There are children lying writing on the carpets, at the cleared dinner tables, and just in corners. We’re at Edgmond Hall, one of Sandwell Council’s Creative Arts and Outdoor Learning Centres. I’m with Hargate Primary School, a wonderful place I have a special connection with, and these are 9 and 10 year olds from the built-up middle of West Bromwich.
The days are packed with workshops and walks, campfires and animal feeding. All this feeds, in its turn, my efforts to get the children writing freely about their experiences. We start with a night walk into the woods, turning off torches to let our night vision expand. Alarmed and sleepy pigeons flap away in front of us. Eventually, Sue, one of Edgmond’s leaders, has us all walking entirely in the dark, our feet feeling for the woodland path.
When we come in, I quickly gather words from the children. A huge collaborative poem virtually writes itself – here it is:
Another day, we explore St. Peter’s Church and graveyard, a very old site, still with its Saxon font. The children are entranced, and later write wonderful poems, like this:
And also the extract at the top of the page, which is by Harsimran, who is 10 years old.
Another day we made little books, inspired by stones and ‘Iron Age’ ceramic roundels. I loved Kornel’s poem, about a stone ‘fiercely/ like a shark turned inside out.’
And we held readings – one night I read to them, and persuaded the staff to read poems they loved too. One night we had a marvellous reading and making session with author of ‘BMX Princess’, Marie Basting. And on the last night, the children read to all of us and each other. A brilliant week!