Sally Andrews writes:
Thursday 8 May saw the culmination of the work in poetry workshops led by Michelle Scally Clarke at an evening poetry ‘slam’ for the newly-formed poetry group called 'Own Your Words'. City of Leeds young poets were also invited to share in a second opportunity to perform, a really good development in our on-going poetry support work now with nine local schools.
Supported by funding from Arts@Leeds and Wade’s Charity, this new partnership has generated a lot of interest. As Ralph Thoresby’s headteacher Will Carr commented: “..our newly formed poetry group gave a stunning performance as part of Headingley Litfest. Some extraordinarily mature poetry from a relatively young group of students.”
Support came from Sai Murray, performance poet/coach as well as Brendan Duffy on the saxophone and Junior Willocks on keyboards. Young people, some initially shy, were encouraged to go up on stage with poetry they had written about their own lives, feelings, experiences. Many adults would be terrified at that!
Pupils’ comments, both on stage and in the audience, include:
"The event really improved my confidence and made feel talented."
"It was great fun performing and even better getting to watch the others perform."
“Fantastic! Really good and very proud of my friends!!!!! AMAZING!!!”
.. and a parent was keen to let us know that it was
“Very enjoyable, so impressed with the talent and enthusiasm of the staff and pupils of Ralph Thoresby and City of Leeds school. Brilliant.”
Michelle firmly believes, as does LitFest, that:
“Spoken word has a great impact with the students - it is a great way to begin creative writing and free writing; it allows you to speak to the page, it allows your voice to be owned and heard, it allows for writing and literature and language to be enjoyed first then learnt. It allows for praise and for people to see the truth of you. These pupils humble and inspire me with their stories, poems and songs and I have no doubt that all will continue to perform, write and grow.”
Perhaps the final comment on the work should go to Tom Stubbs, the organising teacher at Ralph Thoresby: “For me, I would just like to say that this whole event has helped some of the most cripplingly-shy students realise that they have a voice and that people want to listen to them. It has opened other members of staff's eyes to new approaches to the teaching of writing and I would love to be involved in some form again in the future.”
We hope so too.