Young people often ask me how did I start out as a poet. Well my first job was a librarian, but I was interested in poetry from an early age and writing all the time. Then I started out running occasional poetry workshops and readings as part of my job of librarian. Then I became a part-time librarian and a part-time poet. The last place I worked as a librarian before becoming a full-time poet was Beverley Library. 25 years later I found myself today performing my poems to children from St Nicholas Primary School at Beverley Library as part of the East Riding Festival of Words. We also wrote two group poems with guitar accompaniment. One was a poem celebrating the school and the other was all about Halloween. It was great to return to Beverley and it brought back a lot of happy memories. Thanks to everyone who I worked with today.
In May a group of poets got together and recorded some videos of our work. Thanks are due to Liz Brownlee for organising it and to Pete Brownlee for recording and editing the videos.
This is me performing my poem, Love Is Blind:
This is the out-takes from all of the videos:
I’ve done a lot of work over the years in schools promoting the Road Safety message using poetry. People ask me how does that work? Well, the Road Safety officers of the council block book me and then make the arrangements with a number of schools where they want to get the message across about things like crossing the road carefully, riding a bike wearing a helmet, encouraging adults not to speed (20 is plenty)… I visit with the Road Safety Officers and we have a fun time with a serious theme. Examples of some of my poems that I use for these kind of workshops are on my Road Safety Poems page, but we also get children to write and perform their own.
I’ve had 2 such weeks in June funded by Durham County Council and I have another in September. So far I’ve visited the following Durham and Barnard Castle primary schools: Finchale, Framwellgate, St Godric’s, Blue Coat, Green Lane, St Mary’s RC and Montalbo Nursery and Primary School.
It was such an enjoyable time with great work from the pupils and enthusiastic teachers. We produced some particularly good class poems with music accompanied by guitar.
As part of this block of work, I also performed and led a workshop at a Junior Road Safety Officers (JRSO)* event at County Hall in Durham, with pupils and teachers from 12 Durham schools, officers from Durham County Council, the Mayor and Ron Hogg (the Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham Constabulary). It was a fantastic celebratory event of the work of the JRSOs over the past academic year. We split up into 3 groups with 20 JSROs from the different schools in each. A Road Safety Officer facilitated each group, and 3 group poems were produced in under 30 minutes and then performed at the event. The standard was excellent.
* Schools nominate a minimum of two Year 5 and 6 pupils to be junior road safety officers for their school. Their job is to spread road safety messages by running competitions, speaking in school assemblies, creating noticeboards and organising campaigns. (https://www.durham.gov.uk/article/6548/School-road-safety-schemes)
Well the country has had a challenging week with the snow and wind, accidents on the roads, people trapped on trains for hours, emergency services stretched to the limit and lots of schools closed. But I would like to thank all of the wonderful staff and pupils of the schools that I have visited this week for such a great time reading, performing and writing poetry.
I had a terrible journey from Manchester to Uttoxeter on Monday for my visit to St Mary’s C of E First School. It should have been less than 2 hours. I set off at 6:30am. I arrived at 11am! There was an accident on the M6 and the traffic just didn’t move at all for 1 hour 45 minutes. But at least I wasn’t stuck in a snow drift. Guess which of my poems I started with when I finally arrived.
Luckily, despite the weather, and having to get up early and clear the snow off my car, I made it to all of my other schools early for the rest of the week and they were open.
On Tuesday I was in Radcliffe-on-Trent Infants and Nursery School, and it was well worth the stay in the hotel just 7 miles away from them. I had a lovely email this morning as feedback from that visit that I would like to share with you.
“Thank you for your visit on Tuesday. I am glad you got home safely. We had snow days Thursday and Friday. The children and staff have been left really enthused by your visit. I had a couple of parents asking on Wednesday too about books so you may have had even more emails! I had a lovely email sent by a parent to the Head and Deputy Head so I thought you might like to read it…
Just wanted to a say a big thank you for organising the Bernard Young poet visit and the interactive sessions with him. Both my kids have been so inspired by him and poetry isn’t something we or they have read much of so been great to show them how poetry can work. Lucy has read every poem to us out the book she bought and loves the fact that it has been signed by him especially for her. Really lovely to see them so excited about it. Thank you, great idea. Please pass onto any other staff who have been involved in making it happen.”
I had great visits too with Bridgewater Primary, Little Hulton, Salford, St Joseph’s Catholic School, Winsford, and my 3rd visit to Summerville Primary School as their Patron of Reading, which I will write about in a separate post.
So all round a great week of poetry in schools and I also sold a good number of my new book, which was only published on 23rd February.
I will be launching my new book of poems for children on Saturday 24th February at the Between The Lines Festival in Sheffield. I will also be doing 2 performances and workshops for families, so if you are in the Sheffield area, please come along.
The new book is titled “What Are You Like?” after the poem below. To order a copy send a message on the form on the books page.
What Are You Like?
I’m like hey
She’s like whoa
He’s like ah
I’m like ho
She’s like ha
He’s like er
I’m like really?
She’s like yeah
He’s like eek
I’m like shh
She’s like um
He’s like ugh
I’m like Mmm
She’s like eh?
He’s like oh
I’m like yay
I am pleased to be one of the writers at the very first Between the Lines Festival in Sheffield on Saturday 24th February. It is Sheffield’s Literature and Arts Festival for Children.
I will be performing and running workshops for children with adults during the day at The HUBS, 6 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2QQ. My sessions are at 11am and at 1pm.
I will also be launching my new book, “What Are You Like?”, with signed copies available to buy.
For details of all the activities see: http://www.betweenthelinesfestival.com
Free tickets can be booked using the links below.
Book 11am session here:
Book 1pm session here:
We have made a new video over the last few days. I composed a short piece of music to accompany my poem Anything. The poem is about friendship and is suitable for younger children (KS1), but it is likely to appeal to older students (KS2) as well. This poem is in my new book, What Are You Like, which is due for release 23 February 2018.
Karen, my wife, is the guest performer reading the poem and also she made the video. The images are all shared by Creative Commons License. They are credited in the description on YouTube and below the video here.
Images in their order of appearance:
- kittens CC-BY-SA Susan https://flic.kr/p/52JU7z
- Chicks CC-BY-NC Andy Purvlance https://flic.kr/p/665D8X
- Labrador-Puppy CC-BY Tyler Allen https://flic.kr/p/a1gG6S
- Baby’s Best Friend CC-BY Brandon Atkinson https://flic.kr/p/96KrY6
- Buds CC-BY Juhan Sonin https://flic.kr/p/6DSpcV
- kids CC0 klimkin https://pixabay.com/en/kids-girl-pencil-drawing-notebook-1093758/
- children CC0 Bess Hamiti https://pixabay.com/en/child-children-girl-happy-people-817369/
- Best Friends CC-BY-SA Rod Waddington https://flic.kr/p/Wq9E51
- girls whispering CC0 Olichel https://pixabay.com/en/girls-whispering-best-friends-young-914823/
- Handsome Indian boys CC-BY Nithi Anand https://flic.kr/p/qpzJmX
- Cups Full of Chats CC-BY-NC Mo Riza https://flic.kr/p/3JM8pt
- Best friends CC-BY Robert de Bock https://flic.kr/p/UsGxgR
- The Cat-Circle of Love CC-BY-NC Gloson Teh https://flic.kr/p/8119Px
- Maternal instinct CC-BY-ND Tambako The Jaguar https://flic.kr/p/Muizu
I know World Book Day is just one day, but it turns into a whole week of celebrations in many schools, and for me. That’s a great thing. I was in a different school each day of the week and met so many wonderful students and staff, and many dressed as characters from books.
One thing I am finding more frequently now when I visit a school is that the day’s events are captured in images and video and tweeted before I even get home. Here are some examples.
Many thanks for such great week to all of the staff and students at Hunslet Carr Primary School (Leeds), St Joseph’s RC Primary (Bolton), Christ Church CofE Primary School (Oldham), St Wildrid’s Primary School (Sheffield) and Moorside Primary School (Swinton).
“Thank you so much for such a wonderful day. The children, staff and parents really enjoyed it and I was impressed with the poetry the children created in such a short amount of time.” Vicky Sherrington, St Joseph’s RC Primary School, Bolton
“We loved every minute, thanks so much – we’re all officially inspired.” Rachel Robinson, Moorside Primary School, Swinton.
It’s a busy time for a poet this time of year, and for schools, what with dressing up and doing lots of reading and great creative writing.
The poem in the photo (inspired by my I Like What I Like – see video below) was written with Nursery Children at Audenshaw Primary School, Manchester as a class effort. We performed it at the end of the day to the rest of the school. I was there to celebrate World Book Day 2016 and worked with every age group. A wide variety of excellent poems were written and performed. I had a great time, so thanks to all the staff and pupils for working so hard and for making me very welcome.
In all I visited seven schools just before and during World Book Day Week. Thank you to Abingdon Primary School (Stockport), Gorton Mount Primary Academy (Manchester) who have a fantastic steel band who played for me, Old Hall Drive Primary Academy (Manchester), Alexandra Park Primary (Stockport), Broadfield Primary (Oldham), and (last but not least) Silverdale Primary Academy (Newcastle-under-Lyme).
Thanks also to Authors Aloud who organised a couple of the bookings.
I like playing in the park
I like tig and hide and seek
I like swimming and paddling
I like what I like I do
I like ice cream and Mexico
I like Sealife and Lego
Let’s say hello to our Leo
We like what we like we do
I like flowers and rainbows
I like hopscotch and videos
I like porridge it fills me up
I like what I like I do