Tag Archives: key stage one

Talking to a young child about remembrance

I was asked to lead a storytelling session for a group of 4-7 year olds which reflected on why we remember the Great War and the symbolism of the poppy.  I saw this as a challenge of both tone and content; how to talk about a terrible event in terms which will not traumatise a very young child?  Supposing this to be a dilemma faced by many teachers and families around Remembrance Day (11th November) I thought I’d share how I did it in order to make an important conversation a little easier in the future.

I started by telling the story of The Pied Piper of Hamlyn.  In the story the town is plagued by rats which make everybody unhappy.  A Piper, capable of playing enchanted music, comes to town.  He promises to get rid of the rats and the townspeople promise to pay him handsomely.  When the deed is done the townspeople go back on their word and the Piper leads all their children away.

The story of the Pied Piper is undoubtedly a sad one but it is a great way to talk about feelings, loss and regret.  It is thought that the story was originally told to help explain a loss of life caused by sickness but I wanted to use it to contextualise the devastation of war so I then told it again.  The second time I used the structure of the Pied Piper but told a simplified version of the Great War.  Something like this…

A hundred years ago peace in Europe was in danger.  The countries of Europe would do anything for peace so cities, towns and villages sent their young men to fight; many did not come home.  It was only when the war ended and Europe had its peace that these cities, towns and villages understood the heavy price that they had paid.  When the families of those who hadn’t come home from the war went to find them they found only fields of poppies; fields of poppies that had once been ploughed by farmers, fields of poppies that had then been churned by the bombs and guns of war, fields of poppies that were now lined with silent graves.

A generation gave their lives and their loved ones for what they believed was the right thing and so we might have peace today.

They shall grow not old as we who are left grow old

Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them

We will remember them

 

Between 2014 and 2018 John Kirk has presented multiple storytelling relating to The Great War including Michael Morpurgo’s “Private Peaceful”, Terry Deary’s “The War Game”, Tom Palmer’s “The Last Try” and written educational workshops with Hackney Museum, Redbridge Libraries and Vestry House Museum, Walthamstow.  His Great War edutainment session Band of Brothers: a story of three liars remains available to schools, libraries and museums.  For more information contact me.

Let me shout from the rooftops “I do school visits!”

I have been working as a performance storyteller for almost ten years but before that I was an actor.  I did a few bits and pieces in theatres and went to Edinburgh a couple of times but generally speaking my work was doing Theatre in Education and Children’s Theatre in schools.  Theatre in Education wasn’t quite what I’d anticipated during my classical drama training but perhaps I went to my first TIE audition thinking of it as a way of getting paid for what I’d trained to do whilst waiting for my “big break”.  The way it worked was that after an intense rehearsal period the cast piled into a van and toured the schools of Britain with either an agenda lead piece of theatre or something more light hearted (ie a panto).  The shows were generally pretty short to fit into the school timetable and were often followed up by workshops lead by the actor-facilitators.  Now, you must remember that at this point I am not a lot older than the “children” I am working with, I have no formal teacher training and I can be an impulsive hothead so facilitating felt like being thrown in at the deep end.  It was steep learning curve.  Sometimes we were offering children their first theatrical experience, sometimes we were enhancing their curriculum.  Sometimes the children liked you, sometimes it was very intimidating.  The production values could vary from a enormous rotating sets to a bit of curtain hanged on some plumbing pipe but the creative energy of some of the companies I was fortunate enough to work with is incredible.  I learned a huge amount about working with young people from Chris Geelan at The Young Shakespeare Company, Bill Davies at Blunderbus and Adrian New at Stopwatch Theatre to name a few and 6 days a week on the road soon became a way of life that I am still passionate about today.

After I met Lauren my life had to change and I stopped the acting but I continued to pick up facilitation work with people like Bromley Mytime and Eastside Educational Arts Trust and I continued to learn from people like Naomi Cortes at Almeida Projects and the brilliant Alison Banham at Act on Info.  16 years later I am a far more confident drama facilitator and have developed my own style of workshop which incorporates storytelling, drama games and role play.  The themes of the sessions have varied from the Aztecs and Evolution to Shakespeare and School Transition but I try to approach every session the same way; enthusiasm, loads of games and fun.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, it turns out that when you do 100-150 library presentations a year people forget that you offer school visits.  What once represented 80% of my work now accounts for 35% and in spite of the fact I advertise on websites like findaschoolworkshop.com and schoolworkshops.com I still get asked if I do school work.  I have dropped the ball on what once was my bread and butter and now I’m running to get back into the game.

So let me shout it from the rooftops “I do primary school visits!”.  I offer my assemblies, class group workshops and event day bookings (National Storytelling Week, World Book Month, school fetes, Well Being Days, school library openings etc).  In schools I have worked one to one with children or with as many as 500 children in a sitting!  I have been to schools for an hour I have done residencies.  I can offer traditional tales and published stories including Roald Dahl and Dennis the Menace and I can be as interactive as you like depending on the needs of the group.  I have never written a book but I can guarantee that primary school children will enjoy my sessions and be inspired by my sessions (they may even learn something about writing stories!).

“The whole day was great from start to finish. Working with you has been a pleasure and we were really grateful for how flexible and accommodating you were with both your time and the topics you covered. Speaking to children from across the school after the event itself they thoroughly enjoyed it and are already asking when you will be coming back”.

Literacy coordinator, Wyvil Primary School, May 2018

Schools and school visits have been a big part of my professional life and as the nation goes back to school full of hopes and ambitions for the year ahead it’s my hope that it won’t be long before I’m off to do my first school visits of the new academic year.

For more information about my work please review my FAQs or to make an enquiry contact me.

 

The Great Fire of Guilden Morden (Part Two)

John Kirk specialises in drama workshops and theatre for young people.Time to bring you up to speed on The Great Fire of Guilden Morden project.

As you’ll recall from my previous blog on this three month project  last year I was contacted by Guilden Morden Primary School who were looking for a creative partner for a Heritage Lottery funded project.  Working over 12 weeks between May 2014 and July 2014 the school would devise and develop a creative response to The Guilden Morden Fire (22/5/1881).  This creative response would be documented using web based, digital technology.

The project has now finished so it seems appropriate to reflect on what we got up to in my final weeks in Cambridgeshire…

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.Week Six

Polishing our story – I worked with the groups to consider the structure and language we might use in our poetry and scenes.  We explored atmosphere and how it might effect the urgency of our words (particularly as our story is about a fire).  We began rehearsing our scenes and thinking about how we could use transitive verbs to help a performer better understand character and events.  Elsewhere we explored the local legend of Jack o’Legs and the area’s connections to agriculture.

Week Seven

Staging a Chorus – The group continued to think about how vocal expression could bring the story to life.  Conscious of the looming deadline to create a piece of community theatre this week I also introduced some basic ideas about Greek Chorus Work.  With the youngest classes we set up a water relay race as we explored the difficulties the Fire Brigade might have faced in 1881.

Week Eight

Rehearsals – With two sessions scheduled this week we staged the main structural elements of our story; the scenes and poem.  It is worth mentioning that most of the ideas for the words and actions came from the children rather than from the teachers or myself.  It was very important that the children felt this was their project and that my role was to challenge and enthuse them.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.Week Nine

More Rehearsals – Working with each group for short bursts to ensure they didn’t disengage from the story we continued to rehearse the groups.  As we began to bring the different elements of the story together the process became very technical and I confess to confusing myself at times!  Despite this the group took things in their stride.

Week Ten

Show Time – For the first time we brought all 73 performers together and on two sweltering afternoons the children presented their story to their families and community.

The Great Fire of Guilden Morden is documented by the school here but this is a taste of what we came up with…

 

“It was a charming summer’s day in the year of 1881.

In Guilden Morden, the golden hill in the marsh,

the sun’s warm rays are dancing on the faces of children playing outside.

Birds sit amongst the fresh green leaves of silver birch trees

singing their beautiful songs,

and a gentle breeze carries cares and worries away.

Peace reigns over the village, fields and lanes.

None suspect what is to pass on that terrible Sunday.”

 

From start to finish this was a special experience.  The staff and all the pupils were wonderful to work with and I will truly miss being a part of the school.  I take away a lot of memories and a folder of thank you messages from the children which I will treasure.  Most of all though I leave this project inspired by the potential of young people and certain that creative practitioners have a future within education so long as schools remain willing to take creative risks, commissioning projects where the outcomes are more difficult to quantify.  So long as there are teachers like those at Guilden Morden Primary School creativity has a very bright future.

April to June: What they said..

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

This year I have seen the amount of work I do swell.  More than ever before I am being asked to travel across the country to work with young people and adults on all manner of projects.  As the school year ends I thought I would share a few of the comments from the past three months.

In March Private Peaceful was perhaps the largest single project I have ever undertaken and the feedback from it was phenomenal but rather than share what you can see on a dedicated page I have picked out testimonials from other workshops that I offer.

“Children from all ages and classes were engaged and buzzing from their work with you.”

Literacy Coordinator, Watling Lower School, Dunstable (Jack and the Beanstalk Workshop and Storytelling Day, May 2014)

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.“The staff said you were the best story teller they had ever experienced.”

Inclusive Coordinator, Sauncey Wood Primary School, Harpenden (The Unlucky Mummy Myths and Legends Day, May 2014)

and perhaps my favourite…

“‘I really get it now. Shakespeare was my worst thing before but now I understand that it’s meant to be fun and dramatic.'”

Year Eight, Shenfield High School, Shenfield (Shakespeare’s The Tempest Workshop Sessions, May 2014)

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.

I’d be lying if I said that everybody adored my style of working and that there haven’t been difficult days along the way but the comments I choose to share here are my mandate for carrying on working into 2014-15.  They demonstrate my value and the difference my storytelling and workshop sessions make to young people and educational professionals.

I am incredibly lucky to have worked with some fantastic people during the current academic year (City Read London, Shrewsbury Children’s BookfestGuilden Morden Primary School and Hackney Museum) and much of my success is because of the wonderful, supportive people who give me such wonderful opportunities.

The Summer Reading Challenge 2014 has already kicked off what’s looking like a very exciting six months.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll be visiting you.

See also feedback from Jan-March

The Great Fire of Guilden Morden (Part One)

John Kirk specialises in drama workshops and theatre for young people.Three years ago it was my pleasure to be involved in two projects which were funded by the Creative Partnerships initiative.  The programme saw artists working with schools and exposing pupils and staff to new ideas of working.  In Stoke we worked to explore how we identify with urban spaces through stories and in Lincolnshire we created a story trail for the school and wider community.

Rather than doing a day in a school I was able to present a series of workshops as I took up residency in my partner schools.  The projects were very rewarding and I feel that I learned a lot about my practice from being involved.  I was supported by my partner schools to try out ideas (to take risks) and organise really memorable learning experiences for the children (we did a Q&A in Stoke with some local VIPs as well as a creative walk, whilst in Lincolnshire I organised storytelling experiences around the school to help the children’s imaginations).  Sadly (as is the way with these things) the programme came to an end just as I was discovering it.

Last year I was contacted by Guilden Morden Primary School who were looking for a creative partner for a Heritage Lottery funded project.  Working over 12 weeks between May 2014 and July 2014 the school would devise and develop a creative response to The Guilden Morden Fire (22/5/1881).  This creative response would be documented using web based, digital technology.  Remembering my previous Creative Partnership experiences I jumped at the chance.

At the time of writing we are approaching the midway point of the project.  I have tried to summarise what we’ve done below…

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.Week One

Celebration.  Our first session fell on May Day.  In Cambridgeshire at the time of our story May Day would have been an opportunity for the community to celebrate the coming of Spring.  I want celebration to be central to our final presentation so I introduced a simple group dance to the children.  The dance will be incorporated into the final presentation and offer our work a communal spectacle.

Who are you?  Through simple storytelling games I found out more about the groups and we used objects to stimulate more personal stories.

Week Two

Who am I to you?  The pupils brought objects from home to tell their personal stories.  We then used the objects to build a map of their school community.  By spending two weeks focussed on identity we are better positioned to introduce the heritage aspect of the project (I have a better understanding of who I am but where do I come from?)

Week Three

The Great Fire of Guilden Morden Walkabout.  I lead walks around the village, introducing the children to the story of the fire in role.  Each walk took us on a 40 minute stroll about Guilden Morden stopping at the (assumed) site of the fire, The Independent Chapel, Old School, War Memorial, Church and Vicarage.  At each stop I role played a different character who had a part in the story of the fire.

Week Four

Commemoration.  This session fell on the anniversary of the fire.  To mark the date the school organised a fire drill and I read the newspaper report of the fire to the children in assembly.  Our commemoration was in sharp contrast to the celebration of Week One.

In their own words “The Guiden Morden Fire”.  The groups retold the story of the fire using drama games.  The groups used drama to structure their own version of the story.  These structures will be used as a starting point for building a narrative poem and dramatic scenes.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.Week Five

Acting Out the Events of 1881.  With the younger classes I appeared as a Victorian Schoolmaster and with the older classes we turned our version of the story into a series of scenes.  In the next week the classes will transcribe these scenes to form the basis of scripts and stories.

Over the next six weeks we have a lot of work still to do but I hope to be able to share news of our success, images and video here over the next few months.  Stayed tuned!

Mammoths to Medals (Revisited)

John Kirk specialises in drama workshops and theatre for young people.In 2013 I moved from the London borough of Hackney to the London Borough of Waltham Forest.  I may have only moved seven short miles but after six happy years in one of the most vibrant boroughs in Britain it was a massive wrench.  Whilst living in Hackney I had some of the most creatively fulfilling years of my life as I built strong working relationships with organisations including The Hackney Museum.  Hackney Museum, based in Hackney Central Library is an amazing community resource staffed by knowledgeable and creative people with a passion for sharing local history.  I may be biased but I think its one of the best museums in the country.

Working in heritage environments is something I really enjoy.  My earliest solo storytelling pieces were based around British history (including a Victorian Classroom session for The Bruce Castle Museum) and this summer I will be helping to lead a creative exploration of the Guilden Morden fire.

Anyway, as I sat watching Lizzy Yarnold, Jade Etherington and Team GB at the Sochi Winter and Paralympic Games I couldn’t help but think back to my time working with Hackney Museum.  It was in the build up to Summer Olympic and Paralympics (London 2012) that I collaborated with Hackney Museum on Mammoths to Medals,a presentation which sought to tell the incredible story of Hackney’s history as part of the Museum’s Mapping the Change project.  In just 30 minutes we explored 200,000 years of Hackney’s history highlighting the contributions of those people who have called Hackney their home; Anglo Saxon Farmers, Tudor Society, Victorian Industrialists and migrants from across the globe.

In the life of the project I have presented the piece on many occasions at Hackney Museum and in Hackney Primary Schools.  Incorporating games and learning activities into a chronological narrative the piece offer facts about Hackney and but also it questions how we will be remembered.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.A lot has changed in the two years since we made the piece was documented at Kingsmead Primary School.  Hackney’s demographic and landscape have been slowly morphing for 200,000 years but concerns about how communities will withstand the gentrification of East London mean our legacy is once again scrutinised.

When we look at Hackney’s story it shows us that change doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  It points to how different traditions, cultures and values have shaped an area into a place people want to live and work.   I am incredibly proud of being a part of Hackney’s history and of this piece.  I hope that through watching Mammoths to Medals young people recognise how they can shape their community.

Thankfully I haven’t lost touch with Hackney Museum and hope to be back to run sessions as the country prepares to commemorate The Great War.  For the moment though I am very settled in Waltham Forest and I’m looking forward to the future.

A Story? Really? A blog about managing innocence in storytelling

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.As a storyteller I rely upon two presentation models: narrating events and being the character.  My relationship with the audience will change depending how I present the story.  If I am narrating events I inform the audience of our relationship.  I allow them to understand that the story and its events are a fiction and that they are watching a presentation.  I do this by introducing myself, talking about the story and clearly demonstrating different characters.  When I become a character my audience must do much more of the work themselves.

“So what?”, I hear you cry.  Well, when I present a session as a Victorian School Teacher the participants are briefly starring in a drama devised to expose them to the way education might have been in the 19th Century.  If the participants don’t respect the threat of caning then the session is less effective.  Equally, when I present a Detective investigating a crime the participants must be convinced that the scenario is credible.  A lack of investment in the world of the story can be a session’s undoing.

John Kirk specialises in drama workshops and theatre for young people.Cynicism can bedevil creativity as we grow up and the examples above relate to characters and sessions devised for pre-teens but what about when we are very young?  What are the dangers of investing too heavily in stories?  Can there be any harm in believing that you just met the Gruffalo?  I suppose that very much depends on the experience.  For a young child, meeting a creature with terrible tusks, terrible claws and terrible teeth in terrible jaws etc. will either be the best or worst day of their life.

Clearly telling a very young participant that what is happening (or about to happen) isn’t real can impact their experience.  You could go as far as to say that intentionally breaking the illusion robs them of an innocent experience.  There is unquestionable security in the truth and I think it is the storyteller’s responsibility to offer that security through the narrative by ensuring audiences see that the wicked get there just desserts.  If the participant absolutely believes is this more memorable or just confusing?  Is Miss Trunchbull scary if you know its an act or is the Mad Hatter as wonderful if you know its in some way false?  How a situation is managed will hinge on lots of factors including the sensitivity of the participant and the circumstances and legacy of the meeting.

From my point of view it isn’t easy to maintain the reality of being a character rather than a person for an extended period of time.  It can involve a lot of planning with a school or organisation ahead of the day.  Trying to think like a character at all times and allowing everybody to believe you are a character can be exhausting (once I spent an entire day in a Headteacher’s study in role pretending to work at her desk!).  I have however found that the legacy of this approach is huge and the feedback on such sessions is generally very positive.

John Kirk specialises in drama workshops and theatre for young people.“When you came in to work with the children during world book week, they were completely gripped!  The story narrative you came up with to engage the children was phenomenal, the children completely believed the 3 Little Pigs had been eaten!  You stayed in role all day and as a result the children played along too, the quality of writing and language we got from them was fantastic.   I have no doubt in my mind that we would use you again… as we are still talking about it a year later!!” (Teacher, St Wulstans and St Edmunds Primary School, Fleetwood)

I suppose that to some extent the purpose of the story will determine whether the participants are allowed to believe in the character.  After presenting the Victorian Classroom I will appear to participants as myself and discuss their experiences.  This is partly to assure groups that the monstrous school master is imaginary but also so that the group can articulate how my lesson and their lessons compare.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.The real world can be a hard place and sometimes we grow up too fast.  Its a sad day when a child becomes inhibited by doubt.  I was recently at a school and a little girl took me to one side and asked whether I really was Willy Wonka.  I told her that in life we can choose to believe or we can choose not to believe but that decision was ultimately hers.  She skipped away satisfied with my answer, having just chatted with the world’s greatest chocolate maker!

There are times when I wish I was a little more innocent.  As an adult and a storyteller I have an important role to play in maintaining the innocence of my youngest audiences for as long as possible.

St George and the Dragon: The Golden Legend

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.I was recently asked to recall the stories that I told.  As I compiled my list it occurred to me that my repertoire includes stories about our world from all around the world. A striking example of this is The Legend of St George and the Dragon.

The Legend of St George and the Dragon is well known in England because he is the nation’s patron saint and although it seems, on the surface, a straight forward battle between man and beast (albeit mythical monster) this is a story which is appreciated around the world.

It is said that the story was first brought to England from the Holy Land  by Knights returning from the Crusades.  The story goes that St George comes to the town of Silene in Libya.  Learning that the town is troubled by a terrible Dragon, George seeks the beast out and kills it.  He is hailed as hero by the people.  It’s easy to see how the central idea of bravery, honour and valour conquering a terrible enemy would have resonated with the returning soldiers and fascinated the population at the time.

The idea of George as a Knight fighting with a Dragon, sometimes referred to as “The Golden Legend”, is a romantic view of the Saint’s life.   Saint George was a Roman Soldier, who was born in Turkey 2000 years ago and died for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.  In death St George is respected by Christians and Muslims alike.  As well as England, St George is patron of the World Scouting Movement and other countries including Georgia, Greece, India, Russia and Egypt.  The list of countries and cities who have chosen George as their patron saint is much longer than this but I feel this selection demonstrates his truly global appeal.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.George and the Dragon is a legend: a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but not authenticated (www.oxforddictionaries.com).  Both Knight and Dragon can be viewed as metaphors (the saint’s battle with religious persecution).  In some versions of the story George captures the Dragon and only agrees to killing it if the people of the town convert to Christianity.

At the beginning of this blog I said that St George and the Dragon demonstrates how the stories I tell are about our world from all around the world.  Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone who chooses George as their patron did so because of “The Golden Legend” but I would say that you don’t have to be religious to buy into the metaphor.  Everyday all around the world people face hardships and difficulties.  They aren’t knights and don’t have swords or shields but they do share the resolve and courage that George had in facing his Dragon.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy – it’s a simple yet enduring message.

The Merits of a Narrative Poem

John Kirk specialises in drama workshops and theatre for young people.When I was younger I didn’t think that I liked poetry.  Outside Shakespeare I rarely read verse for pleasure.  Last year though, I was introduced to Alfred Noyes’ “The Highwayman” and it changed my view of poetry completely.  Since then I have been reading other narrative poems including the “The Ballad of the Fleet” (Tennyson) and “The Walrus and the Carpenter” (Carroll) and incorporating them into my work.

A narrative poem tells us a story but it is set out in stanzas with the rhythms and rhyming patterns familiar in other types of poem.  It will contain a skilfully woven story packed with wonderful imagery and metaphors which compels its audience.

In my opinion the narrative poem offers so much that I have even used them in pieces for Birthday Parties!  Here are what I see as the merits of working with narrative poetry.

The narrative poem is perhaps one of the most ancient form of storytelling (The Iliad and Beowulf are both story poems).  As a Drama Facilitator I believe they are a fantastic way of introducing complex text to young audiences which demonstrates the breadth and depth of our literary heritage beyond Shakespeare.

It offers a whole story.  A chapter of a book or a scene from a play wouldn’t offer the beginning middle and end in this way.  If I want to guarantee that a group have heard the material a narrative poem is a concise way of quickly offering an entire story.

The narrative poem will capture the imaginations of boys and girls as it often recalls and romanticises some kind of adventure.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.Investigating narrative poetry through drama is a lot of fun and once a group has a story they are better positioned to explore the author’s imagery and language choices.  The poems I am talking about were mostly written in the 19th and 20th Century and whilst the language is certainly complex it is not impenetrable.  Accessing it allows young  participants to make their own judgements about themes, events and characters (perhaps physically characterising or hot seating characters about their decisions in the story or making up scenes based upon their deductions).

I have also found that exploring a narrative poem can become a catalyst for exploring rhythm, rhyme and meter and getting groups to write in poetry.

_ _ _ _

“The wind was a rushing train, dodging every tree

The moon was a shiny banana ripe and ready for me.

The road was a lonely wanderer, under an ongoing spell

and Mr Highwayman came riding, riding, riding

Josh Highwayman came riding, up to the Grand Hotel.”

_ _ _ _

“The snow was a breeze of coldness coating the leafy bush,

The sun was a ball of fire, gleaming upon rushing waves

The field was a soft green carpet, over the earthy road

And the Highwayman came skating, skating, skating

The Highwayman came skating up to the big mansion’s door.”

_ _ _ _

As well as getting excited about narrative poetry I have discovered narrative songs.  My taste in story song is eclectic ranging from Benny Hill (The Fastest Milkman in the West) to Charles Daniels (The Devil Went Down to Georgia) and Chris Wood (Hollow Point).  You could easily laugh some narrative songs off as being novelties but constructing an effective narrative within a poem or a song is a great skill.  Tennyson and Noyes might not be matched for their poetry’s beautiful imagery  but Hollow Point particularly is (in my view) a powerful piece of modern verse based storytelling.

Up to now narrative poems have formed the basis of workshops or featured within other work that I have presented but this summer to coincide with The Summer Reading Challenge 2014 I am taking my new found love of the narrative poem to a whole new level as I reinterpret Homer’s “Odyssey” for a young audience.

My final reinterpretation is unlikely to be a narrative poem but one thing is certain – it’s going to be epic!

Special thanks to the children of South Malling Primary School for sharing their “modern” takes on “The Highwayman”.

Qualifying my contribution to children’s learning

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.This week I am using my blog to qualify my impact on learning by sharing some of the testimony I have received in the past 3 months.

“The day was absolutely fantastic and the feedback from children and parents was brilliant. It was lovely to see the children echoing the language you used when writing stories the next day. They all thoroughly enjoyed the day so thank you!!”  Teacher, Wychwood Primary School, Shipton Under Wychwood (Traditional Storytelling and Presentation Day, January 2014)

“I can honestly say that this was one of our most successful days!
John totally engaged the children and especially a group of boys who usually show very little interest in drama, storytelling or writing! The next day the children were still talking about John’s visit and the tips he had given them for story writing. I call that money well spent!” Headteacher, Gillibrand Primary School, Chorley (Classic Storytelling and Workshop Day, February 2014)

“Again, a fabulous day much enjoyed and talked about by the children all week… They have also been inspired to write their own poems and stories – ” Teacher, South Malling Primary School, Lewes (Alfred Noyes’ “The Highwayman“, February 2014)

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.Each of these teachers work in very different social, economic and geographic settings and yet their feedback demonstrates that my stories and workshops manage to transcend such obstacles, appealing to young people nationwide.  They also point to a lasting impact and legacy.

Positive and constructive feedback is always appreciated but I’d like to finish this piece by sharing a lovely comment I received from a school in Liverpool.  Leaving London at 5.30am I made it to Anfield for a 10.45am start.  I led a story and workshop session and was back in the big smoke by 7.45pm.  The children were wonderful to work with but getting this comment from their teacher made an epic trip to Merseyside more than worthwhile.

“The children got a lot out of the workshop! Thank you.”  Teacher, Whitefield Primary School, Liverpool

Related blogs

Fairy Tale Stepmothers do ave’em! – my thoughts on female Fairy tale villains

See also A Tale of Two Newspapers – a piece about performing in Chorley (my home town)

See also “The Highwayman” from an Ostler’s point of view – my thoughts on rewriting Alfred Noyes’ “The Highwayman”

See also Why Mickey Flanagan isn’t joking – my thoughts on quality