Friday, March 24, 2006

Bookscapes seminar in the Orange Studio, Birmingham.

This Hamlyn Foundation funded project, co-ordinated by Yvonne Hook, has been working with 'hard to reach' young people, including travellers, refugees, young mothers and children coming out of care. Readers in residence have encouraged groups to use books as the basis for arts work, making a creative response to what they read.

Here are some comments on the project from those involved:

“Although I know from experience that participants in such projects find a new sense of achievement, I hadn’t expected that the participants would be so enthusiastic about carrying on with the sessions, or that they would be so pleased with their work that they went to find another group of young mums-to-be to come and look. The poems currently under production are also an unexpected benefit from a group who “hate poetry”, and the group’s own suggestion that we should collect these into a book was something I had hoped for but not expected.” Reader in Residence (RIR) Brenda Read Brown

“Considering the barriers to reading and writing (including dyslexia and having English as an additional language) and some of the negative experiences of school, I was surprised at how enthusiastically the group members responded when asked to do some creative writing.”
“Several of the young people started to visit the library in between sessions, for example to use the internet for college work… One member of the group has been into the Information Shop for Young People several times since being introduced to the facility, to get help on multiple issues including applying for college and dealing with the prospect of becoming a father.”
RIR Birmingham Sam Owen

“I certainly did not expect the group to enjoy the project so much. The session with Rosemary Harris, the poet, was an incredible eye opener. Harris did a phenomenal job and so did the group. With enthusiasm and commitment they became poets in two hours and their reaction to the poems they wrote was incredibly moving. As one member said afterwards “I feel I can write anything now”.”
“The group opened up a great deal through the course of the project and, by the end, they could confidently engage with text on a more personal level. Instead of just thinking “what did Stargirl think” they began to ask “what did Stargirl feel?” and “what did her actions reveal about her emotions?” RIR London Elizabeth Bananuka

“They read books! I know this was an aim of the project, but with my group I didn’t actually believe it would happen …but some of the young people actually read the (set) books from cover to cover and others that I recommended to them.”
The comic book they are producing is something they can hardly believe in themselves…Working with Dave (the comic artist) has enabled them to design their frames and produce them to a standard that has surprised them.” RIR Cumbria Zosia Wand

“Adults and younger children were often interested and wanted to join in” and “…inspired through meeting the Gypsy writer, (the community) are exploring the possibilities of bidding for funding for education and employment projects.”
“By arranging for Richard O’Neill, the Gypsy writer, to visit the local primary school and through storytelling explore issues of difference and prejudice it will have supported the school in tackling bullying and discrimination.”
RIR West Yorkshire Jen Kilyon

“The activities during the project have also informed the way she (the resident writer in the prison) plans to work with readers’ groups in the future.” RIR Manchester Kim Haygarth

From the participants:

“This has been a fantastic opportunity for so many women who would normally never think about reading anything more than the TV guide! Thank you!”

“This project has made me a better person, more outspoken and all. I feel more confident in myself now than before.”

"I would not read poetry before - I found it intimidating. But now I enjoy reading it."

“I tackled things I would ordinarily shy away from."

“I would like to share my crazy poetry with the world!”

“The arty stuff was cool.”

Some of the young people also felt that the sessions had helped them in some way:

“Got things out of my head”.
“It’s ok to be different”.
“No matter who you are there are people that are the same.”
“Getting things out in the open.”


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