Inspiring literacy confidence through workshops for all ages!

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By Alan Barrett, Jul 14 2014 01:03PM

Ah yes, blue skies, only intermittent rain, heat, gardens, allotment, butterflies and so on. All good and all welcome. Big smiles behind a snotty hanky.

I've been incredibly lucky and had a full diary lately.

This has included working in local schools, the library service, the museums and even helping an wonderfully enthusiastic group of year 7 and 8 children from Clayton Hall school in Newcastle-under-Lyme to acheive their Bronze Awards for literacy in the Libraries Challenge!

I've been to Manchester, Liverpool, Buxton, Wigan, Derby, Uttoxeter and Wolverhampton, as well as working here in Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme. I am somewhat tired, but delighted to have had such terrific opportunities to work with such a wide variety of brilliant chilren and staff.

Some days, getting up at stupid o'clock, facing a 60 mile (or more) journey in rush hour traffic, I think to myself "Why do I do this?", and then I get there, and all the negativity disappears because the response is so fantasticaly positive.

Working with several other artists, sculptors, potters, mosaicists, painters, dancers, musicians and more, simply inspires me and it's such a blessing to be able to say that.

So today, despite suffering with a cold, there is no negativity, just a full and positive well of creative inspiration to dip into and feel refreshed and fulfilled. I can only hope your day is as bountiful.

By Alan Barrett, Mar 10 2014 12:25PM

I love Book week. It brings about a sense of educational excitement I get at no other time. Mostly, I'm storytelling, but I also get to help out with new creations, new innovations and impart new skills to overworked teachers who can then use them at other times.

It's not right that we limit ourselves to being "just a teacher", or engineer, mother, carpet fitter - add whatever description suits. We are all so much more!

Just taking my own immediate pigeon holes, I fit into all these: man, husband, father, grandfather, brother, son, cousin, uncle, great-uncle, writer, actor, storyteller, poet, football supporter, reader, DiY enthusiast, gardener, friend. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Take time today to congratulte yourself on being more than just the obvious, and remind yourself that all your skills and experinece benefit at least one person, every day.

By Alan Barrett, Jan 15 2014 05:15PM

Well, it moves around far too swiftly, but here we are in a brand new year. So far work has remained a trickle, but new adventures await us as we stride forward.

This is of course, the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War. My great literacy love is poetry, and in particular the poets of WW1. In all truth, poetry never really interested me at school. Later, into my 20s, I discovered the beat poets and that piqued a little delving, and as I delved, I discovered the wonders of Sassoon, Brooke, Owen and many others, some of whom will never be household names, but wrote beautifully and poignantly about the sacrifices of the time.

My favourite poem come from this time, it's a long poem, written in dialect by a WW1 padre, known by his nickname, WOODBINE WILLY, the Rev. G.A. Studdert-Kennedy. He was given the nickname by the soldiers who saw him go amongst the horrors of the battlefield with a packet of Woodbine cigarettes, sharing them with dying men on the field. I cannot begin to understand how he felt, but his beautiful words in his collection "The unutterable beauty", often leave me lost for my own. In that collection is myfavourite poem "Well?". It's far too long to produce here, but if you ever manage to read it, it speaks far more deeply than I ever could in explanation.

Being completely mercenary I suppose, I'm hoping my love and knowledge of the poetry of WW1 will bring me more work and help to lead to a greater understanding amongst the young of what the youth of 100 years ago sacrificed so that they could have the opportunity for a better today.

By Alan Barrett, Oct 10 2013 12:46PM

Well, we've all had to tighten our belts lately, and, (leaving the politics aside), it's been a tough year for most artists, no matter what their genre.

However, whilst I can't retire just yet, it's not been as bad as I'd feared. It's definitely a trickle rather than a flood, but it's a steady trickle and I shall be grateful for that.

Here's a special thought going out to all teachers and other professionals in the public sector - not all of us under-appreciate you. Indeed, as a former Chair of Governors, I can say with deep gratitude that my school had an incredible staff, led by first one, then another, very different, but equally superb, head teachers.

I feel blessed to have met so many dedicated and gifted educators on my journey through life; and feel very strongly that if those imposing rules, statistical demands, tick boxes and other anchors to creative thought upon teachers, were subject to the same monitoring and standards they demand, I daresay we'd have a very small government!

Oops! I said I would leave politics out of it, Hope you don't mind.

Moving swiftly on, even though it's been better than I'd dared hope, I don't mind if the trickle turns into a stream, or (dare I hope) a river. Thanks for reading!

Take care and God bless


By Alan Barrett, Sep 11 2013 01:15AM

.... and here we go again!

It's been quite an exciting Summer overall. As well as tending my allotment, I've been out and about all over the North Midlands at various festivals, telling stories, running poetry workshops, reciting, and running simple art projects for children - although it's very noticeable that many parents like to "help".

This Saturday (14/09) sees me compèring an open mic poetry session with 14 local poets at the CoRE project here in Stoke-on-Trent. Whilst this is an unpaid gig, the benefits far outweigh the lack of income.

It's wonderful to be invited for a start!

Added to that, I get to meet a couple of old friends and several new faces I've not seen or heard before. We are sharing our words with whoever wishes to listen and being inspired by the city's characters of yesteryear. I'm not certain yet who my poem will be focussed upon, but as I'm a staunch Stoke City fan, I strongly suspect it might be the Wizard of Dribble.

I'm looking forward to the new school year, the new season and of course, working with you all.

Take care and God bless -



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