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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Picture This! with Dan Simpson and Beach Creative

photo 3Picture This! is a year-long programme of creative writing workshops for Herne Bay teenagers, made possible by a grant from the Clore Duffield Foundation. I was involved in part of it – a series of inspiring workshops by poet Dan Simpson at Herne Bay High that resulted in a Categorical Books publication of the poems. One series in particular, inspired by a poem by Sven Stears, had the pupils invent imaginary jobs, to surreal effect.

The anthology was launched at an event at Beach Creative in Herne Bay where Dan performed poems from his new book Applied Mathematics.

The book’s cover photograph and design are by Nancy Wilson.

Brazil 2014 with Future Creative

IMG_0341Pupils at St Michael’s RC Primary School in Medway geared up for the World Cup by publishing a newspaper about Brazil and … football!

I worked with all the Year 4 classes, divided into five teams, to write about carnival, rain forests, Rio’s tourist sites, top teams and top players. Our newspaper was published just before the first kick-off and I don’t think anyone will have been too upset by England’s dismal performance as most pupils seemed to support Nigeria, Germany, Ghana, USA, Argentina or Brazil.

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.

Pass the Passion with Future Creative

photoOver the past few months I have visited 30 out of the 52 schools in the Deal and Dover district! In each school I have talked to pupils about their hobbies, ambitions, aspirations – in short, their passions – and then encouraged them to write articles about them to be published in a newspaper.

We produced three newspapers, with ten schools in each. The young people wrote about becoming gymnasts, athletes or footballers, lawyers, scientists or writers, vets, engineers or palaeontologists. They were justifiably proud of seeing their names in print and of passing their passion on to inspire their readers.

The project was part of the Olympic legacy programme, Pass the Passion: Road to Rio.

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.

 

Poets of the Future with Joseph Coehlo

joe's book coverThis is a book of poetry produced from poems and stories that poet Joseph Coelho had helped a group of Year 5s produce in a school in Ramsgate. The project was organised by Future Creative.

One of the pupils told him: ‘I’ve never written as much as this before. So well done, Joe!’

Categorical Books put the book together from the writing and illustrations the children produced. An excellent use of pupil premium!

Songs and poems with Nine Below Zero

ghostThis was a wonderful project organised by Future Creative in Minterne Community Junior School in Sittingbourne.

Musician Dennis Greaves of blues band Nine Below Zero and I worked in all twelve classes – I went in first and encouraged the children to write poems on the themes of memory and identity and then Dennis followed and helped them transform the poems into lyrics and set them to music.

At the end we produced a book of poems and illustrations and a CD of the songs, called There’s a Ghost Under My Bed.

VickyDennis2013 023It was really interesting for both Dennis and I to observe each other’s creative process and to think about the difference between what makes a good poem and what makes a good song. The most successful poems for me were with a Year 4 class where we did cut up poetry – I gave the children an A4 page of words to do with the sea and they rearranged them as they wished.

Here is an example:

Calm clouds disappear
Shimmering waves whisper
Rippling pools roll
We walk on the golden sand
Violent cliffs towering up
We plunge into the deep
I shout to the dark
Rocks, sharp and solid
Alone under the pebbles crabs scuttle
Shimmering moon sings
Droplets surf among the tide
Sunrise, sunset over rain

Dennis and I were reunited for the retirement of headmaster Bill McGrory when Nine Below Zero performed and I read a poem I had written sourced from comments and memories by of pupils and staff. Here it is:

million dollar bill

The Daily Sunshine

daily sunshine_reviseThis was a project at Pent Valley Technology College for a transition summer school for Year 6s due to start the school in September.

I spent a day with the group finding out their interests and encouraging each of the pupils to write a review, news story, commentary or other article – the topics covered included games, cars, fashion, animal facts, football and more.

We then produced a newspaper which was given out to prospective Y6s at open day as well as to the pupils who had contributed.

It is amazing how much the pupils achieved in such a short time and we were all proud of their efforts. Thanks to Future Creative for their support!

Read all about it!

P1100520Pupils from Bromstone Primary School in Broadstairs have just published their first newspaper. The title is Manston Past & Present and the paper contains an interview with staff from Manston Airport about their new link up with Dutch airline KLM, an interview with WW2 bomber pilot Gerry Abrahams, interviews with pupils about their view on WW2, interviews with parents about their experiences of airports, stories about holiday dreams and disasters and much more.

For the project I worked with ten pupils from Y6 and film-maker Richard Fleury of Skeletope, and as well as the newspaper we produced a film. You can see the film by clicking here.

Organised by Future Creative, the project was great fun, as well as producing noticeable improvements in the pupils’ work as they prepare for secondary school. Headmaster Nigel Utton tweeted ‘Fantastic, loved the newspaper. So professional. Best ever use of pupil premium’ – and I’m inclined to agree.

Tales of Mystery & Magic for The Ursuline Preparatory School

P1070334The Ursuline Preparatory School in Brentwood has just published a new book!

Called Tales of Mystery & Magic, it contains a story from each of the school’s nine classes (ranging from pre-Reception to Year 6) about an adventure that travels through space or time. Whether the subject is training for the Olympics in Ancient Greece, acting as skivvies for the school’s Victorian owners, playing an X-box game that gets out of hand or taking a magic bicycle ride with a talking owl, the stories tell of the children’s imaginations and skill as well as their exciting adventures.

The project began when English Coordinator Sarah Macdonald tracked me down through internet searches after seeing the book I helped produce for Sunnymede School. You can read a bit about that project here or see the book by clicking here.

For Ursuline, I delivered a half-day workshop to each class to inspire pupils and staff and provide tips on how to coordinate the writing process for a whole-class story. This included writing by adding to a blog, voting on a subject and then all contributing to it, writing individual sections of the story in groups and using drama and role-play to create a tale. As well as their writing, I also suggested that pupils each contribute at least one illustration.

You can imagine my excitement when six weeks later a box containing the stories and artwork arrived on my doorstep! The book was edited and designed by Categorical Books following rough layouts supplied by each class and copies were printed in time for Book Week at the beginning of March. We even scored a whole page in the local newspaper – you can see pictures here.

The project was so successful that I am hoping to offer the process as an opportunity to other schools – watch this space or get in touch for details.

Vicky made the whole process from the writing workshop to the book launch not only exciting but stress free too. The children thoroughly enjoyed working collaboratively as well as seeing their work in print. A very worthwhile project which I would definitely recommend. Sarah Macdonald, English Co-ordinator, Ursuline Preparatory School

We thought the book was absolutely fantastic! What an amazing keepsake for the girls to treasure. Thank you so much. Parent, Ursuline Preparatory School

 

Lost the Plot with New Writing South

lost_the_plot_cover_front_onlyThis is a small book full of wonderful writing.

It’s part of a project called Writer Squads run by New Writing South, which places writers with groups of young people aged 13 to 17 to inspire and help develop their writing.

The book documents the results of Dean Atta‘s project with the Margate Writer Squad and features poetry and stories by Maddie Raven, Samuel Williams, Anna Harvey and Sofie Llugiqi.

The writing is fresh and original and it is obvious that the young people, inspired by Dean, have polished their work so there’s not a word out of place.

Categorical Books is very proud to have played a small part in the project’s development. The book is not for sale as the print run was minute, but hopefully the contents might help the young people and the project to find a wider audience.

Unexplored Territory with Cultured Llama

Karaoke Poetry is about to be published for the first time! The first three poems are now available for public consumption in Unexplored Territory, edited by Maria C. McCarthy and published by Kent publisher Cultured Llama.

The book is anthology of poetry and fiction that includes such fabulous writers as June English, Maggie Harris, Mark Holihan, Luigi Marchini, Gillian Moyes, Bethany W. Pope and Fiona Sinclair among others.

The launch event is at the Beaney, 18 High Street, Canterbury CT1 2RA, Thursday 15 November, 6pm to 7.45pm.

All welcome, so please join us. Or if you can’t come along, the book is available from Amazon.

Wise Words with Canterbury Festival

wise words categorical books sarah salwayWise Words: The Canterbury Laureate Anthology 2011–2012 is the latest publication from Categorical Books.

The anthology charts the journey of the 2011-2012 Laureate Programme, part of which was a pilot collaboration between creative writing MA students at the University of Kent, teacher trainees from Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury Laureate Sarah Salway and the Canterbury Festival.

Teacher trainees and MA students worked in pairs with schools and community groups to deliver workshops aimed at producing creative writing and photography on the theme of Wise Words. The project had a strong intergenerational slant, pairing older members of photography, arts and dance groups with young people from a refugee centre and a special school. Along the way, wise words were collected from the public at events and though a website forum.

The book contains the inspirational writing and photographs produced in the course of the project by students and participants, as well as by Sarah Salway herself, alongside writing exercises and workshop guidelines.

Do come along to the launch on Saturday 13 October at the Canterbury Heritage Museum, Stour Street, CT1 2NR, 5.30–7.30pm. Or check out the book at Amazon.

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.

Touch Wood for The Conservation Volunteers

touch wood edited by Vicky WilsonCopies of Touch Wood: children’s poetry from the Kent Heritage Trees Project have arrived!

The project began with a series of workshops to support The Conservations Volunteers’ project to map and preserve Kent’s old, large or interesting trees at Reculver CE Primary School, Whitstable Junior School and Great Chart Primary school. The idea was to stimulate the children to write poems that explored the myths associated with trees and woodland and raise awareness of their importance. This was combined with an open call for submissions that went out to Kent primary schools and visitors to The Conservation Volunteers’ Singleton Environment Centre. It was then a question of selecting which poems to include in the book.

The poems and illustrations produced by the children showed a high level of craft, imagination and observation, as well as a commitment to preserving our woodlands. No matter what kind of exercises or source material I use with children I find myself constantly surprised by the sophistication and invention of the work they produce.

You can buy Touch Wood from Amazon.