Monday, 6 October 2014

First Story Festival

On Thursday 25th and Friday 26th September, First Story hosted their annual Festival at Lady Margaret Hall.

This year, with the charity expanding into more and more schools across London, Oxford, Leicester, Bradford, Nottingham and Cheltenham, the festival is spread over two days. More schools, more writers, more brilliance!

I attended on the Thursday as a volunteer, and was thrilled to see the First Story team again. This festival takes a lot of hard work and dedication, culminating in an incredible and inspiring day. For many students, it is their first contact with First Story, introducing them to what they will experience over the course of the year, which finishes with them publishing an anthology of their own writing.

On Friday, I took thirty budding writers from Oxford Spires - from zany year eights to literary sixth formers. The day was made up of talks from First Story alumni, performances from poets and novelists, and workshops with writers they otherwise would not come into contact with. Mark Haddon, writer of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, was the key note speaker, describing his journey into being a novelist and answering questions about where his stories come from; and Philip Pullman was a surprise guest at the end, awing children and adults alike.

At the end of each day, First Story try to get one student from each school to read out one of the pieces they have written during the day. For Oxford Spires, the chosen student was a modest, quiet girl called May, who has won in-school writing competitions but is consistently reluctant to read out. But at the Festival, in the excitement of the moment, she read her poem beautifully - a poem about her dislike of maths. I am so proud of her - I know how nervous she would have been, and I am impressed by what she achieved.

First Story have just launched a really exiting competition, with the chance to win a trip to an Arvon residential. The theme of the competition is 'Home' - a subject about which I know every young writer has something to say. There is even a sub-competition for teachers!

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