Ian Haigh, Teacher of English, Farlingaye School, Woodbridge
“Following my two experiences with the YWSP workshops [Note: both at National Trust site, Sutton Hoo], I’ve really enjoyed hearing the students’ positive feedback. They like that they were given time and space to ponder and for their writing to develop over the course of the day. Quite a few of the students said that they’d never really had an experience like it and a few of them said that, to get the same feeling again, they were going to make an effort to get themselves out into nature and leave technology alone sometimes… Educationally, it’s good for the students to have time to find their own voices with their writing and, for the people that attended, I’m confident that they feel more confident with their writing…
Several of the students asked me when we can do something similar again and I know that a few of them got a lot out of being sociable with people they wouldn’t normally interact with. Some of them don’t necessarily interact with people at school in such a mature way and I’m keen to do something similar with them on a more regular basis.
As a school, we’ve now set up a Creative Writing classroom one lunch-time per week where students can relax, get informal feedback and learn about upcoming competitions (including the YWSP) and this is very much off the back of the workshops with you.”
Chris Eames, Teacher of English at Sir James Smith’s School, Cornwall. On the decision to commit school funds to extending the reach of the successful ongoing Imagining History UK project
We’ve decided to commit funds to more field-work projects because we can see just how effective they have been in inspiring and engaging young writers, especially boys. We would like to deepen their writing by allowing them to focus on observing, experiencing and thinking about their subject more before they begin writing.
Joanna Deary, Teacher of English at Firrhill School, Edinburgh. On the level of engagement of her students during and following a workshop at Trinity House of Leith, Edinburgh.
They were engaged for a number of reasons: they were treated as writers, they did a range of activities and they connected their imaginative ideas with real people and places.
When the pupils were given the opportunity to write more extensively later in the day, many took themselves off to a quiet corner and seemed dismayed when we had to regroup later as they wanted to keep going! Even over lunch, the group talked about how much they were enjoying the experience and this continued when we returned to school.
Dr Jos Smith Academic Director of the British Archive of Contemporary Writing, University of East Anglia
We employed the Young Walter Scott Prize to offer training to a Writer in Residence and eight postgraduate volunteers working on an HLF-funded project here at UEA, ‘Suffragette Stories: Women’s Heritage in Norfolk’.
The challenge of the project was take objects and stories from a suffragette archive out to various schools and libraries across Norfolk and help participants think themselves back into the shoes of the suffragettes. The writer and volunteers found this to be invaluable in preparing them to work with school groups. The methods and techniques they explored were dynamic and engaging (in body and mind) and have helped us to produce workshops that have worked well in a variety of contexts, from small community libraries in low income and marginalised areas to busy city centre colleges.
There is a very strong pedagogical assumption underpinning this approach which seems to communicate to participants that ‘everyone can do this – everyone has something valuable to offer’ and that privileges the creative process itself over the product. This inspires confidence across the board, in the volunteers leading the workshops and in the participants themselves.
Dr Dina Gusejnova, Assistant Professor in International History at LSE. Comments following our collaboration with her on an Oral History/Historical Fiction project in Douglas, Isle of Man.
As academics, all too often we forget the somatic, performative, and creative aspects of human intelligence, concentrating instead on specific outcomes, such as preparing our students for exams and coursework. However, looking at how you enticed teenagers to build on their conversations with historical witnesses, to develop empathy, and then to create fictional personalities and dialogues in the span of only a few hours, I understood how these other aspects of human imagination can be brought to bear upon historical material.
What you are doing is truly unique, and I could see that the success of this depends on the existence of specific partnerships with school teachers, local communities, and, perhaps, academics such as myself. Every year, we are struggling with growing numbers of young people suffering from issues such as anxiety. Many are having difficulties making connections in unfamiliar environments. Having seen your work, I am convinced that workshops like yours provide an imaginative way to build confidence among this vulnerable age group.
Laura Wood. Author of A Sky Painted Gold shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag YA award 2018
I had the enormous privilege of hearing some of the work from students in Cornwall and it was very moving. The writing that was produced was incredibly powerful, often exploring a sense of identity and belonging, inextricably wrapped up in the dramatic landscape and rich history of storytelling specific to Cornwall’s wild and beautiful moors and coastline. Whether it was writing about evacuees or mythical beasts, these young authors brought a thoughtfulness and honesty to their work that inspired me and reminded me of what is best about working on historical fiction – that forging a stronger connection with our past only helps us to better understand our present.
Tan Twan Eng, Author of The Garden of Evening Mists (winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2015, winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize 2012)
You and your team and everyone involved have my utmost admiration.
Patrick Gale, Author and Artistic Director of the North Cornwall Book Festival, shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2014
For several years now North Cornwall Book Festival has featured a readings and prizegiving event for the Charles Causley Young People’s Poetry Prize, of which I’m the patron but inevitably, as a prose writer and novelist, I felt something was missing. So it was a delight to be able to showcase the results of the Young Walter Scott Prize workshops alongside the prizewinning poetry this year. It was evident that Steph Haxton’s workshops with the young writers had been hugely worthwhile. The work produced was incredibly varied, energetic and richly imagined and it was lovely to see some evident pride as the writers took to the stage in turn to read their work out to a pretty big audience.
The combination of Cornwall’s remoteness and its pretty desperate poverty mean that its state schools get all too little in the way of either live literature events, field trips or the chance to produce imaginative work outside the confines of the national curriculum. I would dearly love to see more workshops like these rolled out in the county, not least because I think the teachers benefit from them as much as their students.
Lucy Farrant, Director of the Young Norfolk Arts Festival writing in 2017
Young Norfolk Arts’ relationship with the Young Walter Scott Prize is invaluable. Working together we are able to offer over 70 Young People, in this year’s Festival alone, free opportunities to develop their literary talents with workshops delivered by YWSP’s experienced writers and authors.
By taking young people outside of their school environments and giving them free exclusive access to historic locations, such as the Norwich Castle, Holkham Hall and Blicking Hall, has helped to develop each young person’s creative career pathways.
It is important to keep these opportunities free so they are accessible to the widest possible audience. This in mind, we wish to continue working with YWSP to deliver these unique workshops.