Children are being encouraged by a rail operator in Hertfordshire to get creative this Easter holiday.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which runs the Great Northern and Thameslink services, has launched a national poetry competition in partnership with the 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.

To enter the competition, children aged between five and 13-years-old simply need to write a poem between 50 to 150 words long about somewhere they love to visit by train, or think others should visit by train, on the Southern, Great Northern or Thameslink network.

With the help of Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho, ten 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.

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.

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.”

The Comet: Children's poet Joseph Coelho will help select the 10 winning poems.Children's poet Joseph Coelho will help select the 10 winning poems. (Image: GTR / Peter Alvey)

When it comes to keeping children entertained when travelling by train, many parents opt for tech-based gadgets such as tablets, iPads, phones and gaming devices.

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 at 23.59 on May 10, 2024.

Poems will be judged by Govia Thameslink Railway and Joseph Coelho based on criteria including language, structure and theme.

Winners will be contacted between June 3-14 before the official announcement on June 24.

The Comet: The poetry competition is open until 10 May 2024.The poetry competition is open until 10 May 2024. (Image: GTR / Peter Alvey)


Children's Spring Poetry Competition - Poetry in Motion with Joseph Coelho

To enter GTR’s Poetry in Motion competition and view full T&C’s, visit:


‘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.