This is a headshot of a woman who is looking at the camera. She is smiling and is wearing long, sparkly earrings. Her skin is brown, and she has a shaved head and is wearing a black shirt.

Shirley May – Board Member.

Shirley May was elected as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2020. Shirley May has performed predominately in the North West, nationally and internationally, appearing at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York and the Calabash writing festival in Jamaica.

She is the director of Young Identity writing collective, which primarily works with 13-25 year-olds. Young Identity works in partnership with Contact Theatre, HOME and MIF. Shirley believes her role is to make both performance and page poetry accessible to young people in Manchester.

She has worked for 18 years to promote a culture around performance poetry to make it “cool” and happening by mentoring and supporting new writers in schools and community groups. Shirley and her team of young writers and mentors believe that the voice of young people in writing is as valid as adult writers. She seeks to free “de inna voice”. Shirley is featured in anthologies by Suitcase Press, and Crocus Books and her first poetry collection, She Wrote Her Own Eulogy, has been published by Wrecking Ball Press.

What expertise do you bring to the board?

‘I have been working as an international performer for over 20 years and it is this depth of experience that has granted me a sound knowledge of the arts industry and project management of creative arts and community projects. Specialising in engagement and community workshop development through engagement for young writers in Manchester, I work to promote writers who would be marginalised without support.’

What excites you about IOU – why are you a board member?

‘I love their innovation and experience making live shows and contemporary art installations – both thoughtful and beautiful and really considers community and how Community can be involved in making art.’

Tell us about a cultural experience, past or present that has inspired you the most.

‘In 2019 I worked with Manchester International Festival to produce a new piece of work that included poetry and dance it was one of the most inspirational pieces of work that I’ve been involved with with some beautiful intelligent scholars of poetry who created a wonderful dynamic dance and poetry extravaganza.’