You may recall our feature about Paperchains, the project that allows those who have experience of prison, homelessness or the armed forces to share poetry, art, fiction or factual journal entries, providing a creative outlet to help people cope.

After the second UK lockdown, Paperchains turned the spotlight on the work of young people, including armed forces families. One of those youngsters was James Lesinski, now 18, whose dad is in the army. He wrote a poem about revision stress and the feeling of having exams cancelled during the pandemic.

Paperchains has gone from strength to strength and earlier this year, it appeared at Hay Literary Festival, which drew such names as Benedict Cumberbatch, Lenny Henry, Stephen Fry (who featured in the Paperchains play performed earlier this year) and Anthony Horowitz.

The piece that closed the show, read aloud to a packed audience, was written by James. He recalls: “It was so overwhelming to see a poem I wrote performed at such a large event of such status. It was amazing to see how far my writing could go. One of the audience members even came up to me afterwards and asked me for my autograph! And one of my teachers also came all the way just to see the poem performed.

“I think the Paperchains project is one of the most important creative projects out there because it brings together almost every unheard voice and talent into the limelight. It’s given me support as a service child by allowing me to show off my creative talent to a wider audience.”

James has just started his degree at university where, not surprisingly, he’s studying English Language, and he continues to be involved in Paperchains. “I am constantly keeping them updated with my more recent poetic works,” he says.

The project has become an acclaimed success, drawing support from the likes of Martina Cole, Man Booker author Stephen Kelman, Cressida Cowell, Dragon’s Den’s Piers Linney and many more. You can find out more at  

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