Kings Hill is built on the former West Malling airfield, which was the most important base for night fighters during World War II and was subsequently home to US forces, Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin, the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and much more. From the 1990s it was developed as a new town and in 2013 I was invited to help to gather material from local residents and schoolchildren for a series of text-based artworks by artist Richard Wolfströme that would commemorate the site’s history.
It was a long journey from talking to people and gathering their memories and dreams to the finished art. But at last the works are installed and it was wonderful to see them and to remember the many conversations and workshops that inspired them.
You can read more of the memories we collected and some of the poetry we generated by clicking here.
Pupils 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.
Over 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.
This 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!
This 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.
It 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:
This 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!
Pupils 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.
Kings Hill is built on the former West Malling airfield, which was the most important base for night fighters during World War II and was subsequently home to US forces, Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin, the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and much more. From the 1990s it was developed as a new town and plans are now underway to refurbish the former airfield control tower – a wonderful 1930s building with curved glazing and walls – for community and commercial use.
Artist Richard Wolfströme is creating a series of text-based works to be embedded into the paving around the site. And along with Future Creative practitioners Andy Evans, Lesley Finlay and Doug Noble, I am collecting stories to use as inspiration. We are talking to individuals, organising visits to schools, nurseries and youth clubs and are holding two community events (see poster). So far we have heard about ghosts and heroes, abandoned women and candlesmoke graffiti, lost German pilots and the perils of going over the top. Please get in touch if you have any stories or information to add! Or join us in the Kings Hill Community Centre on 5 or 10 December.
Over the summer I have delivered several workshops for Future Creative to ease the transition of Year 6 pupils to secondary school.
The workshops divided into two strands: one was a series of four weekly sessions aimed at students from several schools who needed help with reading to enable them to access the curriculum and the second was a two-week intensive introduction to a specific secondary school for pupils who might find the transition difficult. In both cases the aims were to make learning fun, to boost confidence and teamwork, and to develop literacy and other core skills.
For both sets of workshops I used making smoothies as a theme. We looked at recipe books, discussed healthy eating, formed our own smoothie-making company and finally tried out recipes and experimented with our own ideas. Then we gave our concoctions names and logos and drank the results!
I was impressed by the pupils’ hard work and enthusiasm and hope it has helped them to settle into their new schools. Favourite quote from one pupil: ‘Of course we’re working hard! What’s the point of me giving up my holidays and you giving up yours if we aren’t going to put a bit of effort in?’
Canterbury Laureate Sarah Salway has launched a programme called ‘Wise Words‘, in conjunction with the Canterbury Festival. The project links four community groups in the under-18 age bracket with four in the over-60s bracket to produce intergenerational creative writing. I’m hoping to be involved in producing a publication of the results, but meanwhile there’s a public forum where you can post your own ‘wise words’ and read others’.
I’ve just posted mine – drawn in part from the responses of pupils to the Future Creative Pass the Passion project, which I’m sad to say has now finished. The idea was to use the Olympics as a stimulus to encourage pupils to think about their aspirations and to create messages for the future. Here are some of my favourites:
We hope the future will be chocolatey.
We hope you have cars that fly and a robot to clean your houses.
We hope you have a rocket that can mend holes in the ozone layer.
We hope you have books that create pictures from your imagination.
We hope you find a magic touch that cures all illness.
We hope you can regenerate the forests with your footsteps.
We hope you have an underground world to visit when you are bored or sad.
We hope you are careful where you step – the earth could be breaking.
We hope everything will be flowers and butterflies.
We hope you have dreams, and can make your dreams come true.
We hope everything will be… just charming!
Pass the Passion is a workshop I’m delivering for Kent-based creative learning organisation Future Creative. A team of eight practitioners are visiting 48 schools in the Dover and Deal district, following the local Olympic torch as it moves from school to school and encouraging the pupils to think about their future lives and aspirations.
We are time travelling to 2032, interviewing and writing postcards from our future selves, devising a message of hope to send to the future and making time capsules, among other things. In each school I am asking the children to create a chant for our own Olympic Torch procession (as here, with Y5 pupils). ‘Everyone will be loved’, ‘That’s life in 2032’ and ‘We will all be something special’ are our choices so far.
I have just delivered a wonderful Discovery Day in a school in Sheerness through Kent creative learning organisation Future Creative. The class was Y1 and the theme was pirates, as you might guess from the outfits!
We role-played life aboard a pirate ship, took a trip to some very mysterious islands, staged a treasure hunt, invented mythical creatures we might find on our journey and wrote a pirate song. Plus I told a couple of pirate-themed stories and we made our own pirate boats.
Bring on the rum!