The latest poet has been hailed as ’a breath of fresh air’ after he was officially named as the seventh Manx Bard.

Owen Atkinson was handed the ceremonial robes and staff of the Manx Bard at the naming event, held on Sunday afternoon, after reading out two of his submitted poems, ’Through An Evening Sky’ and ’Traa Dy Liooar’.

He came out on top of a very closely-contested field of poets and writers, described by the bardic committee as one of the most difficult decisions they have had to make since the position of the bard was revived in 2014.

More than 23 local writers applied and the shortlist contained several well-known and published performance poets and authors, including Maire Stephens, Usha Kishore, Jane Glover, Liz Boakes and Lorna Smith.

At 24 years old, he is the youngest writer to hold the title of the Manx Bard and he said that, for a young poet who is just finding his voice, it is an exciting position to be in.

’Its one of the things I put forward in my initial application,’ said Owen.

’My youthful spirit and the spark and drive of a young person is behind my poetry. I think it makes it quite exciting.’

Owen said he was inspired to put himself forward for the position of the Manx Bard after prompting from friends and fellow writers.

He returned to the island after graduating from Bristol University, where he studied French and Spanish.

He threw himself into the island’s arts and creative scene, writing and working alongside fellow writers and local musicians, which he credits with giving him the encouragement to push and develop his own poetry.

’The Manx Bard was something that, once I seriously looked at, it was something that I just decided it was something that I could do, and do some good with,’ he said.

’I actually had been thinking about it for a little while. I had met a couple of the other bards and had seen them around. I had also been aware of the position and what it entailed for a little while.

’My application talked about my involvement with the island’s creative community, especially after coming back to the island from university.

’I Initially felt like a failure because I never thought I would be coming back to the Isle of Man, but the creative arts scene here, with the people involved with the music, my fellow creatives, it has become my life now and has kept me on the island.

Owen is no stranger to performing live, regularly taking part in poetry open mic events and also developing his flamboyant drag persona ’Fenella Beach’, which has become a recognisable part of the island’s Pride movement.

’My drag persona is all part of the same thing to me,’ he said.

’It’s a way of getting my feelings out and expressing myself.

The drag scene and the Pride movement is something that poetry can be connected to, just like within music.

’It creates spaces where people wouldn’t necessarily expect poetry to exist. There are lots of places where poetry can be mixed in and used as a viable part of whatever is going on. So I don’t see why I can’t mix drag and poetry in the role of the Manx Bard.

’The role of the bard can be shaped into what you want it to be.

’I know that I’m not going to write in the same style as the other bards, but each bard is, by definition, different and we are all free to take in which direction we want it to go.

’But I love being able to be on a stage and be able to share a message and my words with other people.

’Every writer and creative wants that and this role, in particular, is another platform I’m very grateful for.’

The Manx Bardic committee paid tribute to the previous Bard, Zoe Cannell for her extended tenure as the sixth bard.

’Zoë has been an absolute trooper,’ said Bridge Carter, chair of the committee.

’She has worked tirelessly through her tenure regardless of the pandemic and the passing of her mother.

’I know that all our bards will continue to highlight all the wonderful things that make our island and our heritage unique and spectacular.’