Friday, 14 November 2014

Number 10

So last night I found myself in Number 10 Downing Street.

Yeah, I know, right?!

(Right to left:) Mrs Croft, Esme, me!
Fortunately for you, there is photographic evidence, albeit from outside the infamous historical home of the British Prime Minister (we weren't allowed to take phones inside).

I attended the reception with the Oxford Spires Principal, Mrs Croft, and one of our star creative writers, Esme. The event was hosted by Frances Osbourne for First Story, and Esme was thrilled to give a speech about why she loved the charity so much.

Esme and I left school after lunch to visit the V&A (my favourite museum) and release some of the nervous excitement we were both holding on to. In the Islamic Art section, Esme rehearsed her speech and poem one final time - she was presenting a new piece written just last week; a piece which reflects her growing maturity and independence and the incredible impact of First Story on her life.

She spoke about the presence of Kate Clanchy in our school, the friends she had made and they changes she had seen in their self-confidence, and how much she loves the way First Story see her not just as a student and teenager but as a writer

At Number 10, I was so relieved to be surrounded by my friends from First Story (having held myself together for most of the day in order to keep Esme calm, I found myself tipping over into childish excitement by the time we arrived).

David Cameron was not there, but Mrs Osbourne welcomed us all and introduced Esme and Reem, another First Story alumni who read an emotional poem about her home country. The venue was better than I could have imagined - we walked up the staircase lined with images of past Prime Ministers, and the rooms were filled with extravagant chandeliers and priceless art.

I am still reeling of the thrill of it all - I feel so privileged to have been invited and to have visited Number 10.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Poetry Hub Update

I thought it was about time I wrote a little update regarding our progress with the Poetry Hub at the Oxford Spires Library.

Earlier this year, a group of creative writing students initiated a Learn to Lead project in the Library, by which they would transform an unused space into a comfortable, inspirational environment for reading and writing.

In the final few weeks of the last academic year, I met with the group (a mix of students from year 8 through to sixth formers, participating as much as they could between revision sessions and exams), and we managed to develop a proposal to take to the Principal, Mrs Croft. The proposal included a breakdown of their objectives and intended outcomes, including removal of the existing furniture (some dirty blue chairs), cleaning of the walls and carpets, and the purchase and installation of the new seating and lighting.

Mrs Croft was excited by our proposal, and was happy to fund labour and furniture from the Learn to Lead budget, with thanks to Oxford City Council.

Over the summer break, the brilliant site team removed a block of old wooden shelving along the back wall, and it was discovered that the wall behind it was not in a good state. As a result, the area required more cleaning and redecorating than expected; but I returned in September to rediscover that the carpet was a beautiful bright purple - a colour I hadn't seen before due to all the grime and dirt trodden in to it.

Through September, I caught up with all the Learn to Lead students to get their thoughts on the specific furniture they wanted in the Poetry Hub. They asked for a sofa, bean bags, new chairs, and space dividers, so they can block out the sounds of the students in the rest of the library and enclose themselves in privacy.

I have taken to ordering a little of the furniture at a time, so that we can see how it looks before we can add to it. But I am under full instruction from the students who keep coming to tell me what to do next - I have never been bossed around quite this much, and I love it!

The Poetry Hub is well on it's way to being an ideal space for creative writing and reading, though there is still work to be done. More furniture is on it's way, and Kate and I are still looking for sources to fund some new shelving and additional stock. But for ambitious perfectionists like our Learn to Lead Poetry Hub team, nothing is impossible.

Hopefully more news to follow soon!