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Young Writers’ Festival

18 April 2018

Enthusiastic, Expressive, Engaging

Young Writers’ Festival 2018

Art Richmond at The Exchange, Twickenham, 15th April

Review by Eleanor Lewis

Arts Richmond, as must be well known to readers of these pages, is about promoting the arts in and around the borough, but promoting the arts becomes a niche activity unless you include the younger generation from the start. Happily, we will all be OK, because Arts Richmond has this sewn up if the evidence of Sunday’s Young Writer’s Festival is anything to go by. The Young Writers’ Festival is, unsurprisingly, a celebration of young people’s writing, specifically young people between the ages of six and sixteen from a mixture of state and independent schools. Their work is assessed by three judges and then prizes, which include the titles of Young and Senior Poets Laureate, are awarded for outstanding writing.

Keith Wait has been directing this event for five years. He has the services of three professional actors – this year Catherine Forrester, Janna Fox and AJ MacGillivray, all three enthusiastic and skilled – and presents the children’s work as a rehearsed reading. This is inspired: the children see their work professionally executed which increases their confidence, and everything that’s in the work is brought out to entertain an appreciative audience.

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The Festival itself is a straightforward event. Arts Richmond Chair Hilary Dodman introduced the children and explained the arrangement of year groups, and then seventeen pieces of work were performed straight through by the actors. Prizes were awarded by Her Worship the Mayor, Cllr Lisa Blakemore, at the end of the proceedings.

Poetry and creative writing is challenging for some children because unless it flows naturally, which it might not, it’s a thing you have to do with very few instructions and no manual, and that’s frightening. The children whose work was on show on Sunday however, had all risen to the challenge of expressing feelings, creating images and communicating effectively, a tribute to the children themselves and to those teachers and parents who encouraged and supported them.

There were many interesting and moving pieces of work on show. The poem Scarred by Siaraa Syed (Y8, winner of the Senior Young Laureate) with its evocative description of an unknown, sinister woman dressing for an unknown event was striking in the way it described the “smirking” woman in terms of her elegant clothes and accessories using carefully chosen words in simple statement sentences to great effect.

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Archit Dawi (Y3) thrilled everyone with his energy-fuelled poem, Mission, about planning a fabulous, all-encompassing mission to have every adventure imaginable when you’re in Y3, only to be brought up short by the necessity of doing homework.

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Pippi Barrow (winner of the Junior Young Laureate) remembered her grandfather fondly through a carefully observed study of his chair which “hadn’t moved for so long its footprints were imprinted in the carpet”.

Isla Rossington (Y4, year group winner) fully understood the effect of short sentences and brief descriptions with her poem about a mouse dashing about the house, just occasionally glimpsed by the humans.

Jamie Sainsbury (Y10, year group winner) created a beautiful set of images of a snowy street moving from night to daybreak, and Henry Bartlett (Y2) wrote a short, delightful poem about a kind man with a good memory.

The level of intuitive understanding present in some entries was impressive too. Camilla Salar’s story, An Old Friend, about an adult unexpectedly meeting an old school friend on a train, only to discover the friend had disappeared into the void of dementia and had no idea of their shared past history was mature, sophisticated and plausible. This little tale (from a Y6 writer) was thoughtfully introduced too with a naturally occurring comment about time flying by.

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The recognition and celebration of the arts and of children’s engagement in all aspects of artistic endeavour is extremely important, particularly in these uncertain times. Arts Richmond is doing a great job.

Eleanor Lewis
April 2018

Photography by Christina Bulford

 

 

 

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