Tag Archives: literature festival

My work with the children of service families overseas

I have just been updating my calendar for March and as ever my schedule is bonkers. March begins in Warrington in the first 15 days I’ll go to Glasgow, Plymouth and Slough. I’m also heading back to Paderborn for what maybe the last time.

I have been visiting Bishops Park School in Paderborn, Germany for the past three years to work with the children of service families. It has always been a real highlight and privilege to spend time with the military community and I have always been made to feel very welcome by the staff and children.

In a lot of ways it’s just another day at the office but it’s the little differences that make my time in Germany special. For instance, the school day starts and ends earlier than a British school day so having reached my hotel bed at midnight I am in front of the children at what feels like 7.30am! Then there’s the fact that you are quite clearly working in a German building in a German town but as soon as you walk through the door you know you are in a British school whose population reflect the many nationalities who serve in our armed forces. For the children it’s there normal but when you think that whilst I prance about in the school hall the parents of the children I’m entertaining may be in some far flung dangerous corner of the world in the name of our national safety I find it very humbling.

The school has been really supportive and I have been able to do some crazy and ambitious stuff with the children. Some of the sessions were from my regular repertoire (eg The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog and The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party!) but we’ve also done other stuff including a huge narrative poetry workshop and tiny sessions for children with additional needs and through the staff I’ve been introduced to some really high tech ideas. A lot of what I do is about access and exposure to high quality performance and storytelling. It always pleasing to be able to share a story or run a project with a small school but to work with a group of children so far from home who might not otherwise have such an experience is wonderful and I feel that I am a better storyteller and person for having had the opportunity.

The MoD previously announced that Germany is to close in 2019 and that service families were to return home or be redeployed around the world. I recently read that Paderborn may remain open until 2023 but I don’t know if I’ll be a part of the school’s future plans. Would I like to carry on going back? Of course but then, you know, there are schools in other parts of the world too… how does The Enormous Crocodile in The Falkland Islands, Shakespeare in Cyprus or Greek Mythology in Brunei sound to you, because to me it sounds amazing!!

I work in schools, museums and libraries in England, Scotland and Wales and have led storytelling sessions at the Guernsey Literary Festival and Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival. If you looking to book a storyteller for an overseas school or festival or for work with international students in here the UK, contact me.

My Space Chase is on the launchpad

In 1969 Apollo 11 took astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon. To celebrate their achievement this summer the Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge is called The Space Chase and this storyteller is on the launchpad and ready for his latest mission.

Space is not new territory for the Summer Reading Challenge. Many moons ago I worked with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to devise a piece about reading in a year when the theme was to do with a Space Hop. Back then I mainly worked in east London and west London seemed a million light years away. Today I am pitching to a galaxy of library authorities from Plymouth and Devon to Glasgow and Fife.

This summer I am offering two projects to libraries.

This year I am working with the Roald Dahl Company to present The Enormous Crocodile. The story may be fairly tenuously tied to the theme but I’m sure children everywhere will enjoy finding out how the enormous crocodile became the first reptile in space and I see this summer’s reading challenge as a brilliant opportunity to share this marvellous story.

I am pleased to announce another brand new storytelling presentation developed with the kind permission of Walker Books and in collaboration with poet, author and eater of cake, Dom Conlon. If You Believe… will be a trio of stories told over 45 minutes and suitable for 3-11 year olds including Jonathan Emmett’s Bringing Down the Moon, Simon James’ The Boy from Mars and a specially commissioned story by Dom Conlon The Cow that Jumped over the Moon (working title). In Bringing Down the Moon a Mole attempts to pull down the lovely moon but soon finds out its not as near as it looks. In The Boy from Mars when Stanley’s Mum goes away a not so very well behaved Martian but will Stanley return before his Mum gets home? and when it came to approaching someone to write a story about space, I’m really excited that Dom Conlon, author of Astro Poetica and I will eat the Moon! agreed to work with me; I’m sure he’ll deliver a tale which is out of this world!

So there you have it; four stellar stories for children and families which means another summer of library storytelling is guaranteed to be a blast.

It’s one small step for man, one giant leap for storytelling kind (well maybe)!!

Partying into 2019!

Happy New Year! I hope you had a peaceful festive period and that the post Christmas blues haven’t set in just yet. This Christmas I had a run of children’s birthday parties. They were all so much fun and I’m just bursting with excitement to tell you more about them..

I started with a 1st birthday party in a play cafe in Islington. It was a bit of a tight fit but with shuffling tables (and parents) about we managed to create an adhoc performance space where I led a song, rhyme and storytime similar to the work I do for nurseries and libraries. I did a 30 minute set and tacted on some of my favourite global folk tales (Indian and Turkish) due to the wide age range at the party. Here’s the host feedback:

“I was a bit apprehensive as I had not seen John live however he was brilliant! and most of all the kids loved it just as much as the parents.”

Whilst the first party was fairly straight forward the second party was an absolutely bespoke project as I retold Chris Van Allsburg’s Polar Express for a book loving six year old in Greenwich. For reasons to do with preparation time and the difficulties I can have getting performance rights I decided quite early on that this would be a narrative storytelling (an abridged but interactive version of a far more elaborate story). Rather than just more drama roleplay activities, as it was a party I interspersed the storytelling elements with traditional party games like Follow my Leader, Blind Man’s Buff and Pass the Parcel. Here’s the hosts feedback:

“John managed to take a story we’ve read 1000 times and turn it in to a new and exciting adventure for my son and 20 of is friends. He held the audience of 3-6 year olds throughout and was energetic, innovative and entertaining throughout”.

For the last party I did something really quite exciting and at the same time really quite terrifying; I presented a who dunnit? for nine year olds. The party was held in a Pizzeria in Chingford and the eight guests were seated at a table. I shared a scenario about a missing birthday cake and then cast the guests as characters in the story. And do you know what? The children really got into it. They enjoyed playing the game of detectives and just as importantly I didn’t get thrown out of the restaurant for being a rabble rousing nuisance!

So three parties in two weeks. A very special first birthday, a retelling a family’s favourite story and a risky concept in a restaurant. Each had its challenges but they were a lot of fun and now the parties are over I want to do them all over again.

If you know somebody celebrating a birthday or are looking for party entertainment at affordable rates contact me to discuss how a storyteller can help deliver a unique and memorable event.

The (Birthday) Party season

At this time of the year I have usually downed tools for the festive period but with birthday party bookings to prepare for the Christmas week this year is a little bit different.  My usual feeling of triumphant relief at reaching the end of another year sane and solvent is still there but I can’t afford to get too demob happy as there’s still work to be done.

For me it seems birthday party bookings are like buses; you do none for ages and then three come along at once.  The three parties I’ll be entertaining at couldn’t be more different.  The first is a first birthday and will consist of songs, rhymes and stories, the second is for a six year old where I’m doing a narrative version of “The Polar Express” and the final one is for a nine year old and is to take place in a Pizzeria (I hope somebody warns the other customers!).

With every passing year I become more confident within my repertoire.  I know which stories will be winners and I understand the combinations to tell them in so that a set will be successful even if this means telling the same stories again and again but every so often I get a bespoke project; a new challenge, an excuse to develop new material.  Some bespoke projects will be more work than they are worth but just recently I worked up Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin, Beauty and the Beast and reworked the Elves and the Shoemaker for some traditional tales and Christmas storytelling sessions.  I have previously blogged about the session I ran retelling the story of the Prophet Yusuf but I also had the opportunity to work up some Russian folktales for a school in Hampshire.  Here is their feedback on what we got up to…

“The visit was brilliant. We all enjoyed the stories which were perfect for our topic. We felt that it was pitched perfectly and the participation of children made it memorable and thoroughly enjoyable. Our children went on to tell and write their own stories based on this experience.A huge thank you and assurance that we would be keen to book John again and recommend him to others schools”.

Teacher, Fareham, November 2018I 

Whenever I do a visit, whether it be to a school, a library or a literature festival the aim is to do the very best work possible and in recent years there has been a very definite correlation between the calibre of what I showcase and the plaudits I receive.  When I do a bespoke project I often only get one shot at getting it right and in the case of a birthday party there’s the added pressure of really not wanting to spoil the special day.  Making a good impression at a library may have more obvious rewards than making a good impression at a birthday party but you never know who is watching or where an encounter may lead so although it may be a private booking its as important as anything else I do (the last birthday party I did lead to two days of work at a school).  So this Christmas as I digest my turkey I’ll also be carefully chewing these projects over and thinking about how I can make them memorable, enjoyable and above all fun.

If you’re interested in a bespoke storytelling experience or are looking for a storyteller contact me.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year.

The Enormous Crocodile with the Roald Dahl Company

In September I was invited to meet with the Roald Dahl Company in central London to discuss the work I had been doing with “The Twits” over the past two years.  They wanted to know more about my version of the story and we discussed access and how storytelling could help Dahl’s work reach more people.  To walk into Roald Dahl HQ and to talk about stories was one of the biggest thrills of my life.  I had been worried about the meeting having had some issues with the licence earlier in the year but from that very first meeting Roald Dahl team have been very supportive.  In late September a producer from the company came along to watch me perform in north London.  This presentation became the basis for discussing a new project for next year.

“I’ve got clever plans and special tricks.”

I am pleased to announce that in 2019 with the support of The Roald Dahl Company I’ll be telling Roald Dahl’s “The Enormous Crocodile”.  This is a tremendous opportunity to tell a popular, short story by perhaps this country’s most celebrated author and to engage and inspire a very young audience (probably four year olds rather than the six year olds who loved The Twits, Hundred Mile an Hour Dog and The Chamber of Mischief) in stories and reading.  It’ll also be a chance for professional reflection and development as I see inside and learn from a very respected, high calibre creative organisation.  In the coming weeks I’ll be allowed access to some of the Company’s resources as we work up this story and revise my presentation of The Twits.  For the first time since my last theatrical bow in 2007 I’ll be part of a larger creative team which includes Joseph Attenborough as composer, Dan White as artist and excitingly, Amy Hodge who will act as dramaturg, director and co-conspirator.  I can’t wait to get started!

I’ll be launching the story in March and will announce more dates for both The Enormous Crocodile and The Twits in the coming weeks.  If you know a potential venue please tell them about the project.  I’m hoping that libraries and literature festivals will want me to visit to tell this story but I’m also interested in talking to reception class teachers, primary schools and primary academy trusts who feel their schools could be venues for larger multi school presentations and public showings as I try to find new ways of making this story accessible to the most possible people.

I hope this is a story gets everybody excited and that 2019 can be the year of the crocodile!

Imagegate: why it matters to me and why it should matter to all artists

The following relates to a series of social media posts I made on the 6th December 2018. As the matter has been resolved I have chosen to bring the whole story together in a blog for the sake of closure and because it deals with an interesting subject.

Four years ago I was lucky enough to be involved in City Read.  City Read is an annual month long, London wide event during which readers come together to share a single book.  I told “Private Peaceful” in 22 of London’s 32 authorities.  This was huge for my career; in one month I exploded into the consciousness of London’s libraries as I went from working in North London onto a much bigger stage (in 4 years I have gone from working in Hackney, Haringey and Islington to working for over 60 authorities across England, Scotland and Wales).  The project also presented an opportunity to work at The Museum of London in the Docklands.

The booking in question was a weekend event at the Docklands Museum and meant telling Private Peaceful three times in one day to public audiences.  I was technically working for City Read at The Museum of London rather than directly for the museum this was still a huge thrill; my background to this point had been in heritage rather than libraries and I had cut my teeth as a storyteller with Hackney Museum, Bruce Castle and the Cuming Museum.  My day at the Docklands Museum came and went all too quickly.  I was part of a larger event themed around the Great War.  It was a wonderful experience and I had a great time but to be honest I hadn’t thought much more about it until what I’m now calling Imagegate broke this week.

It started when a friend of mine contacted me to say she’d seen a soldier at the Museum of London who looked exactly like me and that she was glad my work was going well.  I joked that I was pretty sure I hadn’t been around to fight the Great War but I’d be interested to see a picture of my doppelganger.  She then sent me a link which left me speechless.  You see, my friend hadn’t been to the museum, she’d been on the museum’s website.  The Museum of London had had another family activity day themed around the Great War and it was my face being used to promote the event.  I meanwhile had had no idea.

Here’s what happened.  All those years ago I signed a piece of paper which allowed the Museum of London to take pictures of my storytelling sessions.  Its not unusual for me to sign such documents and I’ll be honest I encourage libraries, galleries and museums to take pictures so they can use them in the future.  Whenever I give consent for photos or videos to be made its on the understanding that they are shared.  This is mutually beneficial as I can then use the media in my own documentation and promotion (I still haven’t worked out how to take pictures of myself).  In this instance the photo hadn’t been shared after the event but I knew it existed because some time ago in an idle moment I’d put my name into a well known internet search engine and it had popped up as being posted by CityRead in 2014.  Four years on from the CityRead event the picture was selected to promote a family day because staff felt it summed up the kind of activities that would be happening on that day.  For whatever reason I wasn’t credited in the promotion nor indeed was I contacted about participating in the event.

So why does the use of a photo matter so much?  Well…

It has taken me years to hone and develop my repertoire; I have done thousands of gigs and hundreds of thousands of miles, all in the name of building a reputation as a top quality performance storyteller.  Everything you see in this picture; the facial expression, the pose, the clothes and to a point even the words that I’m saying in the photograph, that’s all me and my work yet my contribution to the photograph is not recognised when its reposted.

I spend a lot of time and energy on getting the right permissions to tell stories.  Whenever somebody takes a picture or makes a video of me I immediately lose control of my work.  If they then choose to put their media onto the internet I have to trust that they do this with discretion so as not to compromise my work or my professional relationships.  In this instance, if this photo had been a video the people who trusted me with “Private Peaceful” (Berlin Associates acting on behalf of Michael Morpurgo) wouldn’t have been at all impressed.

The event that my image was used to promote featured a storyteller and yet I was never asked to participate and had no knowledge that the event was even happening.  So whilst there might be a perceived link between me and the event I in fact had no control over its quality as it was nothing to do with me.  The friend who alerted me to the picture didn’t know this and had got in touch to congratulate me on working for the Museum of London.  What if she or any of my followers/supporters had attended the event on the strength of the picture?  They would be disappointed to discover that they had been mislead.  Storytelling is a resurgent art form and its practitioners are as distinct as any other kind of artist.  I would like to be thought of as more than a thinking man’s party entertainer and we have to be careful about devaluing the storyteller’s art as it will inevitably have a negative impact on storytelling’s integrity.

As a result of the image being reused its probable that more people have seen this photo than saw the storytellings I did back in 2014.  Its a fantastic photograph but when my picture was taken it would have been outrageous to suggest to me it would some day be used to promote another storyteller and yet I have been powerless to prevent exactly this happening.  Yes, my complaint has been upheld but the event has already passed.  Saying this I am thankful that my image has only been reposted by a museum and it hasn’t been associated with anything stranger or more extreme.

When I told my story on social media friends and colleagues rallied around me in shared indignation, baffled at how anybody could be so thoughtless / rude / discourteous and to their credit the museum were quick to recognise that they were in the wrong.  They offered to take down the photo, they are reviewing how they use images in future and they also offered to add me to their pool of freelance storytellers.  Perhaps then this cloud does have a silver lining.

There is learning in this for me too.  I’m going to have to become much stricter about when people take photos knowing where the picture will be used in advance.  I’ll also have to look at the images I use on my website; am I correctly crediting photographers and workshop participants and is there a point at which I should really stop using even the very best pictures?

Imagegate has not been a nice episode but it has been dealt with and I can move forward.  I still admire the Museum of London for their incredible programme of educational workshops and as a place I aspire to work.  They took action as soon as they became aware of a problem and it’s my hope that not only I work with them again but that they will consider how they work with storytellers in the future.

Thanks to everyone for their support.

Postcard from Sharjah #scrf17 #discoverbeyond

Its been a funny old month.  After the madness of March I found myself writing a short story for Kent Wildlife Trust and presenting it at their Paint the Town Green celebration event.  The next thing I knew I was telling folk tales in a 15th Century Guildhall as part of the Get Creative Weekend.  A couple of days later and I visited Norwich’s state of the art Theatre Royal to do The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party! before travelling to Sharjah in The United Arab Emirates to take part in their Children’s Reading Festival.

The whole thing came about just after Verity was born.  I opened my inbox and there it was; an invitation to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (although I’ll confess to never having heard of the place).  Nine weeks and a seven and half hour flight later I enter Dubai’s airport – gateway to the Gulf and beyond – shining out in marble and chrome (and that’s just the baggage hall!).  From there we were whisked off to Sharjah’s Hilton Hotel and as I’m sat in the lobby staring up at a crystal chandelier I am still pinching myself – is this all a dream?  Then I step outside the lobby into temperatures of 31-36oC – no, this is really happening.

The following was written after each day but is published as one blog.

Day One

The first thing to note is the calibre of the other people I am staying with in the hotel.  Breakfast is with Sheena Dempsey and Swapna Haddow who when I ask about their work slide Dave Pigeon across the table.  I have a flick through and am instantly grabbed by the presentation of the book – it just looks fun.

Arriving at the Expo Center I am met by a security cordon.  There’s royalty attending the opening of the festival and the organisers aren’t taking any chances.  Today I’m telling Roald Dahl’s “The Twits” and the look on the security guards face as he opens my suitcase is priceless (for a moment I think Mrs Twit’s walking stick is about to be confiscated).

The Expo Center is vast and I am immediately lost.  There seem to be an unending array of events, activities and people preparing for their day.  The children’s area is made to look like a little village with lots of shops, a library and a police station.  I am working in shop 2 (Knowledge) along with Beth Creagan and Mark Greenwood who are attending the festival from Australia.  They both make me feel very welcome in my home for the day and I am able to attend bits of their workshops (Beth does a fantastic string storytelling activity which I’ll be stealing in the future).

My workshops, morning and afternoon, were well received but it is all a steep learning curve here in Sharjah.  I am always pretty dynamic when I tell stories but in front of a largely arabic speaking audience I have to become even more demonstrative and am already wondering how my proposed Shakespeare session will go down on Friday night.

The day ends as it began – at my laptop in my air conditioned hotel room after a lovely dinner with author Tamsyn Murray and illustrator Sara Mellin (the brains behind The Pound Shop).  It may only be day one but there is a nice atmosphere being developed amongst the workshop facilitators.  Tomorrow the Mad Hatter comes to the Emirates…

Day Two

I open my curtains to another day of sun but the superb mosque on the other side of the lagoon reminds me this isn’t La La Land.

Its an earlier start for day two at the Expo Center.  Today I am in Shop 5 (Ideas).  Its further away from the main exhibition space which means its a bit quieter.  Not that that matters because today I’m doing The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party!  Rather than wait in my room for the audience to be brought in, I follow the usher into the hall and lead my audience in a conga line back to our space.  The first presentation is manic; the children are young and have only a little English so when I start climbing on tables to spray them with water they are beside themselves (although I’m not sure the teachers appreciate the early shower!).  It’s funny but for a hot country people don’t like to get wet.

Once I’m finished I flit between workshops helping out where I can (drawing with children who have learning difficulties and pretending to be a rabbit in a book workshop).  I do this because the other workshop leaders have been at my session to support me, joining in so that the children have somebody to copy.  It seems like a really simple thing but its tough work when your audience/participants don’t really understand what’s going on.  The support of the other facilitators is invaluable to the success of the sessions.

By 11am (that’s 8am in the UK) I am on my way back to the hotel and half my day is done.

After a dip in the pool and exchanging messages with home (I miss Lauren and VB and am looking forward to seeing them in a few days time) I’m back in the Expo Center.  My afternoon time slot is quite close to prayer time so numbers in the hall are thin but with my colourful jacket and another game of Follow my Leader I am soon the Pied Piper leading the children toward my session.  Over the next 30 minutes lots of children and families brave the water and stick their heads in on what I’m doing.  It seems that The Mad Hatter is visual enough and interactive to hit the right notes for this event.  With this in mind and with concerns about my Shakespeare presentation I take the decision to host a tea party again tomorrow evening!

When I finish my session I go out into the Expo to look at what other people are doing.  There are flight simulators, Lego building, book and toy stores, jugglers, acrobats, marching bands and much much more – you couldn’t possibly see it all.

Generally speaking today was a better day than yesterday; I feel much more comfortable in the environment and have a better understanding of what I have to do to be successful at what is a very vibrant, interactive event.  I am only scheduled to do three more presentations so fingers crossed I can put my knowledge into practice when I return tomorrow evening but first a trip to Dubai.

Day Three

Friday is prayer day in Sharjah which means the festival opens at 4pm giving us enough time to visit Dubai.  The hotel shuttle bus drops us near the metro from where we go to the Dubai Mall to see the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world).  From the viewing levels you can see that Dubai has just about every type of tall building ever imagined and that the growing city is surrounded by sand.  Its a bit mind boggling to consider what man has achieved in a very short space of time and in such harsh landscape.

Day three represents the halfway point in my trip.  I still can’t believe that this is really happening and I count myself very lucky to have this opportunity to be a part of what is a tremendously prestigious event.  I remember being asked to participate in Shrewsbury Children’s Bookfest and then the CityRead 2014.  At the time these were big, big deals for me after years of hard work but being in Sharjah this week is incredible.  The facilities are amazing but its the people who make it.  The people here are really friendly and couldn’t do enough to help you.  Often what they lack in the way of English comprehension they make up for in sheer enthusiasm for life.  The other facilitators too, are very supportive and ultra talented.  I’m rubbing shoulders with some very inspiring people.

I think that I’m relaxing into a routine of workshops and 5 star hotel life but I can’t wait to see Lauren and VB on Saturday.  I had a dig in my bag and found one of VBz rattles and a book of nursery rhymes (*sigh*).

then came Friday night…

Please remember I am writing all this in real time.  It’s 10.15pm local time and I am euphoric – you could say I’m as high as a kite sailing from the top of the tallest building in the world!  Its the weekend in Sharjah and tonight the Expo Center was crawling with children and families.  Tonight was the reason I agreed to come to the Gulf, tonight justified leaving my family and flying half way around the world, tonight was the reason I do my job, tonight was f**pping amazing!

Let me try to describe how it went down; this was a perfect storm of an adrenline pumped storyteller, lots of excitable children, water and anarchy.  We ran and danced and conga lined through the festival; we caused chaos and they loved it.  At one stage in my presentation they were three deep at the door, with faces pressed up against the windows and when we finished it took 10 minutes for the families to get all the photos they wanted with me.  The children loved taking part and it really felt like we provided something that was genuinely fun that will inspire the learning of English.  In short a job well done.  I hope that tomorrow, my final day in Sharjah, will be just as memorable.

Day Four

Saturday morning.  My final day in Sharjah.  Last night I slept with the curtains open and was woken by the sunrise.  It was a bit misty but still rather lovely.

My penultimate presentation done I’d like to mention the drivers, volunteers, security, cameramen and cleaners who really make this festival tick.  They have always been so friendly and supportive and its from them that I have learned about the UAE (for instance did you know that water is more expensive than petrol out here?).  The room ushers have done a particularly wonderful job in helping to muster audiences and set up rooms.  I will miss them a lot when I am gone.

It’s now after midnight.  My final presentation went well and I have waved farewell to the expo center for the final time.  In some ways its a case of just about getting the ropes then having to leave.  I know its for the best though, in 25 hours time I’ll be back in blighty with Lauren and VB and this evening just showing somebody a picture of VBz almost had me in tears.  Saying this hindsight is an amazing thing; if I knew before all that I know now eh?  On Monday I’ll be with Merton Libraries telling Shakespeare’s tales and all this will seem even more bizarre and dream like than it does to have lived it.

The ladies at the expo gave me a little parting gift (a model camel) and Katrina Germein kindly gave VB one of her books.  Sara, Tamsyn and me went to the waterfront for a Lebanese meal before walking back around the lagoon.  I have said my goodbyes to the Aussies who are flying home early tomorrow and its almost time for me to think about packing my bags.

All things considered it been a positive week.  I have done what I came here for and leave satisfied.  At times it has been tough but there have been real highs and I’ve met some fantastic people who I hope I can keep in touch with for the future.  Will I be back in the Gulf anytime soon?  Well as they say in this neck of the woods, enshallah!!

Tom Palmer’s “The Last Try”

The War GameI am pleased to be able to announce that prolific author Tom Palmer and Hull Culture & Leisure Ltd have agreed for me to present “The Last Try”.

“The Last Try” is a fictional account of the life of Jack Harrison, the renowned Hull FC rugby player who scored a record 52 tries in the 1914-15 season, and who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the First World War.

Having previously worked with Terry Deary on “The War Game” this project represents an exciting opportunity to work with another top author and library authorities with strong links to rugby and specifically rugby league.  I hope to be able to offer presentations from armistice day 2015 until the commemoration of The Battle of the Somme next July but the project will also fall at a time when England will host a Rugby Union World Cup and Hull become City of Culture 2017.

The War GameWorking on a project like “The Last Try” will create opportunities to discuss The Great War with school groups and young people whilst hopefully inspiring more children to read.  I am primarily offering the project to libraries with links to rugby league or rugby union in England and Wales but I have also approached the library service in Perpignan (home of Catalan Dragons) and am talking to literature festivals about potential presentations.

As ever, any dates will be posted on my website.  If you know somebody who might be interested in hosting or attending a presentation please share this information.  To find out more about my work and “The Last Try” contact me.