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My London Story: Poems on the Buses poetry competition

We made a call out for poems to celebrate the BBC centenary. Now we have our winners!

A teenage girl stands looking at her poem on a plaque at a London bus stop.

Zaynab and her winning poem

'A slideshow of London' is ready for Londoners to read on their journeys.

Some amazing entries

In July we launched a poetry competition for young Londoners to share their best short poem on the theme of a London bus journey, in partnership with BBC100 and Transport for London.

We are delighted that Zaynab, aged 15 and from Tower Hamlets, was chosen as the winning young poet by our judges Raymond Antrobus and Cecilia Knapp. Look out for her poem ‘A slideshow of London’ that will be displayed at London bus stops from Mile End to Paddington from National Poetry Day on 6 October until the end of November along a bus route chosen by Zaynab.

Read the winner - 'A slideshow of London' by Zaynab

I tap then beep. She taps then beeps. He does a tap then beeps. Like a rhythm we’ve all memorised

Ultramarine Blue, Blinding Red and Friendly Yellow smirk as I

Run, leap to the backseat

Twisting the Friendly Yellow poles

Before the bus driver competes in the Grand Prix

The scratched, smeared window - my lenses - to see a slideshow of London

As I sit higher than the peasant cars, I ask you to

Show me the plethora of fruits showcased in the market stalls

Show me the elderly woman trudging with her trolley case, back from her trek in Iceland

Let me sympathise over the people that sprint towards - The doors that swish shut

Suddenly you wheeze and turn - reminding us of the ceiling handles swinging like a pendulum

Eternally neglected

Then the deafening teenagers clamber on the top deck of the bus. Superior.

Then the metallic smell writhes into my nose, snaking through the crevice in the window

Then he hops on to chat jubilantly with his mother, pram shifting in its tiny area

A satisfying click

Blinding Red

The culprit who ended the presentation

Download 'A slideshow of London'

Zaynab's winning poem will join the Museum of London’s collection, along with three poems by runners-up Sophie, aged 11, Iqra, and Xixi, both aged 15. All four poems will be included in a zine to be produced by the Museum of London next year.

Stories from London's children

The Poems on the Buses competition is part of My London Story – a landmark project by the Museum of London to capture the unique histories of London’s children, past, present and future. My London Story is a Museum of London project for BBC 100, celebrating the broadcaster’s centenary in 2022.

My London Story: Poems on the Buses is inspired by stories and objects from the BBC Archives and the museum’s collections, and how bus journeys connect people to their city, their communities, and their sense of identity.

Inspired by stories of bus journeys made by the BBC, including Contrasts: Marble Arch to Edgware, from 1968, and To The World’s End: Scenes and Characters on a London Bus Route, from 1985 the competition encouraged young Londoners to share their experiences of navigating their city.

Read the runner up - 'A journey of two halves' by Sophie

Heart pounding
Stroll along
Legs running
Have a chat
Just in time
Time to spare
I’m on the bus
I’m on the bus

Heart pounding
Excitement rising
Out of breath
Rumbling along
“Where’s a seat?”
“Where’s a seat?”
I guess I’ll stand
Over there!

Found a seat
Found a seat
Halfway there
Halfway there
Someone faster
Seat is mine
I guess I’ll stand
Now relax

Same old journey
Different journey
Same old sights
Different sights
Halfway there
Halfway there
Hurry up!
Having fun!

Gonna be late?
Time to spare
Too much traffic
Enjoy the trip
Hurry up!
Slow down…
Finally! My bus stop
I’m where I need to be

Download 'A journey of two halves'

Read the runner up - 'Riding through time' by Iqra

Outside the familiar corner shop, my mum and I would wait at the bus station

Hand in hand

In thick coats and gloves

Waiting for next grumbling sound of the red block bus approaching us,

to save us from the sharp cold

There would be a long queue of rhythmic beeping

As tall grown ups tapped their Oyster Cards

We’d almost always pick a seat at the back, especially if there were two

Even if my organs vibrated in the heavy shaking

Like plane turbulence, like the waves even

The vibration would rise but then crash down when the bus moved again

My mum pulled out a small white crumpled paper bag from her backpack

Which sounded every time a mini chocolate cup would move

The chocolate sat comfortably inside a vibrantly coloured foiled cup

I separated the foil and placed a chocolate in my mouth, maybe even two or three

And they melted as I held the foil in my hand

And tilted it in all angles in front of me as I tried to figure out how I could use it

In some artistic way

I would look outside only to realise that we were at the stop outside my aunt’s house

I would get the much loved privilege to press the red square button as the bus halted.

Download 'Riding through time'

Read the runner up - 'One time' by Xixi

One time I sat on the bus,

travelling miles to see my grandma.

The red lines on the map connected us.

Another time I took the bus to school,

The day was bright and roads were smooth.

On the way back I waited,

for the red bus to come and take me home.

Last night I visited her in hospital.

While the sun hasn’t yet moved,

The bus in new red paint drove me there,

sent my love and renewed my hope.

Again I sat on the bus,

the familiar streets appeared and passed.

From the early morning until dusk,

The red bus carried many of us,

with our longings, full of love.

Download 'One time'

Judging the competition

The competition was judged by Raymond Antrobus and Cecilia Knapp. Raymond is an award-winning poet, educator and spoken-word artist. Born in Hackney to an English mother and Jamaican father, his work draws on his lived experience as a Londoner and as a d/Deaf person. Cecilia is a poet, playwright and novelist and the Young People’s Laureate for London.

“It was such a joy to judge this competition. Reading about the bus journeys of young Londoners was more than that, it was reading about their lives. That’s what I love about poetry; it’s a window showing us all the different and magical parts of the world.

That’s why I think it’s so important that young people feel entitled to occupy the exciting space of poetry. It gives us an opportunity to see through their true lens, in their own voices, on their own terms, and that is a valuable contribution to the world.”
Cecilia Knapp

See the film that launched the competition, featuring poet and competition judge Raymond Antrobus and see if it inspires any stories of journeys for you too!

My London Story: Poems on the Buses is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.