London’s Oddities for Metro Publications

photo 4I am about to embark on a book about London’s oddities with Metro Publications. Not sure what an oddity is yet, but I’m drawing up mammoth list of things that might qualify.

I think it needs to be things that are odd to London (existing only in London), odd within their own right, or unique, and then, of course, there are things that are just… odd.

It’s a long-burn project, probably coming out in 2016, so these are very early days.

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London’s Houses in full colour

photoI’m delighted with the new edition of London’s Houses, now published in full colour!

New entries for 2014 include Dorich House, designed by sculptor Dora Gordine (1895–1991) as a home for herself and her husband; JMW Turner’s house in Twickenham (where he lived with his dad); Grim’s Dyke in Harrow, home of librettist WS Gilbert; and Valentines House in Ilford, location for the Great British Bake-Off.

So far I’ve spotted it in the Tate, the V&A, and bookshops around London. Or you can order from Metro Publications. Enjoy!

Richard Rogers at the British Museum

photo 1I was lucky to get a preview of the new British Museum World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre as part of my role as editor on a book about the project published by the architects.

It’s an amazing building that stitches together new and old, in particular through facades clad in Portland stone pocked with the marks of fossils and frosted glass panels etched with the outline of parts of the Jurassic Coast. But what you may not appreciate from the street is that 68% of the building – housing storage as well as the sensitive equipment needed to explore and restore the museum’s collections – is underground.

If you are passing through Bloomsbury, watch out for the truck lift, which transports lorry-loads of items seven stories below ground and rises up again to ground level with surreal effect.

Sensing Spaces at the Royal Academy

SS_Cover_proofreadIt was great to see the Sensing Spaces exhibition after spending several months working on the catalogue. I feel as if most of my time for the past weeks has been spent listening to hours of tapes of conversations between the curator, Kate Goodwin, and the architects (Kengo Kuma, Grafton Architects, Li Xiaodong, Pezo von Ellrichshausen, Diébédo Francis Kéré, Eduardo Souto de Moura and Alvaro Siza) and trying to then make them make sense to a reader – as well as all the general editing, caption writing, and other things that go into making a publication.

 

ss1Having seen the exhibition and the fabulous finished catalogue, designed by Isabel Duarte and Simon Esterson of Esterson Associates, I can say it was all worthwhile. A really brave step by the Royal Academy and hopefully – given its appeal to a younger audience – the harbinger of more major architecture exhibitions in the future.

 

Catching Words with Discover

20131209_152933I’m very sad to have finished another term with three schools as part of the Catching Words project run by Discover Children’s Story Centre. This time I was working alongside a fantastic team of poets including Joseph Coelho, Adisa, Paul Lyalls and Joshua Seigal.

The project is for Year 2. In the first term each class has eight session with a poet, followed by eight with a storyteller in term two and a further eight sessions with a storywriter who helps them create a class story that is published as a book. The project has been incredibly successful, with children progressing far faster than expected. Most of the classes contain a high percentage of EAL children as well as children who struggle with literacy and it is wonderful to see them grow in confidence and ability to express themselves.

Altogether we worked in ten schools in East London as well as a similar number in Hertfordshire who got a single whole-day session rather than the full project.

My favourite session involved asking the children to draw and write about imaginary animals or monsters based on Edward Lear’s ‘The Quangle Wangle’s Hat’. The teacher said she had never seen the children so spellbound!

Poetry for the Olympic Legacy List

TMitchell_130522_4784.163200The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is about to open – and alongside the adventure playground, flower meadow, riverscape and café you’ll find poetry from Carol Ann Duffy, Lemn Sissay, Jo Shapcott and others incised into walls, paving and benches. Among the ‘others’ are the young winners of the Children’s Legacy Poems competition.

I feel privileged to have worked with these young writers. Joseph Coelho and I spent May and June in schools in the five Olympic boroughs encouraging children to balance on crocodiles’ tails (or beams, if you must), run across swamps, hop over rocks in streams of molten lava and tiptoe past sleeping dragons in order to write adventure poems inspired by the Olympic Park. The schools submitted their entries and we chose thirteen winners, with the results published in a booklet produced by the Legacy List. Lines from the two outstanding poems will be reproduced in some form within the park.

Joining us on the judging panel was Jo Bell, Canal Laureate 2013. At the prizegiving she described poetry as holding a magnifying glass up to the world, or a holding of hands between writer and reader… ‘Poets notice things and try to say them in a way that makes others see the world differently.’

The project was organised by Discover and the Legacy List; the wonderful photographs were taken by Tim Mitchell.

Joseph, Jo and I all wrote our own Olympic Park Adventure poems, and here is mine.

Hide and seek in Tumbling Bay

One, two, three… and I was whooshing
down a blade of grass as broad as a dragon’s tail,

dodging through a forest of stalks
each as tall as the Great Scots Pine,

climbing a mesh of green laces
to the top of a swaying fern

then hooking my fingers round a frond
and dangling like an Olympic gymnast,

hand over hand, towards the trembling edge. I jumped…
and landed on a spot on the smooth red shell

of a ladybird’s wing, clinging to the rim
as we flew through the blue to the bell of a foxglove

that smelled like my grandmother’s hair.
We battled a bumblebee in a clash of antennae

then swooped away, trees and paths and river
like a map below us. I let go, dived downwards

to a trampoline of turf, rolling over and over
to escape the stomping feet of dinosaur children,

the rough pink cliff of a tongue, panting and wet.
Quick! Hide! Ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred…

Catching Words with Discover

tim mitchell discover catching wordsI am really proud to be part of a team delivering Catching Words, a literacy intervention project for Year 2 pupils in East London and Hertfordshire run by the Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford. The project involves a writer and storybuilder delivering eight weekly sessions a term across seven schools with the aim of improving children’s confidence and switching them on to writing. First term is poetry, for which Joe Coelho and I are sharing the schools between us. Second term is story writing with Malika Booker and Paul McVeigh, then in the third term the children write a group story which is published as a book with Vicky Martin and Zoey Cooper.

Most of the work is oral, consisting of sharing good poems and using various strategies to encourage the children to write their own. So far I have done one session in each of my three schools and the children are filling up their writing journals fast!

The photograph by Tim Mitchell is of one of Vicky Martin’s Term 3  sessions where children are encouraged to act out scenes and develop characters through shadow-puppet techniques. The training day, where Joe, Malika and Vicky shared the innovative strategies that had worked best in previous year, was awesome. It seems I am on as much of a creative learning journey as the children.

Launch of We come from… with Dean Atta

Dean Atta and Vicky WIlson We come from...We had a really great launch event for We come from… Write from the Heart 3 (edited by Dean Atta and Vicky Wilson) at Beaumont School in St Albans on 9 July.

The book contains some 60 poems by secondary school students who have English as an additional language and is now available to buy on Amazon. For more about the project, click here.

About fifteen of the young contributors read their poems and Dean  performed two of his own that are in the book.

Thanks to everyone who worked on the project – it has been a wonderful experience and a real cause for celebration.

Carole Connelly of the Herts BME Achievement Team and Suzanne Rider of Hertfordshire Music Service are hoping to get funding for future similar projects – watch this space!

We come from… with Dean Atta

We come from edited Dean Atta and Vicky Wilson World Arts PlatformI was thrilled to receive the first copy of We come from... this morning. The book is a collection of poetry written by students from three Hertfordshire secondary schools in response to a series of workshops delivered by the wonderful performance poet Dean Atta. All the students have English as an additional language.

Dean and I organised the project together, chose which of the students’ poems we wanted to include, then I edited them and Categorical Books did the book’s design and production. The book looks great, and the poems within it are moving, funny, original and well worth reading.

The poems tackle three key themes – ‘We come from…’, ‘We care for…’ and ‘We stand for…’ – and are published alongside some of Dean’s inspirational writing on the same topics. In ‘We come from…’ the students evoke the key experiences that have shaped them (‘crime classics and Russian literature’, ‘beautiful Ząbkowice Śląskie and dull, noisy Hatfield’); in ‘We care for…’ they investigate their feelings for members of their families; in ‘We stand for…’ they describe the kind of society they wish to be part of.

The student comments we got from the evaluation forms testify to the project’s success: ‘Even with difficulties you can achieve whatever you want…’; ‘I can be confident in front of everyone…’; ‘I’m better at writing poems and more encouraged to read…’; ‘No matter where we come from, we can work together.’

I’m really looking forward to the launch at Beaumont School in St Albans on 9 July. And, of course, you can buy the book on Amazon or from bookshops: We come from… Write from the Heart 3, edited by Dean Atta and Vicky Wilson.

The project was supported by Hertfordshire BME Achievement Team, Hertfordshire Music Service and World Arts Platform. Many thanks and congratulations to everyone involved.

This Is Brent

This Is Brent Brent Museum and Archives Vicky WilsonI’m really proud to be part of a new publication, This Is Brent. It’s the result of a project at Brent Museum and Archives during which a group of young people were invited to become cultural researchers, gathering information, taking photographs, conducting interviews and generally exploring the borough past and present.

The publication includes the poem ‘In Brent I’m on top of the World’, which I wrote while I was Poet in Residence at Willesden Green Library. Artist Alex McIntyre and I wanted to find ways of animating our exhibition space so we created a writing wall where the public and young people involved in the project could leave comments about their environment using prompts and questions we provided. The poem was formed by rearranging their comments, with sometimes surreal results. It’s called crowd-sourcing, I think!

It’s great to see it combined with the young people’s own discoveries. To see the whole book, click here, then click on the book cover to flick through. You can also find the poem in an easy-to-read version on the page about my collaborations with Alex by clicking here.