldwell was my Rathbones Folio Prize mentor who introduced me to new things such as theatre & sharing poetry to the public. She gave me the idea to create my Instagram poetry account and introduced me to Jan Carson who writes postcard short stories.

My favourite books are Little Women & Black Beauty! Philip Pullman is my all time favourite author because he has such a heart-warming tone and is simply epic!

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