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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, 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, 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, Feb 6 2013 01:37PM

As well as being in Chester and a few other places since I last posted, I've had the pleasure of working in several libraries lately.

I think perhaps we take some of our institutions for granted at times, and libraries certainly come into this category. The staff are well informed, friendly, customer aware and incredibly diligent.

The modern library also boasts IT facilities, technically competent staff and even occasionally a café! Here in North Staffs, despite the cuts all round, we still have several excellent public libraries, including 2 in schools, sharing facilities and 2 that share the local government office for help with council taxes and so on.

All in all, we should be grateful for what we have, and libraries are one of those institutions we should all use more often. Try to get to yours today.

Take care and God bless



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