TO celebrate the Year of Young People, every week in 2018 The National is giving a platform to a different young Scot. This week, 19-year-old Rumaisa Zubairi

STANDING outside the Scottish Poetry Library earlier this year, I felt a little nervous. I still couldn’t believe that Jackie Kay, the Makar, was inside and that I would be meeting her soon. She would no longer be the name written at the end of powerful, moving and thought-provoking pieces of poetry, but an in-the-flesh person! And not only that, she would shortly be reading my writing, too!

My sister and I soon ventured inside and the first thing I noticed was the warm embrace of books. The SPL is a cosy, inviting library and the tug of the books was irresistible. As I browsed the shelves I was soon joined by others. Young people from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Coatbridge and even Orkney had all congregated here, joined by a deep desire to write.

And write we did. Lindsey from Young Scot and Jackie were wonderful – guiding us with ideas, advice and feedback. As we wrote, we had great fun. Some of us identified as writers while some of us were just there to explore what it means to write. It was truly beautiful listening to everyone’s poems and discovering how the same prompt could elicit such different pieces of writing. Sharing our work brought us closer as a group and after a few hours, we couldn’t believe we had started the day as strangers.

As the day progressed, we came to a realisation that we would like to create a group poem on the theme of place. Questions like “what is home?”, “what does it mean to belong?”, “what’s my place in society, in the world?” are issues that young people often think about so it was a nice opportunity for us to reflect on these. Although we came from diverse backgrounds, we all at least had one thing in common – our love for Scotland as a place, a home.

Eventually we had a poem we all felt proud of – a poem about belonging, uncertainty and acceptance. Now all we had to do was perform it.

And so we met again, last night, at the SEC for the Young Scot Awards. It was a place of colour, energy and the best of vibes. Not only was the hall packed, but the excitement and emotion in the air was almost tangible – the air was buzzing. We were all here to celebrate, to appreciate and to show recognition for the young people who make Scotland the wonderful place it is.

Standing on stage, together, with all the young people who wrote this poem was a wonderful experience. Speaking the words aloud revealed hidden layers of nuance in the language and made the message of our writing seem all the more important.

I’m so grateful to Young Scot and Jackie Kay, who took our poetry seriously and gave us the opportunity to celebrate our writing by performing in front of a keen audience. Standing there together, speaking in unison, we realised: writing is our place.