Well Versed – school report

18 January 2011

Luke Wright and I are half way through our sessions for Well Versed, and last Friday delivered the first showcase event for the first school in the country to have completed this initial part of the project.  All of the schools have different requirements, and  Northgate High in Dereham dedicated two full school days to writing and learning how to perform the work they were going to deliver in the Friday showcase – a performance in front of the rest of the school year, their parents and teachers.  The performance went extremely well, and everybody who read their work out  overcame their nerves – this was  initially quite a daunting prospect.

We worked with a group of 20 pupils, chosen from different classes over year 9, for their ability to take on new experiences and thrive in them.  It was extremely pleasurable to work with a group of young people who were not afraid of putting their hands up to answer questions even if they didn’t fully understand the question.  Who ever does fully understand the questions, especially where poetry is involved!  Our work was helped enormously by the participating teacher Kira Haslam, who is a song-writer herself.  She set an example to the pupils by taking part in the exercises herself and was generally on hand to help with the smooth-running of the workshops and the organising of the showcase.

Luke and I split the four days roughly into four sessions, and took turns to lead them, focusing on Imagery, Musicality, Narrative and Voice, as rough subject headings. We set them many writing exercises and games around these themes using published and professionally performed work as examples.  It was very much a crash-course but the sense of urgency of the showcase was a great focusing device.  There was a lot of very good writing produced during those two days, but I think the most important part of this project is the legacy – hopefully we have shown them that poetry is not something which they need be alienated by –  and the writing and the reading of poetry which will happen now Luke and I have gone.