Friday, 19 December 2014

Lemn Sissay is coming to Headingley

Lemn Sissay        Photo: James Ross
Lemn Sissay MBE is now definitely booked for the next LitFest!

He'll be appearing at Leeds City Academy on Friday 20 March in the evening (you are all invited!) and will also speak at a masterclass for school students at Lawnswood on the same day.

Here is a selection of facts:

He is the author of several books of poetry alongside articles, records, public art and plays.

He was an official poet for the London Olympics.

His Landmark Poems are installed throughout Manchester and London, in venues such as The Royal Festival Hall and The Olympic Park.

He is associate artist at Southbank Centre, patron of The Letterbox CLub and The Reader Organisation and inaugural trustee of World Book Night.

Write this into your new diary now! Tickets available nearer the date.

More on Lemn in the coming weeks!

Friday, 5 December 2014

'Own Your Words' at Ralph Thoresby School

Sally Bavage writes:
Two dynamic teachers at Ralph Thoresby School, Kate Wolstenholme and Tom Stubbs, have got a great group of young people together in a poetry club they named Own Your Words. This started earlier this year and is growing week by week.  They are working towards a poetry slam on 2 April at the end of the main programme of LitFest 2015: Something Else.

Kate said, “Several of the group took part in the Ilkley Literature Festival this year, performing at Otley Courthouse alongside pupils from Leeds Grammar School, Fulneck and Gateways. The group all started off feeling uncomfortable on stage; it's so brilliant to see those same pupils transformed into seasoned performers who own the stage and their words!”

Kate has now secured support for Own Your Words to go on a week-long residential course for young writers run by the Arvon Foundation. Guests include Tiffany Murray and Marcus Sedgwick, both established authors of children’s fiction.

Thanks to a grant from the Outer North West Activities Fund, negotiated as part of the Headingley LitFest community programme of work with at least eight local schools, next term there will also be poetry performance coaching available on alternative Thursdays from 3.05 to 4.30 pm.  Established local poet performers like Michelle Scally Clarke will work with young people in the area who wish to come along and explore techniques for releasing their inner poet, using Ralph Thoresby as a hub venue.

One of the original members of Own Your Words, Nida Naqvi, is now in year 11 and helps run the class as part of her Duke of Edinburgh Award.  “I am very grateful for the opportunity to write poetry; it stimulates my creative mind and helps you grow as a person,” she said. She is a member of Leeds Young Authors ( and a fantastic role model for other young people who now “have gained so much self-knowledge and self-confidence they even volunteer to speak in assemblies.”   Emma Blane agreed, adding that the poetry sessions  “Are really fun, it gets your imagination going.”


'I, Robot' - James Nash at Spring Bank

Sally Bavage writes
'I Robot' at Spring Bank. Apologies to Isaac Asimov. 
Wednesday 3r December, and the assembly hall has thirty visitors and parents waiting with happy anticipation for the latest in Headingley LitFest’s poetry assemblies tutored and coached by James Nash, local writer and poet.   “Child:  We’ve got someone really important in the class today.  Daddy: Who? The Prime Minister?  An Olympic gold medallist?  Child: No, A Writer.  A Real Writer!”
James Nash with Luke Wrankmore                 Photo: Sally Bavage

Once again, James had worked with all of Year 4 on their ideas, initiated by their science work on circuits and switches, but taken to whole new levels by their originality and perceptive writing.  James: “Think writing.  Find inspiration.”  They did, in spades.  A robot is certainly Something Else in their world, and words, shared in front of the whole school.

“I dream of finding another robot to play with”
“I am building my replacement”
“I nip someone’s finger as an alarm clock”
“I am a very lonely robot, I don’t have a friend to play with but I’m not a bad robot”
“My magic single eye can give you a shock”
“I try to fit into your family but I don’t have any feelings or emotions”
“I am made of enchantment.”

Class teacher Luke Wrankmore said, “James works so successfully to bring out the creative talent in all our children.”  A sentiment echoed by the deputy headteacher Amy Houldsworth, who added how delightful it was to “See the whole class very much inspired.”  

For one girl, the best bit was “Reading my poem out,” and her parent wrote that she “was inspired to write independently at home – this is a first!  Thank you.”

The many parents there were fulsome in their praise for the way the work had developed both writing skills and confidence:  “..he [James] has been inspiring and leading the class for weeks.  It seems to me that with his additional leadership all the students have been particularly engaged in the process, where normally perhaps the ones with stronger literary skills might engage with activities like this more than some others.  Our daughter benefited and loved it, and so did we.”

From so many other expressions of enjoyment, perhaps this parent’s words stand as a testament to the value of what James produces: “One of the best assemblies I’ve seen at this school.  The children’s poetry was fantastic.  I hope they get to do more.”

And the last word goes to the children themselves.  Question:  What have you learned in this project?  “Poems are brilliant!”  “It increases your confidence.”  “Sharing others’ poems is fun.”  “So you can inspire people with your work.”  “You grow your confidence.”

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Metamorphosis at Weetwood Primary

James Nash with Josh Annis-Brown    Photo: Sally Bavage
Sally Bavage writes:
Year 5 were once again thrilled to be able to work with James Nash, as part of the Headingley LitFest community programme of work with schools, and read out their poems on Something Else to a packed assembly of classmates, Stage 2 peers, teachers and a throng of parents. 

“An amazing opportunity to read out their poems and write about their feelings,” said Josh Annis-Brown, classteacher.  

James has done “A fantastic job,” said headteacher Tarsem Wyatt and cheers rippled round the audience. The youngsters wrote from a caterpillar’s perspective about metamorphosing into something else, producing some prosaic truths and some delightful lines of poetry. 

Think back to when you were nine years old and trying to hold a microphone at the correct distance to pick up your words as well as your carefully crafted poem on a sheet of paper.  It takes the mastery needed for an adult to drink and eat at a buffet.  But mastery was indeed on show and delight and pride too in the performances.

“I have learnt how epic James is!” and “The awesome James Nash “ whilst “Poetry can be fun and if you work hard you can do anything,”  “Being and working with James” and “I have met, wrote and spoken to a famous poet” were two more of many highly positive opinions that class 5 offered. “You build up confidence in yourself,” and “The best thing is sharing my poem with my classmates and hearing their poems.”  Out of the mouths of …

Not just the babes but parents are equally supportive:
“An excellent opportunity to hear the work of a group of pupils.  The pupils have obviously been inspired and produced some beautiful pieces of work.”
“Great to see the children perform their poetry as well as having an insight into what they have been doing in school. I know from my son that having a ‘real life’ poet has inspired him and encouraged his own writing. Fabulous, thank you.”