I’ve known Renita for a while now. Originally from America, Renita now lives in Wigtown, which the book town in Scotland, with the most stunning views across the estuary. When I’ve performed at the festival, the children have all been whipped up to a frenzy by Renita, who welcomes them in and “settles them down” [...]
We had a load of fun with stories and drawing and I tried the dry-wipe boards for drawing running cats again. It was quite a cold day and some of the boards were really cold and had condensation on them, which made them quite hard to draw on! We had Reception and Nursery together for that session, so some of the children were only four, but they did wonderful drawings all the same. In all the excitement, I forgot to take any pictures!
I spoke to years 3 and 4 in what must be one of the cutest theatres ever. The raked seating at the back has ancient cast iron seats. The backs fold over to create desks – how brilliant is that? Shame the paint wasn’t completely dry!
I have to say that so far, in my vast experience of these things, the school dinner I was had there was the best I’ve ever had – chicken and mushroom pie, with green beans followed by Rice pudding (I didn’t have the optional chocolate drops!) My compliments to the chef.
Thanks for a great day everyone. I got home quite late and very tired. I have no idea where Friday went – it must have occurred! Anyway, It’s Saturday now and I’m off to the Aye Write! Festival in Glasgow tomorrow. This is going to be one busy month!
Bedford Library is where my education really began. I never quite got the hang of school, but I spent a lot of time in the Library. I would often end my Saturday afternoons with a cup of coffee in the Library (How advanced was that for the mid 1970s?) reading the latest edition of Scientific American.
Almost the day I left school, I discovered the adult fiction department and chose a book by Colin Wilson. He was the perfect writer for an impressionable teenager to discover by chance. As I read all the books of his they had, I acquired a list of other authors and themes to follow up. Those books led me to borrow and discover Bruckner, Wagner and Beethoven from the music library. I got stuck in the Ws for a bit, as Wodehouse was quite close by as well as a crime procedural series by another W author. I’d never know all those books were there before. Perhaps I’d thought you had to be over eighteen to look on the adult shelves!
I was eighteen when I discovered that I wanted to do art, and it was the Library that provided me with my art education. I borrowed technical books and art history books, trying out techniques and learning what it is to be an artist. I started work in Bedford, designing letterheads and things for and instant print outfit, called JayCopy, in St Peters. None of us really knew anything about design, so how did I get to learn? The Library, of course!
I suppose I could learn it all again on the internet, but I’d not have had the quiet camaraderie of others in search of knowledge and entertainment. I’d not have had the help of Librarians to show me how to find stuff out, to suggest different routes to the knowledge I required. I’d not have had the warm place to go to to learn – my flat was freezing and I couldn’t afford the electricity bills. I’d not have got the basic human interchange that leads to new areas of knowledge and learning in ways that the internet cannot ever offer on its own. I wouldn’t have been able to afford a computer anyway – so I’d have had to rely on the Library to provide that too.
Libraries are precious places. Thank you Bedford Library for keeping me on the straight and narrow and going pretty much in the right direction during what were difficult times in my life.
I’ve had a very busy week! On Tuesday I drove to Bedford, where I lived as a teenager. It was very strange, driving and walking around revisiting haunts and memories!
When I lived there it had the reputation of having the most number of native languages spoken in one town than any other in the country. It had large Irish, Italian, Bengali Polish and West Indian populations living alongside a very old-fashioned community of those who had retired and returned from running the Empire. I realised that I was quite an adventurous teenager. I walked and cycled almost the whole of the town and went to parts that my contemporaries probably still don’t know exist! Delivering the Christmas Post took me to one or two scary places, but it probably made me brave enough to explore further. I had friends who lived, literally, on the other side of the railway tracks. My school friends would never think to go there, but that was where I first heard real reggae being played. I even tried to play with a reggae band, (before The Police ever thought of it). A bit too ahead of my times!
Anyway, I spent Wednesday with Livingstone Lower School, right in the middle of Bedford. I don’t suppose you could get a school that represents the Bedford Community if you tried. I had a lovely time telling stories and showing the children how to draw my characters.
We had an inspirational moment with Reception. Time was running out and it would have taken too long to sort out paper and pencil for each child, but they had laminate boards and dry wipe pens at hand. I showed them how to draw a running cat. This involves a lot of construction which I normally do pressing lightly. But with dry wipe, we could do the construction shapes and then easily wipe out the bits we didn’t want. Terrific! Shame they couldn’t keep the drawings and take them home, but I quickly took some pics below, some of which are a bit blurry.
Great drawings Reception and a great day all together. Thanks everyone.
What a great name – Clehonger – it’s a village to the west of Hereford and yesterday, Valentine’s Day, I visited the primary school for their Exciting Writing Week.The theme was Around The World, and I spent a bit of time trying to find around the world links to my books. Having done so, I hunted out some props from my visits to places I’ve lived or visited in my past that have inspired some of my books.
I talked about Viking Vik, who lives where my Norwegian Auntie has a summer house, and How the Rhioceros hot his skin, which is set somewhere around Aden, where I lived as a boy, and Axel Storm Jungle Fortress, which is set in a jungle very like one I visited on the Island of Guam. Japanese soldiers on Guam, that never surrendered until the 1970′s, were also an inspiration for this book.
I was interviewed by young journalists working on the school newspaper. I was flummoxed by one question, “Do you have any hobbies?”
Of course I don’t, Everything I do is my hobby! Thinking about it, with the children, I realised just how lucky I am. I think it is most people’s dream to be able to do what they enjoy most all day, and that’s pretty much what I get to do!
Thanks everyone for making it such a great day. I picked up a cold last week, so I hope I didn’t appear to be not working on all cylinders!
Melyndra Standring, who organised the event, and kindly looked after me, was hoping we may get twenty families signed up. It’s easy to get a class of children to come and sit down and listen to a story, but it’s quite different to get the children to organise parents and carers to come into school for the afternoon. By Wednesday morning, we were fearing the worst and thought that we would only have about ten families.
We were greeted at the school by a happy Bernadette Thomas who informed us that seventy five families were coming! Duh! Melyndra didn’t have enough paperwork and had to quickly photocopy some more forms! I had met quite a few of the children on previous visits to Rhyl Library and their teachers had reminded them and shown them the drawings I had done for them before. I think that preparation was the cause of such a success.
When all the forms were filled in and everyone was settled down, I told the Rudyard Kipling Just So Story of How the Whale got His Tale, that I’ve revised and re illustrated. Then I got everyone to have a go at drawing the whale – adults too! They were fabulous drawings. Many of the adult’s told me they hadn’t done any drawing since they left school – such a shame, and one of the reasons I do my drawing school.. I think adults are scared of drawing and making a fool of themselves but, like any other skill, they just need someone to show them how.
It was a very special afternoon for me, seeing all the families joining in – there were quite a few dads there too, which is quite unusual. Well done kids for nagging the grown-ups and getting them organised and into school for the afternoon. Grown-ups can be such hard work sometimes – eh?
Thanks to everyone who finally got this session organised. It was quite a few months in the making. Good luck with the rest of the project and have a great day out for all those who last the course!
(Jelly fish was on the beach. I forgot to take and photos of the event!)
I had a terrific start to a long week of school visits at St. Aidan’s Church of England Primary School, where I didn’t take a pictures or video! (I overheard a wonderful story in the staff room that involved dolls that gave me all sorts of ideas that I had to write down, but I’m not telling in case anyone else gets the idea!)
I spent the whole day telling stories and drawing pictures and having a great time. Reception did some fabulous drawings with me too. I love how young children draw. Sometimes their misreading of where a line should go is quite inspiring and makes me think about drawing differently.
Thanks for a great day everyone and I hope toy don’t have anything else blowing off the roof of the church, next door!
I visited the Library last summer, just before it closed down for a refurbishment. Everything is now up and running and looking absolutely fabulous. The tops of the bookshelves have a curving design, which makes the library seem much bigger than it really is – a visual trick.
Children’s Librarian, Bethan Hughes, who I have known an worked with for many years, showed the children how to use the new borrowing system. Place your pile of books on a pad and it knows instantly what they are! It then prints out a supermarket type ticket which tells you when to bring them back and which other books you have on loan. Amazing. Watch Bethan run through the demonstration below.
Thanks for a great day and may Rhyl Library, and all who work there, continue with it’s great work through all the ups and downs that Libraries are facing in the future.
Well! It seems Mark Harper’s website is down again, although he said he would put relevant imformation on there for us, when he met us, his constituents, at the Main Place, in Coleford last night.
We have been waiting for our MP to come and tell us why he wishes to sell off Forestry and put the future of the Forest of Dean in peril. We’ve been waiting about three months! He’s refused to visit the Forest or speak to his constituents in that time, other than to call us liars and left-wing rabble-rousers! This is the man who we trusted to have the best interests of the Forest of Dean at the forefront of his duties as an MP. As the Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, he seems to have a conflict of interest and as such, appears to be taking his career far more seriously than his constituents.
He called a public consultation meeting last night, at 24 hours notice! Anyone with a little public relations awareness would immediately recognise the tactic – hold a meeting in a small venue and keep two thirds of the audience outside, in the dark and rain. Kettle the rest inside, in a hot, steamy, airless room (there was air conditioning available) make sure the PA doesn’t work, so no one can hear you, intimidate them with a huge police presence and then accuse your audience of being unreasonable. Brilliant! The man is a genius at organisation.
I gather this morning, Mark Harper claimed the crowd was violent. If it was, I didn’t see it. He had to make a run for it at the end, followed by a baying crowd. He may well have been scared, but he ad every right to be. He brought it all on himself.
The crowd outside taped their poles together so they could make their placards visible in the first story windows.
Councillor Thornton shocked the audience with his crass introduction – actually suggesting we get hearing aids if we wanted to hear what Mark Harper had to say. After being asked several times who he was – he finally introduced himself about half an hour in to the proceedings.
Almost in audibly, MR Harper laid out his wares and said that he had always said the Forest is not for sale. That he had always spoken the truth. So he did. He forgot to mention that the Forest will be up for lease. The thin end of the wedge. His style is dry to point of sending you to sleep. He repeated himself again and again as if a mantra can become reality with enough repetition.
All the way through the “consultation” he never once let us know what was wrong with the Forestry Commission or the status quo. In fact, in the Consultation document. Maintaining the status quo is not an option to support. My main concern is just how Mr Harper define the Forest of Dean. I’m pretty sure his definition will not be same as his constituents. I shall look forward to perusing the map.
After last night, I think Mark Harper needs to be looking for a new Constituency. But then, I assume a safe seat has been lined up already, as a prize for the job he is doing.
Meanwhile, the Forest of Dean seems to be without representation in Parliament.
I’ve had a lovely morning today, helping Catherine Escott-Allen give prizes to the children of Forest View Primary School, which I visited on Monday. Catherine had worked with the children and gave them themes to write about. The best entries won their prizes today and I was particularly thrilled that every child and their family managed to make it to the celebration – I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere that has had a 100% support before.
Maybe this is because Cinderford Library is in line for closure and those who came this morning have realised what they are possibly going to lose. The County Council’s own statistics show that Cinderford, which is an old mining town, is an area of multiple deprivation, also the Council has pledged to support vulnerable people. So, to show their support, they want to close the Library and the Mobile Libraries. I just can’t understand it. If ever there was a town that needs it’s Library, Cinderford is that town.
So, how great to see Mr Lyons, the Head of Forest View and Gemma White, the Literacy Co-ordinator working so closely with their local library. The school is working hard to push the love of reading for pleasure and Mr Lyons says it is paying off already. He can see a change in the children already, “a Buzz in the air!”
I think we take reading for granted these days. As adults that can read, we forget how hard it was to learn what is a truly astonishing skill. We think of it as a basic skill, but without the ability to read we would be lost in the modern world.
School can only go so far. It requires more than daily attendance at school to acquire the amazing skill that reading is. It needs parent’s and family to keep up the reading at home – to enjoy reading, and that means trips to the Library, where knowledgeable staff are on hand to help choose new books. No family can afford all the books it needs to create confident, capable readers.
And remember, when we are old and grey, we will be relying on today’s children to keep us. Do we want them to be clever and able to run the world for us in a way we would approve? Or do we want them slumped in front of video games, as the country and our culture slips slowly into the mire?
We expect far too much of schools these days. A teacher, with 30 children, can only build the scaffolding of their education. In the end, it is the children themselves, with their ability to read, and the skills of research and finding out that come with reading, that build upon that scaffolding. Without those skills, and without the library as their out-of-school resource, they are doomed.
Thank you Catherine and and Librarians and Teachers everywhere for what you do to promote reading for pleasure. It’s how children learn for themselves, to see above the horizon and view possible new futures they could never have known were available to them before.