Manx Youth Bard: Xander Shirtliff

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Congratulations to Xander Shirtliff who recently won the accolade of becoming the Manx Youth Bard for 2020. 

I always get this wonderful feeling of admiration hearing stories compiled by such young poets but  Xander’s  poem magically brought to life a thrilling battle of Vikings.

- Bridge Carter

We caught up with Xander about what it's like to win the title and what he hopes to do with the role over the coming year.

Q. Tell us about yourself.

I am 15 years old and in Year 11 at Ballakermeen High School. I play violin, harp and piano and I’m in the Manx Youth Orchestra. I enjoy singing, and I played Zac in A Chorus Line at school in November. In the sailing season I sail every week and in my free time I mostly read.

Q. How did you first get into poetry?

In primary school we had to write poems and I enjoyed it enough to write a few, encouraged by my parents.

Q. What inspires you?

I get excited by history, and I read a lot of fantasy, and my poems often reflect this. I also draw inspiration from nature, particularly when I’m out walking my dog, Felix.

Q. What made you decide to enter the competition?

I wasn’t originally going to enter but after being persuaded by my parents I decided to give it a shot and see what happened.

Q. Why do you think having a Manx Youth Bard is important?

It makes the culture of this island more accessible to young people as they can relate better to someone nearer their own age. Hopefully it will encourage more young people to write poetry.

Q. How did you feel when you won?

I was in shock! I couldn’t really believe it as I’d come to the conclusion in my head that one of the other contestants, who had more experience writing than I had, would win.

Q. What do you hope to do with your role as Manx Youth Bard over the coming year?

I hope to go into some primary schools after I’ve finished my GCSEs this year, read some of my poetry and encourage young people to write poems. I also plan to put some poems to music and one of my main challenges will be to write a three-part saga of Beowolf as a poem.

Image from the Bree Folk Weekend in October 2019 organised by Culture Vannin.

Bridge Carter

I’m really excited about the year ahead, Xander put on a fabulous performance for the judges, he even turned up with his own staff and wearing a cape.  He threw himself in the role wholeheartedly, reciting his poem “The Battle of Sky Hill”.  A total wow clinching him first place.

Runners up Esther Walters and Rhian Ashton were jointly placed this year, a second time for Esther who again beat off such stiff competition, the judges found it just too difficult to choose between them due to their fabulous performances and both will now support Xander at upcoming Bard events. 

I really can’t wait to see Xander in action with all the other Bards working together this year, bringing all their  poetry to life.  We had such an amazing collection last year, Holly our 2019 Manx Youth Bard, who was often supported by 2019 runner up Esther Walters, addressed many topical issues both close to home and around the world.

The Manx Bard Project

The Manx Bard + Youth Bard are initiatives brought about by accomplished Manx poet and creator, Bridge Carter. After winning the 2012 Manx Literature Festival Poetry Slam, Bridge stated how the event took her on a rollercoaster of other creative and poetic paths which included moving on to work behind the scenes of the Poetry Slam to paving the way for the idea of The Manx Bard in 2014.

The Youth Bard seemed like a natural progression of the project. Our island has a special relationship with poetry and storytelling and there has been a major resurgence in the art form in recent years particularly with our younger generation.

-Bridge Carter

For more information on how you can get involved in the Manx Youth Bard, you can email

The Manx Bard + Youth Bard projects are sponsored by the Isle of Man Arts Council with support from Culture Vannin, Year of Our Island, Shoprite and Bridge Bookshop in conjunction with Manx Literature Festival.

A sponsored body of
The Department of Education, Sport and Culture
Rheynn Ynsee, Spoyrt as Cultoor
Isle of Man Government
Reiltys Ellan Vannin
Isle of man Government