ShoutSouth! New creative writing festival for children

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As Nick Hornby opens the doors of his new Ministry of Stories to young would-be writers, the organisers of London’s newest creative writing festival for children, ShoutSouth!, are taking a well earned break.

ShoutSouth! took place at London South Bank University during November 2010. It was organised by a group of children’s authors, Children’s Writers and Illustrators in South London (CWISL). Working with schools in three different south London boroughs - Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth - and in association with those boroughs’ local library services, CWISL devised and delivered three days of intensive workshops in creative writing. Participants, who were aged between 10 and 13, were given instruction on all stages of the story-making process: from plotting and story arcs to creating setting and characters, and editing their work.

20 CWISL authors took part, running over 75 different workshops for more than 230 children over three days.

Contents

Writers as role models; writing as a career

The project aimed to provide a positive experience of stories and books for children who may not have a culture of reading at home. It also set out to present careers in writing and illustration as an attainable goal.

Author Beverley Birch, CWISL chair, explains, “We had three main aims for ShoutSouth!: we wanted to give the children a love of story; we wanted to teach them the tricks of the trade that would enable them to create their own stories and illustrations; plus we wanted them to see authors as role models and consider writing or illustration as a career.”

Dialogue between communities

ShoutSouth! was also set up to promote dialogue between children from different communities: the children, who were from Years 5, 6, 7 and 8, worked in small groups and these were carefully mixed to blur boundaries based on postcode, year group, gender and ethnic group.

Schools were asked to select children with a broad spectrum of abilities. Organiser and CWISL member Margaret Bateson-Hill says, “We asked schools to select children on the basis of enthusiasm and motivation as well as creativity and talent.”

Teacher Dominique Romon from Charles Edwarde Brooks College was full of praise for the project. ”The children learned lots about the techniques of writing,” she said. “But more importantly, they’ve been inspired to try them out. On the first day they were quite reluctant to start writing; on the final day, they were all talking about their ideas, and so eager to put them down on paper.”

She was also impressed at the way the project brought children from different schools together: “They worked together really well in their workshop groups, and I know that lots of our pupils have made new friends. They were swapping email addresses with children they met at the event and many have kept in touch.”

LSBU Aim Higher programme

London South Bank University hosted the event, and LSBU students acted as mentors helping in the sessions. This support was provided through the Aim Higher programme and as part of LSBU’s widening participation programme.

Mark Ellis, Schools and Colleges Outreach Manager, explained why the university was so pleased to host the event. “We understand the importance of working with children at a very young age if we are going to influence their aspirations. With research showing that the best way to pass on information about further education is by providing young people with experience of what being a student actually involves, we arranged for LSBU students to work with the children in each of the authors' sessions, acting as ambassadors for further education.”

He added, “We offer courses in English with Creative Writing, and it would be fantastic to see some of the young people who took part in ShoutSouth! return to LSBU as students.”

Shoutsouth! magazine

Anne Bryant, EMA Coordinator at Loughborough Primary School, records the effect ShoutSouth! had on her students: “It was a very different experience for both pupils and staff and has inspired us to organise events with a writing focus within our school – and maybe even inspired the teachers to develop or extend their own story writing skills!”

She adds, “Attendance at the Saturday workshop was voluntary, and it was gratifying to discover a turn-out of 24 out of 26 pupils arriving at school on the Saturday morning to be duly shepherded to LSBU on the bus! This is real proof of how much the children enjoyed the experience."

“All the children who took part worked immensely hard: the quality of the stories and artwork they produced is very high indeed,” says Beverley Birch. “We’re delighted to say that the children’s finished work will now be published in a colour ShoutSouth! magazine. 6,000 copies will be printed and distributed through schools and libraries in south London and beyond in January.”

Participants, funders and links

Participating schools were: Bacon College, Charles Edward Brooke CofE Upper School, Chesterton Elliott, Granard, Loughborough Primary School, Walnut Tree and Walworth Academy.

The ShoutSouth! magazine is funded by supporters including the Miles Trust for the Putney and Roehampton Community, Ryman, Hachette Children’s Books and Egmont UK.

For more information or to request a copy of the ShoutSouth! magazine visit www.shoutsouth.org.uk

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