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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Mum’s home town inspired poetry

A WOMAN with a Whitehaven-born mother and a Lebanese father is counting her success in a People on the Move poetry competition with her two entries: Landing and Whitehaven.

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Winner: Claudine Toutoungi

By Margaret Crosby

Claudine Toutoungi, 38, who is the daughter of Jennifer Toutoungi (née McCumiskey), who attended Whitehaven Grammar, has won second place in the contest run by COMPAS, Oxford University’s Centre of Migration, Policy and Society with Landing and was highly commended for Whitehaven by the judging panel, which included poet Ruth Padel.

Said Claudine: “My mother married Emmanuel Toutoungi from Lebanon, so my poem is about the town of Whitehaven as I imagine it through my father’s eyes, when he first visited.”

Claudine, who lives in Cambridge, has been commissioned by the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough to write two plays, one of which, she hopes, may get to tour Cumbria.

The judges said they had a difficult task to decide on winners given the huge number of entries and the high quality of poems. This was why another seven were highly commended. COMPAS is part of the School of Anthropology, University of Oxford.

Claudine’s maternal grandparents were John and Lillian McCumiskey. They lived all their life in Whitehaven and from 1980 in Catherine Street. John, a retired miner, died in 1982 and Lillian in 1998.

“I have visited Whitehaven many times and still have relatives there,” said Claudine. “My granddad used to take me on long walks around Whitehaven and tell me lots of stories about his childhood in the town when he lived on the Mount by the harbour – that’s how I heard about the Newtown Boggle, who pops up in the poem.”

Claudine studied English and French at Oxford and also trained as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Her parents met at Manchester University in 1962 when they were both studying modern languages. They now live in Leamington Spa.

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