Friday, 22 November 2013

'Surviving' at Spring Bank

Sally Bavage writes:
Macabre? Not a bit of it
Class teacher Jo Ward and her eager class of Year 5 filed in to a 200-strong packed assembly hall at Spring Bank primary school on Thursday 21st November to read out the poetry they had carefully crafted in workshops led by James Nash, a well-known local writer and poet.  This was LitFest’s second collaboration with the school; year 6 “have not stopped talking about it since last year” and Jo herself “jumped at the chance” to work with James.  “He gets so much out of them, all of them; I don’t know how he does it but he generates huge leaps in confidence and performance.”

Working with a professional poet, supported by mentors Alice and Giulia from the local Older Wiser Local Seniors (OWLS) – who also read out their own poems – the children created some imaginative and powerful writing that quite took your breath away at times.  A clay head of a child, with some scratches on the cheeks and a crack across the skull, formed the stimulus material.  Macabre?  Not a bit of it: the youngsters saw through the cast eyes of the child and explored what that child might see.  From shaking sheets of paper held in nervous hands, they used the microphone with quavering voices.  But not for long!  The shyness vanished very quickly and the poetry they had created soon flowed out in front of teachers, friends, family and visitors.

The LitFest theme for this coming year is ‘Surviving’ and will include, next March, our researches supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund on the Wartime Hospital at Beckett's Park in WW1.  But for today, our young writers were taking a wider look at what surviving could mean.  In worlds where families are fractured, fight, leave, lose lives or hope. But our clay child observed it all and lived on, dreaming of a better future.  Confidence in writing and in creating the voice of an observer outside the self were strongly developed under James’ gentle support.  Only one young man was too shy to read his poetry; his friend volunteered to read it for him.  So we can add teamwork as well. 

“Again, well done to all the children!  They all sounded clear and confident.  I’m XXXX’s father and all I can do is thank you all for helping her improve on her reading and writing, also confidence.”  Parent

“Wonderful poetry by the children.  Really well written and performed.  Lovely and different for them to work on!”  Parent

“I’ve just come to listen to the poems that the children have created and am so impressed by the depth of emotion and expression that James has inspired from the children.”  Teacher

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