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, 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, Apr 22 2013 12:51PM

Dorothy Clive Garden Poetree
Dorothy Clive Garden Poetree
Status Grow storytelling yurt
Status Grow storytelling yurt

I can't believe how quickly this year is flying by. Perhaps it's an age thing, (don't tell the wife!).

So far this year I've been in the Lake District, Cheshire north, south, east and west, all over Staffordshire, Derbyshire once, Manchester, The Wirrall, Liverpool, Buxton and of course, my beloved Stoke-on-Trent.

One of the great joys of this job is meeting new people, another is renewing acquaintances with old friends, especially those who have moved schools and rebooked me for their new workplace. It gives a sense of purpose and thanksgiving that I've made a good enough impression that they want my skills in a new environment.

Talking of environment, I had the great privilege of working with a good friends of mine recently in outdoor settings. (See what I did there? Pretty smart, eh?)

I'm chair of "Status Grow - (cropping all over the world)", which is a community group aiming to use derelict ground for community allotments. We've been given a plot of land behind a local church/community centre and we've raised some funds to get in a willow weaver, who has worked with our volunteers, including me, to build us a storytelling yurt completely out of willow. It will root and grow and be part of the grounds for as long as they want it.

Just last week I was at the Dorothy Clive Garden, near Woore, working with a group of mixed age children. Using the garden as a sensory inspiration, we held a treasure hunt of the senses in the morning, followed by 2 different poetry sessions (splitting KS1 and KS2) in the afternoon. Simple diamond poetry and haiku were the order of the day, because we then used the poems as "leaves", written on fabric and tied to the "poetree" in the middle of the garden.

Inspiration can be found anywhere, and classrooms don't always have to be indoors, nor pupils sat at desks. I'm blessed that I have such opportunities, perhaps you could use this idea yourselves.

Take care and God bless,


By Alan Barrett, Sep 5 2012 01:58PM

Well, that went quick!

All those holidays teachers get .... should be grateful .... 13 weeks of doing nowt ... 5 hour days ... never work weekends ... don't know they're born!

OK, so a teacher doesn't drive heavy machinery, or work in confined spaces. Generally speaking, it's a safe profession, away from genuine danger. However, they're responsible for young and impressionable minds.

My mentors have all taught me something, and four of those have been teachers from my school days.

Miss Lewis when I was about 8 and tried to get away with handing in a book I hadn't read properly, because I wanted the next level book, which was an adventure story. "Alan, there are times when we have to do things we don't like to get to the things we do like. Read it again." She taught me much more, I know ... but those words have stayed with me for all these years.

Mr. Mellor when I was 11 and about to leave junior school for high school. I'd passed my 11+ and was one of a very few to get into grammar school. "When you're on top of the pile, there will always be those who are happy for you, but your real friends will be found when the top is far away". I pretended to understand, but it was years later when it truly sank in.

John Hill, Maths teacher at high school. "Boys, in a few months, you'll be taking your 'O' levels. I want you to work hard, study, revise, test yourselves. However, this weekend, you'd better be at Wembley". We laughed, but it was Stoke City's first ever Wembley appearance in 1972. He emphasised that no matter how serious life had to be at times, we should all take time out for leisure and fun.

Phil Boothby, English teacher and form tutor. Phil introduced us to Tolkein, Shakespeare and the wonders of the written and spoken word. He never allowed second best and could be a ruthless marker, but he also had a sense of the absurd and ensured we learned how to appreciate our beautiful language in all its forms. I still see him today and I'm grateful that his love of language encouraged mine.

Perhaps the critics of teachers would care to spend a day teaching the non-stop chattering year 2s, or the know-it-all year 6s, or maybe the hormonal, gobby, opionated year 8s and 9s. Maybe then, they'd realise just what efforts go into ensuring their child leaves school without the narrow-minded attitude towards teaching their parents currently possess, and maybe, just maybe, appreciate that a 5 hour day takes 5 further hours to prepare for, that 13 weeks holiday is rarely "holiday" because they work, prepare and plan during that time too, and that teaching is not a job for the faint-hearted.

Take care and God bless


By Alan Barrett, Jul 30 2012 10:45AM


Although the forecast for the next few days could make me look foolish for being so bold. Never mind, it won't be the first time.

Once again, it's been pretty busy lately, with work at the Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy and their very enthusiastic year 8s. This led to my being asked back for their Summer School this week. Lovely people and I'm delighted to be returning.

Had a very pleasant surprise the same evening at Stoke College and their adult literacy class who gave me a "thank you" card for entertaining them. Most unexpected and quite humbling.

The following weekend saw me at two festivals, then I had a week of meetings! All were very productive and the fruits of the day spent with Ash Morris can be seen on the VIDEOS page.

The Picadilly Summer event continued to flourish every weekend in July, and whilst it's not a great earner, it's a fantastic networking tool for potential future work. You never know who you'll meet and the city of Stoke-on-Trent showed off its amazing artistic talents with an eclectic dynamism.

I'm very privileged to meet some incredible people, and those at the PETER PAN SPECIAL NEEDS NURSEY are amongst the most dedicated. They kindly invited me to attend their open day where I did some storytelling and children's art.

As well as helping to plan for the town Christmas Lights Event in Stoke, I've been busy with a new group "Status Grow - cropping all over the world", a community garden/allotment project. We've had some fantastic help from the Prince's Trust Volunteers and the garden will soon be producing food for the local area in Silverdale.

After being at STARZ in Haughton, near Stafford, on Wednesday, attending yet another meeting about Autumn work and researching for this coming week, I was at a charity cricket match yesterday, storytelling, face painting and general kids art.

I'm having a day off today, well .... that's the theory!

Enjoy the Summer and the Olympics ... take care and God bless



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