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Children's poet, Joseph Coelho, is encouraging kids to get creative this Easter. More images below.
Children's poet, Joseph Coelho, is encouraging kids to get creative this Easter. More images below.

Press release -

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

  • UK’s largest rail operator has teamed up with Children’s Laureate, Joseph Coelho, to launch poetry competition ahead of Easter holidays
  • Competition follows research that reveals 80% of parents wish there were more ways to keep their kids occupied when travelling, without relying on tech¹
  • 10 winning poems will be displayed at stations and on trains across the Govia Thameslink Railway network

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%) are now playing traditional travel games such as I Spy.¹

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.

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.² They will also receive complimentary 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!’; inspired by a family’s exciting trip to Hastings on a train (full poem in appendix).

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.”

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%), phones (25%), and gaming devices (e.g., Nintendo Switch’s) (19%).¹ 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 criteria including language, structure and theme (full selection criteria in appendix). 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: Southern - Poetry in motion (, Thameslink - Poetry in motion ( or Great Northern - Poetry in motion (

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Notes to Editors

  • Check before travelling this Easter – find the latest travel information on the Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern websites, including information about planned engineering works and upcoming industrial action.
  • ¹Research conducted by Govia Thameslink Railway and Opinium in March 2024 among 471 UK parents of children aged 0-13 years old.
  • ²Poems will be displayed on digital screens on GTR trains where possible, and at selected train stations across its network.

About Joseph Coelho

Joseph Coelho is a best-selling, multi-award winning children’s playwright and author of over 40 books. He writes across several mediums for children including stage plays, picture books, non-fiction and middle grade. His The Boy Lost in The Maze is currently short-listed for the Carnegie Medal and has received international acclaim appearing on the White Raven Book list - Munich, The IBBY UK Honour Books List and awarded The Extraordinary Book of 2023 by The International Children's Literature Festival of Berlin. Joseph is currently the Waterstone's Children’s Laureate 2022 - 2024.

‘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.

Selection Criteria

  • Language and Structure: The poem should demonstrate creative use of language and structure (25%)
  • Theme: The poem should clearly identify a location on or near (less than 10km away from) the Govia Thameslink Railway network (25%)
  • Creativity and Uniqueness: The poem should convey an emotive and entertaining message, where the writer’s voice clearly comes through (25%)
  • Inspiration: the poem should inspire the wider public to visit the location described in the poem (25%)



For more information, contact the press office on 0203 750 2031.

Govia Thameslink Railway

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services as follows:

  • Thameslink – cross-London services between Bedford/Peterborough/Cambridge and Brighton/Horsham/East Grinstead, and between Luton/St Albans and Sutton/Wimbledon/Rainham; plus services between London and Sevenoaks
  • Great Northern – services between London and Welwyn, Hertford, Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn
  • Southern – services between London and the Sussex coast (Brighton, Worthing, Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Hastings) and parts of Surrey, Kent and Hampshire (Ashford International, Southampton, Portsmouth)
  • Gatwick Express – fast, non-stop direct services between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria,,,

Govia Thameslink Railway
United Kingdom