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Published by n.priestley, 2018-06-27 04:57:30

Story Makers' Dialogues Issue 1

Story Makers' Dialogues Issue 1


Story Makers’

Making sense of ourselves in the world

Issue 1

Leeds Beckett University

Table of Contents

In the Woods, Alive and Kicking............................................................................................ 6

A Research and development insight narrative by Tom Dobson

Thoughts after In the Woods: The Real Thing by John Mee............................................... 14

A research and development insight narrative by Alive and Kicking Theatre Company

Windrush Day: Stories Forgotten ........................................................................................ 18

A research and development insight narrative by Lisa Stephenson and Daniel Ingram-Brown

Response to Windrush Day: Stories Forgotten.................................................................... 24

A think piece dialogue by Dr Remi Joseph-Salisbury

How did I get there?............................................................................................................ 25

A research and development insight by Andrew Wilkinson

Ode to nowhere? Guiding teachers towards purpose and voice in primary creative writing. 28

A research and development insight by Stefan Kucharczyk, ARTiculate Education

Make that Change............................................................................................................... 33

A think piece by Imagine If Theatre

Interplay Theatre................................................................................................................. 34

A think piece by Interplay Theatre

Digital Storytelling ............................................................................................................... 35

A research and development insight by Lyn Farrell

Bea’s Flight ......................................................................................................................... 38

A research and development insight by Daniel Ingram-Brown


Leeds Beckett University

Editorial and welcome to Story Makers Dialogues

The Story Makers Company is a newly formed research and practice based enterprise in the
School of Education, Leeds Beckett University. It aims to develop creative, artistic, child-
centered learning opportunities for young people through story making in Educational and
Community settings. Story Makers brings together expert creative arts based professionals
from a range of interdisciplinary settings to share and develop innovative, research informed
learning opportunities.

Story Makers Dialogues are intended to connect artistic practice, policy, education and
research. They are written with a diverse audience in mind: artists, teachers, academics,
students, children, members of grassroots and community organisations, advocates,
influencers and policy makers at all levels. We are interested in all voices. We intend that the
content and audience is national and international. The Story Makers Dialogues will enable
a diverse range of multi-disciplinary informed voices to co-exist in each publication, to
encourage scholarship, critical debate and legacy. We aim to lay bare the complexity of
these processes, problematising professional practices and policy where appropriate and
recognising tensions that exist between them.

It is a pleasure to introduce the first edition of Story Makers’ Dialogues. These stories
represent the lived experiences of those co-constructing with and alongside a range of
diverse learners. The stories articulate some shared themes: the power of co-construction;
the versatility of imagined worlds for offering rich contextualised learning opportunities;
agentic learning; and the challenges of a persistent culture of performativity driving the
curriculum. Please read, reflect and respond to any of them. Authors details can be found at
[email protected]

Lisa Stephenson
Course Leader MA Drama & Creative Writing in Education
Founder member Story Makers Company: @StorymakersCo

Tom Dobson
Course Director for Masters Provision, Carnegie School of Education


Leeds Beckett University

Our First paper is by Dr Tom Dobson who uses a “knitted narrative” to bring to life his
experiences of working with Alive and Kicking (AAK), year 2 pupils, teachers and parents in
the woods as part of the Carey Philpott Research Award. The story sets the imaginative
experiences of the pupils against a backdrop of accountability and testing. The works of
Blake and Dickens are used to provide a historical perspective to what is going on in

Our second paper by John Mee from AAK provides another viewpoint on Tom’s article,
articulating the drama practice of the company as they work with children and their parents
before, in and after the woods. In this paper, John celebrates the playfulness and the
imaginations of the children.

Our third paper is timely in light of the recent Windrush scandal. Based on a drama and
creative writing day run by our MA students for pupils attending Ujima Education in
Chapeltown, the paper uses a multi-voiced approach to capture the day from the perspective
of Lisa Stephenson (tutor), Daniel Ingram-Brown (student) and Jay (pupil from Ujima).
Jay reveals how her grandmother was on the Windrush but how she only learnt about the
Titanic at school…

In our fourth paper, Dr Remi Joseph-Salisbury gives a short, critical response to Jay’s
experience of the Eurocentric curriculum. He sees this ‘whitewashing’ of the curriculum as
having terrible consequences upon the wellbeing and attainment of minority ethnic students.

Our fifth paper articulates the practice of Andrew Wilkinson, a deputy headteacher in a
local primary school who is also an expert drama practitioner. Here Andrew focuses upon a
moment of tension in his co-constructed drama work with year 3 pupils as they decide the
ultimate fate of their protagonist - to live or to die?

Stefan Kucharczyk, founder of ARTiculate Education, teacher and creative writing
consultant lays bare the process of creative writing in his recount of a CPD session shared
with leaders from a Primary Cluster in Leeds in our sixth paper. By exploring The Mysteries
of Harriet Burdick, he also critically examines the role of the curriculum in providing children
with authentic opportunities for writing.

Video footage is presented by Imagine If Theatre and Interplay Theatre in our eighth and
ninth think piece. In a short documentary, Francesca Joy artistic director of Imagine If
Theatre shares the story of the ways in which her projects promote Theatre for Social
change by working with those most vulnerable in our society. In his biographical video
account, Steve Byrnes, Artistic Director of Interplay Theatre, the National Centre for
Multisensory Theatre, Armley, gives an insight into the underpinning ethos behind his artistic
practice. This provides a critical reflection on the role of the artist in the current educational

In our ninth paper, online tutor at Leeds Beckett and published author Lyn Farrell provides
an insight into the role of digital Storytelling, as she shares her journey as a writer who is
new to this genre.


Leeds Beckett University

In our final paper, Daniel Ingram-Brown, published author, MA student and First Story
writer, problematises the process of writing a novel about adoption. The novel is written in
the first person from Bea’s perspective as she takes flight from her foster home. By splicing
Bea’s story with literary theory, Daniel lays bare just how difficult it is for adult writers to
capture a child’s point of view.
To cite working papers from this issue please use the following format: Author surname,
author initial (2018), Paper title, pages x-xx, Story Makers Dialogues [1], Carnegie School of
Education, Leeds Beckett University.


Leeds Beckett University

In the Woods, Alive and Kicking

A research and development insight narrative by Tom Dobson

At the beginning of May, I spent a day in the woods of Blackhills Scout Camp with Alive and
Kicking Theatre Company and 44 year 2 children from a Leeds primary school as part of a
project funded by Leeds Beckett University to explore the ways in which drama can be used
with young children and their parents to create imaginary worlds. The primary school is
located in a ward which is amongst the 10% of poorest wards in the country.

I observed the children and I spoke with them, their teachers, their parents and the
drama company, writing everything down in my journal. Three members of the drama
company also offered their own reflections on the day through email. At the end of the
week, I read through my journal and the emails and identified three themes: the strangeness
of the woods as experienced by the children; the ways in which the woods and the drama
experience fired the children’s imaginations; and the different roles that accompanying
teachers, teaching assistants and parents took in supporting the children’s experience.

Here these themes are presented as part of a ‘knitted narrative’ – a form of enquiry
which, through the juxtapositioning of different texts and voices, enables the researcher and
the reader to explore the relationships between relevant discourses (Heydon, 2009).

In this knitted narrative, our experience of the day in the woods is set against a
backdrop of responses to current government policy and testing, particularly in relation to
Key Stage 1 English. As I wanted to put the effects of policy within an historical context, I
also quote from other academics and literary writers, including William Blake (1794) and
Charles Dickens (1854), whose concerns about children’s education clearly echo many of
the concerns which we hold today.

Having received ethical clearance from the University, I here present the voices from
the woods below in italics – all are anonymised, with the drama company using the names of
the characters they played that day.

The strangeness of the woods

The children step off the coach and are greeted by myself and two scout leaders.
They are excited and begin to talk about the characters they have met at school and the
characters they have been told they might meet in the woods.

One child says, “I hope Lady Lackleaf doesn’t steal our sandwiches.”
Another child asks me if I have seen Tom Wayfinder.


Leeds Beckett University

As we follow the scout leaders into the woods, one child is smiling and says, “I can
hear leaves crunching.”

Another child points to the ground and says, “I don’t like these scratchy bits”.
I speak to one of the parents who says to me, “My daughter, it’s the first time she’s
been in the woods. She is very happy.”
Later, over lunch, the headteacher tells me, “Some of the children don’t know what
moss is. They have never seen moss before.”

The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a school-room, and the speaker’s square
forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the
schoolmaster’s sleeve.
(Dickens, 1854)

Now inside the woods, the children are greeted by an elderly man wearing a long
dark jacket and a flat cap who emerges from the undergrowth.

“Tom!” the children shout enthusiastically. “It’s Tom Wayfinder,” they tell each other.
Tom greets them with a smile but then he quickly turns serious. “There is a
problem,” Tom tells them. “I’m going to read you a letter. It’s about The Wildman.”
The children are silent. All that can be heard is the sound of the birds singing in the

How can the bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing?
How can a child, when fears annoy,
But droop his tender wing,
And forget his youthful spring!
(Blake, 1794)


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“Is he there?” the children ask as they hear the melancholy sound of
an approaching flute.

A figure dressed in green and wearing a red balaclava comes into

The children are transfixed by the sight of The Wildman.

The Wildman turns to Tom. The Wildman turns to the children. “It’s
all gone,” he sighs.

“Don’t worry,” one child responds. “We’ll get everything back for you.”

Determined to help The Wildman by finding Jack Frost, Lady
Lackleaf and Old Man Winter, the children approach the woods
differently in their different groups. Some are eager to discover these
character they have heard so much about; others are visibly anxious,
scared even. For all of them, the characters are real.

It is not long before I can hear one of the children shouting, “I’ve
found Old Man Winter, he’s over there!”

Each of group of children discovers their character and the
characters are clearly part of the scenery. The woods have become
their home. The children encounter them as if they have always been

The next day Lady Lackleaf wrote, “When I heard the children
coming closer, I found a space on the edge of my clearing with my back
to them. I busied myself pulling dead leaves from a branch and
watching them fall to the ground. I held my space, which meant that the children had to find
the courage to enter the clearing and initiate our conversation.”

And Old Man Winter reflected, “Some children were clearly released by being in the
woods and it unlocked their sense of play and fun. It was clear that some of the children
were not used to having space and freedom to use on their own – and clustered around
teachers or each other.”

The journey into the wood is part of the journey of the psyche from birth through death to
rebirth. Hansel and Gretel, the woodcutter's children, are familiar with the wood's verges but
not its heart. Snow White is abandoned in the forest. What happens to us in the depths of
the wood? Civilisation and its discontents give way to the irrational and half-seen. Back in
the village, with our soured relationships, we are neurotic, but the wood releases our full-
blown madness. Birds and animals talk to us, departed souls speak. The tiny rush-light of
the cottages is only a fading memory. Lost in the extinguishing darkness, we cannot see our
hand before our face. We lose all sense of our body's boundaries. We melt into the trees,


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into the bark and the sap. From this green blood we draw new life, and are healed.
(Mantel, 2009)

Over lunch, one of the teachers said to me, “It changes the children. One girl, she is
always putting herself down, but here she’s been a leader. Another girl, she’s never been to
the woods before. She was scared at first, but now that she’s been here, she’s really proud
of herself.”

The Imagination

‘Girl number twenty,’ said the gentleman, smiling in the calm strength of knowledge.
Sissy blushed, and stood up.

‘So you would carpet your room—or your husband’s room, if you were a grown
woman, and had a husband—with representations of flowers, would you?’ said the
gentleman. ‘Why would you?’

‘If you please, sir, I am very fond of flowers,’ returned the girl.
‘And is that why you would put tables and chairs upon them, and have people
walking over them with heavy boots?’
‘It wouldn’t hurt them, sir. They wouldn’t crush and wither, if you please, sir. They
would be the pictures of what was very pretty and pleasant, and I would fancy—’
‘Ay, ay, ay! But you mustn’t fancy,’ cried the gentleman, quite elated by coming so
happily to his point. ‘That’s it! You are never to fancy.’
‘You are not, Cecilia Jupe,’ Thomas Gradgrind solemnly repeated, ‘to do anything of
that kind.’
‘Fact, fact, fact!’ said the gentleman. And ‘Fact, fact, fact!’ repeated Thomas

(Dickens, 1854)

The new syllabus was described as “Gradgrind Gove’s pub quiz curriculum” by one
teachers’ leader at the National Union of Teachers’ annual conference.
(Garner, 2013)

As they trail through the woods looking for the character, the children can be heard
calling out in unison, “We’ve got the power of imagination!”

One of the groups is creating spells with Old Man Winter. For Old Man Winter, the
spells, “relate to the imaginary world that the children had co-created, reinforcing their
commitment to the fiction: a spell to bring back the seasons in their proper order; a spell to


Leeds Beckett University

bring peace and harmony to the world and everyone in the wood; a spell to make a rainbow!
The spells were all different shapes and sizes and seemed to come out of the children’s

Another group is busy building hedgehog shelters for Lady
Lackleaf. They work together to make sure their shelters are strong
and hedgehog-sized and once they have finished they look up at Lady
Lackleaf expectantly.

Despite her best efforts, Lady Lackleaf cannot hide the fact that
she is impressed. Almost reluctantly, she hands over one of the
precious pots to the children.

“Tom Wayfinder will be very proud of us!” a child beams.
At lunchtime, the headteacher says, “In 2 weeks’ time these little kids have to do their
SATs. What’s that going to teach them?”

12. Tick the noun phrase below.
- the tiny insect
- so quickly
- had been eating
- very colourful
(Standards & Testing Agency, 2017)

Explicit knowledge of grammar is very important, as it gives us more conscious control and
choice in our language. Building this knowledge is best achieved through a focus on
grammar within the teaching of reading, writing and speaking. Once pupils are familiar with a
grammatical concept [for example ‘modal verb’], they should be encouraged to apply and
explore this concept in the grammar of their own speech and writing and to note where it is
used by others.
(DfE, 2013, p.64)

Two well-regarded and influential experimental trials that had a significant effect on policy,
and that focused on the effectiveness of grammar teaching to support pupils' writing, are
examined in detail. In addition to the analysis of their methodology, the nature of the two
trials is also considered in relation to other key studies in the field of grammar teaching for
writing and a recently published robust RCT. The paper shows a significant and persistent
mismatch between national curriculum policy in England and the robust evidence that is
available with regard to the teaching of writing. It is concluded that there is a need for better


Leeds Beckett University

evidence-informed decisions by policy makers to ensure a national curriculum specification
for writing that is more likely to have positive impact on pupils.
(Wyse and Torgerson, 2017, p.1019)

Once all three pots have been found, three of children volunteer to take the pots back
to The Wildman. These three children walk slowly, lagging behind the rest of the group, as if
they are part of a funeral procession. The pots they are carrying are like precious and
delicate jewels which they must protect solemnly as if their lives depend upon it.

When they arrive at a small clearing, the children gather round The Wildman and he
tells them how proud he is and the children tell him about the
characters they have met.
One by one, the characters emerge from the woods to join in
the Ceremony of the Pots.
Once again, the children are transfixed by the sight of the
When the ceremony is over, the characters return and it’s
Tom Wayfinder’s turn to leave the children.

“This is my home,” Tom tells them. Arm in arm with The Wildman, Tom Wayfinder
leaves the children and disappears into the darkness of the woods.

There is silence.
This time, even the birds are silent.
Eventually one of the children asks, “Will Tom come back to see us?’’
One of the teachers is crying.

The Role of Adults

Practices in a landscape subsume one another. For instance, a detailed national curriculum
with minute prescriptions and regular inspections will definitely influence the practice of
teachers. Such radical combination of curriculum design and enforcement may silence the
perspectives of teachers or render the competence of their practice invisible or irrelevant.
(Wenger-Trayner and Wenger Trayner, 2015, p.17)


Leeds Beckett University

‘In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!’
The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a
little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in
order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.
(Dickens, 1854)

Lady Lackleaf thought about the ways in which the teachers and the parents had
interacted with children. “Once I had set the tasks,” she wrote, “it was interesting to note the
difference between the role of the teacher and the parent.” Lady Lackleaf was aware that
the teachers felt their main role was to keep an overall eye on the children, to ensure their
wellbeing and safety. The parents, however, were freed up to “play alongside their children
in any set task. They stepped into the drama by joining in the tasks and being creative within
the group. Parents tended to lead from within or take the lead from the children compared to
teachers who lead from without.”

Jack Frost also noted the role one particular parent had taken in one of his tasks.
Jack Frost wrote, “In one group a parent led the picture making by encouraging the children
to make a three dimensional sculptural portrait of Jack Frost. He made the first move by
sticking a stick in the ground which became the body. Without this intervention the children
would have probably created a two dimensional picture within the frame. So there is
boldness of action and permission to break the 2 dimensional frame. I think the groups
worked far more effectively when the adults were inside the drama activity with the children
just because it maintained a dramatic tension - this task/encounter is important for all us, we
are all implicated.”

Over lunch I spoke to the parent who had helped make the sculpture of Jack Frost. I
asked him whether he had been to any of the other sessions at school and which he had
preferred. He told me he had been to most of them and that the lesson he preferred was the
one from last week.

“Last week the children were left in charge,” he smiled. “What they came up with
was extraordinary. They performed above and beyond my imagination.”


Leeds Beckett University

List of References
Blake, W. (2013) Songs of Innocence and Experience. Oxford: OUP. (Original publication
date 1794.)
Dickens, C. (1993) Hard Times. Oxford: Heinemann. (Original publication date: 1854.)
DfE (2013) English Programmes of Study: Key Stages 1 and 2. National curriculum in
England. Crown. Available from:
Garner, R. (2013) ‘Gradgrind’ Michael Gove’s new curriculum is ‘so bring that truancy will
rise,’ teachers warn. The Independent. Available from:
Heydon, R. (2009) Knitting Teacher: A Narrative Inquiry of a Researcher who has been
Researched. Qualitative Inquiry, 16.2, pp.130-139.
Mantel, H. (2009) Wicked parents in fairytales, The Guardian. Available from:
Standards & Testing Agency (2017) 2017 national curriculum test key stage 1: English
grammar, punctuation and spelling Paper 2. Crown. Available from:
Wenger-Trayner, E.,and Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015) Learning in Landscapes of Practice:
Boundaries, Identities and Knowledgeability in Practice-Based Learning. Oxon: Routledge.
Wyse, D. and Torgerson, C. (2017) Experimental Trials and “What Works?” in Education:
The Case of Grammar for Writing. British Educational Research Journal, 43.6, pp.1019-


Leeds Beckett University

Thoughts after In the Woods: The Real Thing
by John Mee

A research and development insight narrative by Alive and
Kicking Theatre Company

The Real Thing? ... thoughts after a day in early May, 2018 in which the children of St
Philip’s Primary School from Middleton in Leeds, their teachers and families, Tom Wayfinder
and The Wild Man Of The Woods defeated Old Man Winter and his gang of Lady Lackleaf
and Jack Frost.

Reflecting on the beginning of the day I see myself, John Mee, embodying Tom Wayfinder –
storyteller and facilitator, standing with the children of St Philip’s in a circle. I inhabit Tom
and yet I am absolutely myself. I exist in the dual reality of play and the play ... A play is play
says Peter Brook (1972).

It’s quiet: nothing but bird song and the wind in the trees. I read the children the letter that
tells us of the problem that Lady Lackleaf, Old Man Winter and Jack Frost have created for
The Wild Man Of The Woods (see the blog at
and, as we bring it to life, we become a storm, a window, a wardrobe, an owl. They know just
how to do this because Tom/John has seen it in them. They don’t need much
encouragement or help. They just know how to become a window or a wardrobe when they
are asked to, and when they are given time to use the power of their imaginations.

After all, along with their teachers and some of their parents, they have already driven a jeep
and climbed a volcano in Mexico. They have become a genie appearing out of a bottle in the
middle of the Pacific. They have twirled the moustache of the captain of HMS Sinkfast and
worn the beard of the untrustworthy Mexican robber, Eduardo Dorado. They know how to
become a polar bear stuck on an iceberg feeling hungry, and how to address Nanook, the
polar bear spirit, to save the lives of Wahamah, the Inuit shaman, and of Tom Wayfinder
when the bear advances upon them, dribbling its hunger.

When they are asked to be Tom or Wahamah or Lady Lackleaf’s mind’s eye, they can do
that too.

All this they had prepared for when they completed their training sessions back at school
with Tom/John: a training that would fit them and their power of imagination and get them
ready to face anything that might come their way. They knew nothing of The Real Thing
beforehand. They used their playfulness and the power of their imagination to get ready to
take risks, to build belief in a new strand of reality and to deal with problems as if for real.

This playfulness is born with them. All this seems to be what Peter Slade (1964) would
identify as personal play – a responsibility for taking on the role in the as-if. This all happens
in the moment. No preparation, just a playful readiness that is Tom/John’s responsibility to


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encourage, to model and to set within a context in order that dramatic tension can move us
into a new reality.

Then ... it’s what you do to face up to the new reality in the training sessions and in The Real
Thing that counts, and this is where Martin Riley’s Alive And Kicking dramatic narrative
creates dramatic tension. Our method uses the imperative of Dorothy Heathcote’s (2002)
Mantle of the Expert: “I introduced mantle of the expert work when I was trying to help
teachers who didn’t understand creating tension by being playwrights and to cut out the
need of children having to act, or express feelings and behave “like other people”. It seemed
easier to start from doing tasks, and all enterprises can begin with very unthreatening

Wearing this mantle the children are given a role and a task that requires them to work
cooperatively and empathetically to solve a problem. As Sue Jennings (2011) says: “True
empathy is part of a very genuine understanding of the other person. And we learn this
through dramatic playing which we can observe in the first few hours after a baby is born:
they will try to imitate the expression on the mother’s face. This is what we call the ‘as if’ or
dramatic response – the baby is responding as if they are the mother; the dramatic response
continues to develop in those early weeks and months, like a life rehearsal for the
development of empathy.”

So ... What do you do when confronted by a sea monster in the middle of the Pacific when
you only have a bottle of chilli sauce, a tablecloth and a broom?

What do you do when Xiuhtecuhtli, the Lord of Fire, thinks you are stealing from his hoard of
sacrificial treasure?

What do you do when the sled you are steering turns over and you are left alone as your
huskies run off into the distance leaving you in the middle of the Arctic ice pack?

And how do you face up to Old Man Winter’s gang of tormentors?

Dorothy Heathcote (2002) called some of her earlier practice Man In A Mess before she
moved into Creating Commissions. For her and for us the central driver in drama is the
possibility it presents for change to happen. As part of our commission for The Real Thing
our mess is the threat that the woods will never change back from being locked in an autumn
and winter state back into the natural order of spring and summer splendour unless we can
find the song, dance and music that have been stolen from the Wild Man.

The commission comes from Leeds Beckett University to Alive And Kicking, to the children,
families and teachers from St Philip’s and the focus for our action is contained in a letter that
asks us to help a change to happen.

Dear Tom Wayfinder,

It’s me, Jenny Silver. I told you about the Wild Man and I know you’re friends with him now.
Well, he’s in terrible danger and so is the wood. It’s weird and strange but you have the
power of imagination so you’ll understand.


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Last night there was a terrible storm. Thunder and lightning! I went to the window to watch
and there, staring through the glass at me, were two big round eyes. An owl. I didn’t like to
think of him out there so I opened the window. He fluttered in straight away, perched on my
wardrobe, hooted and spoke…

‘Without the Wild Man’s music and dance and song the wood will die,’ said the owl. ‘No
leaves, no flowers, no blossom, no berries, no birds! It’ll be Winter forever. Find Tom and
the Children of St Philip. Tell them to come quick. They’re our only hope!’ Then he hooted
again and flew off into the storm!

And so here we are, trained and waiting to explore our power to make change happen in this
real setting that contains real confrontations with the characters we as adults, and I expect
the children too, know are unreal. It feels like Old Man Winter’s gang really do have a life in
the woods that they are determined to destroy.

We wait in silence hearing the rustling of leaves and smelling the smell of damp earth just
like we have always done in the training sessions back in school and then we hear the
sound of a wooden flute.

The Wild Man appears. He sets the problem, creates the need for action.

Back at school we lived through Tom /John’s imaginary world and on into using the powers
of our imagination to invent places, people and problems before we moved into The Real
Thing. The Real Thing is what Tom Wayfinder has been calling the day we are to spend in
the woods together and it feels very real to the children.

Wild Man/Richard Ormrod is also in a dual reality and writes: I assume it is the very
unreality of the situation that cues them to this sudden access to power and agency - if they
were at home and their uncle arrived and said, "Everything I own has been stolen whilst I
slept, including my home: I can see no way forward from here," that would be a terrifying
situation and they would probably not respond with, "I will find the thieves, I will reinstate you
and recover everything for you". In the woods, however, given the context of a secure
environment when everything points towards things not being quite what they seem, they
don't belittle the opportunity to take on an unknown challenge, or to become the central part
of a fantasy.

Needless to say, the children, their teachers and parents do defeat Old Man Winter’s gang.
They work as for real and respond to a series of challenges set for them at life rate. It is the
life rate in the moment process of sorting out someone else’s mess that creates the new

I am waiting to test the endurance of this new reality when Tom/ John returns to St Philip’s in
July 2018. Tom will appear with a new commission from the Wild Man. This time it will be the
children using their powers of imagination to create new stories for Tom to take back to tell
the Wild Man as the two of them gather together in the woods.

They will be challenged to create the place, the people and the problem that will be at the
centre of their stories as a way to bring new stories into the lives of Tom and the Wild Man.


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Perhaps Lady Lack Leaf, Old Man Winter and Jack Frost might join them around the fire to
use their five senses and the power of their imaginations. If they do, there might be an
ongoing dialogue set in a new reality that will stand the test of time.
Brook, P. (1972) The Empty Space. Pelican.
Heathcote, D. (2002) Contexts for Active Learning: Four models to forge links between
schooling and society. NATD Conference.
Slade, P. (1964) An Introduction to Child Drama. University of London Press.Jennings, S.
(2011) Healthy Attachments and Neuro-dramatic-play.London Jessica Kingsley.


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Windrush Day: Stories Forgotten

A research and development insight narrative by Lisa Stephenson
and Daniel Ingram-Brown

This story tells about an event that happened in November 2017 as
part of an MA in Drama and Creative Writing course at Leeds
Beckett University. The event involved a drama and creative
writing-based immersive learning day, delivered by our MA
students to 18 children, aged 7-18 years old, attending Ujima
Education and RJC dance, both established and valued community
based organisations. Ujima Education is a community programme
in Chapeltown which supports Young people in Maths and English. The day drew its
inspiration from the theme of Windrush, proposed by the community as a focus for the up-
and-coming Chapeltown Carnival. The pedagogy drew from research which shows that
process drama can offer rich opportunities for embodied, affective experiences, which, when
harnessed to promote children’s investment in writing, can offer a further space for children
to translate these experiences using authentic, felt writing choices. We term this creative
problem-solving process “agentic Writing” (Dobson and Stephenson, 2018). This is set
against the hegemony of school writing where children are "alienated" from the process of
writing (Lambirth, 2016).

As a University lecturer, I will tell the story of the day from my perspective, as for me it had
moments that affected me in surprising ways. I refer to these moments as 'critical incidents,'
seemingly minor incidents which when placed in a wider educational context become critical
through analysis (Tripp, 1993). I acknowledge that this story does not have space to analyse
the wider political and educational context of these incidents in detail but instead aims to tell
the story of their occurrence in context. To add depth, texture and dimension, the story of
this day is also told by 2 further authors who shared the experience: Dan, an MA student;
and Jay, a young person from Ujima. This story draws from research using “Twice told Multi
voiced autoethnography” in an attempt “to theorise what happened in an experience-near
mode” (Ellis et al, 2017, p.1). Our story will therefore be thrice–told, to offer multiple
perspectives on some key themes which arose between all of us. We feel that this multi-
voiced writing choice is authentic as it mirrors the co-constructed, community making,
embodied, creative processes that we were facilitating with the children on the day. On this
day, we all kept writing journals – including the children. We use these journals and the
artefacts from that day to tell our stories and have ethical clearance from the University to do


I (Dan) am feeling ill. It’s the end of a long term at university where I’ve been studying for a
Masters as well as carrying on with my regular work. We’re waiting for a group of children to
arrive from Chapeltown. I’m not entirely sure what to expect. They’re running late. Having
worked with groups from the Afro-Caribbean community before, I’m not surprised. Different


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communities have different time expectations. But I’m feeling very ‘White British’ right now:
slightly tense and nervous.

When the children arrive, they seem excited. I make conversation with a few of them as we
walk around the green to the lecture theatre where the day will begin. As we walk, I run
through the schedule in my head: Introduce myself and the team as ‘University Artists’, play
the video, ask them if they’re happy to think as if they’re someone travelling to Britain on the
Windrush in 1948, hand over for the visualisation, unveil the time capsule, pass around the
objects, read the first part of the stowaway’s letter.

I’m introducing the day, using my identity as an author to inspire and raise aspiration – one
of the stated aims for the day. I’m carrying my books, The Firebird Chronicles, as we walk
into the lecture theatre. I’m going to give a copy to the person who makes a particularly good
contribution. There’s Jamaican music playing, and Olivia is giving out mango. Introducing
myself as an author feels a little ‘tacked on’. My books have nothing to do with the Windrush.
In fact, I’m aware of how ‘White British’ they feel, stories of quaint villages and gentle
landscapes. Who am I to talk to these children about a story that’s so important to their
heritage? Being an author sets me up as an authority, something that, in this case, I’m not.
We’re setting them up as the experts, I remind myself, experts who we’re learning from.
Seeing a ‘real author’ will encourage them to engage in the day.

Despite feeling ill and being nervous, I’m excited too. It feels like the start of an uncertain

Beginnings: Critical Incident 1.

I (Lisa) feel the nervous energy from the students as we enter the lecture theatre, a heady
mixture of sweet mango smells and Caribbean beats greet us as we venture into the space.
It is a liminal space between the real and the imagined world that the students have
thoughtfully crafted for these young people. Children clamber onto the theatre seats, a few
playfully slide out the tables which are tucked away behind seats. I take the back row, where
an older group of children aged 1416 years sit, hoods pulled tightly over heads, eyes waiting
in anticipation. They are the same age as my two children, yes, I can defrost teenagers...

The students have framed the opening to the imagined world well, images of the Windrush
boat stream across the screen as the rich, captivating tones of John Agard are heard,
reading his poem 'Windrush Child' (

"What do you know about Windrush?" I ask, to the side of a hood. "Not much, we did Titanic
at school instead," was the answer I did not expect. Surely, they must know something...I
know how inquisitive my children are about their own grandads’ journey from
Jamaica...perhaps they are just warming up... I move over to another slightly younger group
of children and ask the same question. I receive the same reply. I find it hard to concentrate
for the next part of the student input - I think that I feel cross.

Visualisation (written and read by MA student, Clarissa)


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Imagine you are on a boat. It’s a cruise ship, bigger than anything you’ve seen before. It
used to be a war ship, but now it’s your ride. It’s packed full of people. The deck is wooden.
You reach down and touch it, listening to the waves through the chatter of people. You close
your eyes. Above, the birds are talking to each another, they must be wondering where
you’re going. The wind blows, and you shiver. Taking a deep breath, you taste the salt in the
air. The ship’s movement makes you feel sick. You try to concentrate on where you are
going and the new life you are about to start. What words do you think of when you imagine
the place called England?

The Time Capsule

I (Dan) open the time capsule and we pass around the objects:

• A bag of marbles

• A harmonica • Some tools • An old photograph • Jewellery • A stone that’s says ‘LOVE’ on
it • A trilby hat • Dominoes

The children take them excitedly, feeling them, smelling them, talking about them. The last
object I pull from the time capsule is the stowaway’s letter. I draw attention back and read it

The Stowaway’s Letter Part One

7th June 1948

Dear Diary,

They’ve found me!

For the past seven days, I’ve been hiding in one of the store cupboards on the lower deck.
The constant rumble of the engine made the whole room shudder. I thought it was going to
shake the bones out of me – it took all my effort not to be sick. It still looks like a troopship
down there, all bullet grey and metal. I’ve been hiding under an old tarpaulin behind one of
the shelving units.

Now they’ve found me, I can breathe the air above deck again. And the light, that summer
sun, sparkling like a gold coin in a sapphire sky. It reminds me of home.

But I mustn’t look back. I’ve chosen a new life. When I saw the advert in the newspaper, I
knew I had to get on this ship – the Windrush. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t afford a ticket –
that wasn’t going to stop me. I needed a fresh start. I knew the Windrush was my hope, my
ticket to freedom, whether or not I had an actual ticket!

They’ve called a meeting tonight to decide “what to do with the stowaway.” I’ve heard tales
of people being thrown overboard. I don’t want to think about it. Maybe they’ll let me stay,
help me get to Britain; after all they’re going there, aren’t they? I’m just like one of them. But
I’ve got no money, I can’t pay. What will they decide to do?


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I tell the children that the letter has been ripped in two. The bottom part of the letter is hard to
read. We’ll have it sent away for analysis and hopefully be able to bring it back later and
read what’s been written.

The Journey – Selected Memories (Dan)

Who decided to have everyone in the same room? With both groups creating their
characters it’s hard to hear! All the children have ideas about who the objects could have
belonged to. They’re all writing on the Role on the Wall. I try to draw my group together, to
shape their disparate ideas into a single character.

Who decided to use marbles! I try to get them all back, to stop them being rolled along the
table. They’re making such a racket!

We move to a different room for a sensory visualisation and the children relax, sitting on the
floor, lying down. There’s a lovely atmosphere. I watch as they jot down their thoughts and

The discussion about what to do with the stowaway is animated. The children are much
more vocal than I’d expected. They obviously feel invested in the story.
I’m waiting outside in the corridor. It’s quiet. I’m holding the second part of the stowaway’s
letter in my hand. I’m excited to read it to them.

I watch the children listening intently as I read the second part of the letter. I love it when a
story holds attention like this. There’s something special about it.

Journey: Critical Incident 2

I (Lisa) can feel the children's curiosity, investment and confidence growing. Hoods are
down and the older group have engaged enthusiastically in conversations about the campus
after our tour. "I hadn't thought about coming here to study," I heard one of them say. I
smiled inside.

The MA students have just read the second letter and the group discuss the letter "as if" on
board the Windrush. There is huge investment in the story from them and the MA students -
although the age range is a challenge and I think we should have differentiated by age more.
The children are drawing from the words which they have collected within the imagined
drama, convincingly arguing about the fate of the stowaway. I wonder where they will take
this part of the imagined story, how they will treat their stowaway...?

Later we find out the stowaway was one of two women on Windrush, she was a
seamstress. "My grandma was on Windrush and she was a seamstress," I hear (16 year old)
Jay say.


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My heart is racing, surely this discovery was what a contextually, culturally relevant and
meaningful curriculum was all about. "Really? Honestly? I can't believe it," I over-enthuse,
"Do you know if she was a stowaway?"

"No, I don’t know much about it," she replies.

The Stowaway’s Letter Part Two

The meeting’s finished and it’s been decided. They say I can stay, that I can complete my
journey to Britain, to a new life. More than that, they decided to have a whip round and pay
for my ticket! £50 they got. I can’t believe it! When they told me, I nearly hugged the Captain!
They’ve even given me £4 for myself. £4! Today, the men and women on this ship have
shown me what it really means to belong. They’re my brothers and sisters. And now I’m on
my way to join a bigger family in the Motherland, in Great Britain! I feel like I’ve grabbed that
gold coin out of the sapphire sky and put it in my pocket.

I (Jay) am happy to read out my letter to the group. I wrote it during the drama experiences.

Dear Diary

I am shivering in the Utility room at the back of the ship. I have just enough food to last me a
week if I don’t get any hungrier that I am right now. I miss my mums rice and peas and fried
dumplings. Rumour has it that a stowaway in on the boat, though I don’t know what to
believe as I am trapped in this room. I can’t see anything, all I can hear is the faint
murmuring of people drifting past the room which I am stuck in. I am terrified to be found. I
am on my own and I don’t have a ticket. I am starting to feel envious of all the people above
deck. Now, I can hear dominoes being whacked onto boxes which are used as tables. Back
at home, in Jamaica, I was one of the greatest domino players in my village but I can’t go
back...I need to find any way I can for a more fulfilling future. It is starting to get colder, I am
not used to this. Back at home we love to play in the sun but goose bumps are beginning to
surround my arms like mosquitos.


At the end of the day, as we walk back from the lecture theatre, I (Dan) chat to one of the
older students, Jay. She’s won my book and I’ve signed it for her. I ask her how she felt
about the day. She says she didn’t enjoy some of the activities because they felt a little
young for her. I agree. Then she tells me about a book she’s writing and how she would like
to be an author. She seems pleased to have won my book – it’s her first signed by an
author. As the children start to climb into the minibus, I feel content. We’ve reached a
destination. Perhaps it’s not everything we thought it would be, perhaps the feedback is
mixed, but there are moments of beauty and of connection, and at least one student is
leaving inspired enough to tell me she wants to be a writer, and that feels good enough.


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Dobson, T. and Stephenson, L. (2018) “I think it fits in”: Using Process Drama to Promote
Agentic Writing with Primary School Children. Literacy.
Ellis, C., Bochner, A.P., Rambo, C., Berry, K., Shakespeare, H., Gingrich-Philbrook, C.,
Adams, T.E., Rinehart, R.E. and Bolen, D.M., (2017) Coming Unhinged: A Twice-Told
Multivoiced Autoethnography. Qualitative Inquiry, p.1077800416684874.
Lambirth, A. (2016) Exploring children’s discourses of writing. English in Education, 56.30,
Tripp, D. (1993) Critical incidents in teaching. London: Routledge.


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Response to Windrush Day: Stories Forgotten

A think piece dialogue by Dr Remi Joseph-Salisbury

That these sessions were so demonstrably engaging and enjoyable for the young people not
only attests to the virtues of culturally-relevant pedagogies, but also offers a searing critique
of the Eurocentric curriculum to which young people are too often accustomed. Why is it, we
must ask, are Black students more familiar with the history of the Titanic than they are the
history of African Caribbean migration?
A plethora of research (Doharty, 2015; Joseph-Salisbury, 2015; 2017) has shown the
negative consequences of the curricular erasure of the lives and achievements of Black and
Brown people. From the wellbeing, self-esteem and educational attainment of Black and
Brown students, to the racial and racist tensions we continue to see unfold (with the
government having recently threatened the Windrush generation with deportation), the
consequences are near immeasurable.
In her seminal work on culturally-relevant pedagogy, Gloria Ladson-Billings (1995: 483)
implores educators to centre ‘student culture in the classroom as authorized or official
knowledge’. It is this pedagogical practice that we see play out in the recollection of the
Windrush day sessions. The power of the sessions lay bare the failures of traditional
‘whitewashed’ schooling and call for a reimagining of the way we do education.

Doharty, N. (2015) ‘Hard Time Pressure inna Babylon’: Why Black History in Schools 51 is
Failing to Meet the Needs of BME Students at Key Stage 3. In: Alexander, C., Weekes-
Bernard, D. and Arday, J. The Runnymede School Report Race, Education and Inequality in
Contemporary Britain. Available from:
Joseph-Salisbury, R. (2015) Corbyn is right, British history lessons need an overhaul. The
Voice, 01-10-2015. Available from:
Joseph-Salisbury, R. (2017) Black mixed-race male experiences of the UK secondary school
curriculum. Journal of Negro Education, 86(4), pp. 449-462.
Ladson-Billings, G. 1995. Toward a Theory of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. American
Educational Research Journal, 32(3), pp. 465-491.


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How did I get there?

A research and development insight by Andrew Wilkinson

“And you may find yourself
Living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself
In another part of the world
And you may find yourself
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house

With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well

How did I get here?”
Once in a Lifetime – the Talking Heads

I am standing before a class of children in an open space inside a Primary school. Sitting at
a table in the corner is a Y5 child – he is in role and his character is the keeper of a terrible
secret. His hand clasps a mug of ale, the umpteenth he has consumed since taking his seat
in the corner of a smoky public house. We are now listening in on his darkest thoughts. In
front of him on the old wooden table is a silver coin – he picks it up and fiddles with it. He
feels the weight of it in his hands and runs his fingers over the images embossed upon either

Is the boy sitting at the table in the smoky pub their classmate, or is he a character in a play?
Is this school? Is this theatre? Is this scripted? Who is in charge of this story? Who is the

We are all in the midst of a story set in a time when the roads are made of muck and dirt. To
find your way through the darkness in a place like this you have to light a candle or a flaming
torch. To visit a friend in a neighbouring village, you either have to walk, ride on a horse or
travel on a cart pulled by a beast of burden – it’s that kind of space in time. In this place,
people live in cold dark castles that can often be found across desolate moorlands or on the
edges of thick dark forest.
We’ve been engaged in story making since 09.00 and the time is 11.25. We had a break at
some stage when it felt right – we’ve got until 12.00 when the dinner bell goes. I am a
teacher ‘doing drama’.
Right now I am in the thick of it – I am facilitating, creating, reacting, contingency planning,
lateral thinking and wondering. I feel curious, nervous, and very much alive. This is visceral.
This doesn’t feel like teaching, but I am acutely aware that the levels of engagement in the


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room mean that learning is taking place – for all of us. We are all curious participants in what
is happening and what is about to happen next.

During the session we have been able to write in role within the drama and there is no doubt
that later we will be able to use this experience to fuel our writing out of role in the
classroom, but being

in the moment is where it really happens. As the facilitator and leader I am going to take a
risk that I have not planned for – it’s not written down in my aide memoir or drama plan. I had
not foreseen this happening at the start of the morning. I am going to allow us all take a
risk…and deal with the consequences.

“This man knows the truth,” I narrate to the children who are sitting, kneeling-up and
standing while looking at their classmate in the corner. I continue, “Two conflicting voices
speak inside his head as he gazes across the room. Should he unburden himself of this
weighty secret or bury it deep inside?”

One by one, different children approach their classmate. Putting their hands on his shoulder
they thought-track his maelstrom of emotions. “Why should I tell the truth and speak up? It’s
none of my business.” “What reasons do I have for keeping this terrible secret? I have not
done anything wrong; he is guilty, not me.” “I swore to keep this secret safe and I will do that,
whatever the price I have to pay.” “I will not tell on my friend – I am loyal to the end…” The
gravity of the secret weighs heavy upon his shoulders.

I speak again, narrating the story. “Watch as he picks up the coin. Listen closely as he gives
himself this ultimatum – heads I tell the truth and let it all out, tails I keep it inside and end my
life, taking the secret with me to the grave. Watch as he flips the coin…”

Frozen in time, the children are invited to step out of the story and become observers,
spectators and advisors. I become teacher and facilitator. What should he do? What should
they do? What should I do?

By now, the story we have been co-constructing is beginning to reveal itself more fully.
Traces of the narrative that we have been building link up and start to make sense. You can
tell through the buzz and urgency in the room that a sense of justice or injustice lies in the
decision that they are about to make. What should they do – heads or tails, life or death?

I am now ‘out on a limb’ and out of my comfort zone. While the children deliberate the fate of
the character in the pub, I am engaged in a furious bout of lateral thinking. This character is
ready to take their own life and I have led us to this point– how do we talk about that?

If they decide on suicide (an awful word and idea), what do we do next? How do we deal
with the consequences? We could talk him down. We could fast-forward into the future and
examine the aftermath through meeting a family member - get further away from the event
and look at the longer lasting effects of such a tragedy. If they choose life, then we can
continue interrogating the character building the narrative and decide how the truth finally
gets out, if at all. Inside my head, this happens in the time it takes to ‘talk to your partner
and make a decision.’ We are all busy here.


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Back to the story, I narrate once more, “The man in the pub flips the heavy silver coin – it
lands on the table, spinning on its axis before settling flat on the beer stained wooden
surface.” The children
have decided – the coin lands heads. CHOOSE LIFE – just like Wham back in the 1980s.
These are children – why would they choose anything less? The excitement and thrill of the
moment resonates around the room – I feel exhilarated.
Afterwards, I ask myself whether it was irresponsible to take a class of Y5 children to that
junction inside a drama. Then I ask myself – well, how did I get here? It started with the
immediate narrative we were seeking to explore – in this case Macbeth. Then my focus
shifted to getting the children into role, building belief in a setting, introducing a character,
hooking them in with an element of dramatic tension, handing them the narrative, playing
with ideas, oiling the gears and building impetus. Then, at some point over the course of the
morning the session began to gather its own momentum and generate its own energy. It was
at this stage that I began to look around and relax, critically appraising my initial planning,
improvising within the narrative structure and in so doing more freely handing over the
narrative content to the children. Then came life or death…
Getting to this point as a teacher and drama facilitator – being prepared to take a drama
session into a life or death decision – is a much longer story. It has a lot to do with a love of
stories and the buzz of being in it with the children while wondering what will happen next. It
is about being willing to take risks and willing to learn when things go badly and when things
go well. It is about being inspired by other people I have worked alongside, learning from
them and acquiring an understanding of how to build a narrative. It is found in the desire to
keep learning for myself so that I feel fresh, inspired and excited as a teacher. It is a belief
that stories reveal the deepest truths of life and sharing them with others and then providing
ourselves with the space to reflect upon them is one of the most powerful teaching and
learning tools we have.


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Ode to nowhere? Guiding teachers towards purpose
and voice in primary creative writing

A research and development insight by Stefan Kucharczyk, ARTiculate Education

Creative writing is a topic under much scrutiny in primary education: grammar, creativity,
independence and defining quality are all well-trodden battlegrounds in the teaching and
learning of writing. But amidst the scuffles over pedagogy, are we missing the point?

It starts with a simple idea. Writers write. Almost always, a writer will write for a reader. The
reader – yes, you guessed it - reads. The idea of writing for an audience is fundamental to
most people who scribe or tap their thoughts onto a page or screen. In fact, I am writing this
for you. Right now. I am sitting in a café, pot of green tea way over-stewed, trying to imagine
you reading these words. I am starting to wonder whether you are going to find this introduction
annoying. I am scowling now. Sorry you didn’t like it.

By the time you have read this sentence, I will have rewritten it several times. To be truthful,
I’ve changed it quite a bit. It has also been read many times. I’ve read it in a café, on the train,
at my desk. I even rehearsed sentences and edited it mentally when out jogging. I asked my
successful and beautiful wife to read it (she might add a few words in here and there). Before
it is published, it will be read again by the Story Maker elves and edited again. All the time, we
were thinking about you – my reader. Hi.

This is how writers work; we engage in a fluid process of drafting, rewriting, talking and getting
feedback from an authentic critical audience. It is this scrutiny that helps us find our method,
our style, our voice.

I have worked in primary education for many years both as a class teacher and a consultant.
Every day, children in classrooms sit at desks to write but the process they go through bears
little resemblance to the way writers actually work: there is little collaboration; there are too
few occasions to talk and too many when talking is not allowed at all; creative writing doesn’t
ebb and flow naturally, it is timed; subject, genre and form are chosen for the writer, not by
them; feedback almost always comes from the teacher, hardly ever from a real audience: a
reader that the writer would have had in mind as they pen each word. Very rarely is children’s
writing published, starving them of authentic feedback that helps shape their method, style
and voice.

This is worrying. A demand for high performance but with no audience to reach out to, deems
most writing meaningless - ode to nowhere, you might call it. Children are being taught to write
but not to be writers – a subtle distinction but one that has implications for the way children
think about themselves as people with something to say.

Earlier this year, I met lead a CPD workshop for leaders from a primary school cluster in Leeds.
They were concerned that the children they taught were not able to reach higher levels in
writing – they couldn’t develop that “voice and verve” that literacy specialist Teresa Cremin


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identifies as the signature of creative, independent writers. Listening to these teachers talk, it
was easy to see their concerns: no time to let children experiment, low teacher confidence –
unsurprising in these days of professional surveillance and performativity, and an
unwillingness to take risks.

It was easy to understand what these teachers wanted from me. A ready-made answer, a
technique, a plan, a programme – something that could take and implement to help them push
the children to the top in writing. Where was the silver bullet they could load and fire? They
were disappointed. I could have talked about sentence stacking, passive voice, shared some
nifty rhymes for using semi-colons and so on. But these are simply sticking plasters for a much
larger issue.

Instead, I gave them what they didn’t want: something else to think about. Sorry folks.

The first was a problem to solve. Educational research by Ken Robinson, Anna Craft and
others suggests that problem-solving is an effective way of engaging creative thinking. If there
is a problem, there must be a solution: finding your way to that solution is where the creativity
kicks in. Mistakes are made, things are rewritten but, crucially, possibilities are explored. And
the problem I set for these teachers, based on the fantastic picture book The Mysteries of
Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg, was a doozy. See below for details.

The second wasp to chew was who they were going to write for. How about subjecting their
ideas to a real critical audience? I asked them to imagine the children in their class and write
something they would enjoy. They were going to get to see this writing after all. No pressure.
After drama activities and discussion, teachers were given the option to write alone or in pairs,
in any genre, as much or as little as they liked. And they had a week to complete it.
The final consideration was how the writing would be used – how would we give it
‘functionality’? We agreed that instead of a published book, they would record themselves
reading their writing and we would use it to make a film.

What I was doing here was highlighting factors that have the power not just to improve writing
but to transform it. As the research of Teresa Cremin, Dominic Wyse and others has shown,
the concepts of problematising, purpose and functionality are the real drivers behind
developing creative approaches to writing. As I have seen in many primary classrooms, these
concepts have the power to give writing urgency, meaning and relevance; sadly, they are
much neglected in today’s school environment. To help children find their voice in writing, they
need to be given someone to talk to.

Geoff Barton, the General Secretary of Association of School and College Leaders, wrote in
TES in May this year, that now was the time for teachers to reclaim their profession to reshape
education for the good of the children we teach. It is good advice and it is high time for teachers
to seize the initiative and begin to recognise our children as the writers they are.


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Investigating the mystery of Harris Burdick
This formed the basis of the workshop I presented to the teachers in response to The
Mysteries of Harris Burdick – a book by Chris Van Allsburg.
First, the teachers were each presented with a mystery letter….


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With each letter came one of Burdick’s mysterious drawings. Everyone got a different picture
to study…

And then came the challenge: to help restore the lost stories of Harris Burdick and return
them to their original author. Then I incorporated the teachers writing into a short film, itself a
resource that can get children started on the mysterious case of Harris Burdick….
You can watch this movie at


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About the same time, Harris Burdick appeared on Twitter @HarrisBurdickX…


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Make that Change

A think piece by Imagine If Theatre
Imagine If Theatre creates work that is inspiring, entertaining, thought provoking and
unashamedly honest for intimate audiences. We aim to be truthful in our artistic processes
and productions, as authenticity is ingrained in our work. We also engage with those who
have direct, personal experience of social problems in Britain through our theatre
productions and workshop packages. Consequently, we place those without a voice at the
forefront of each Imagine If production.
#MakeThatChange is a legacy to our latest production You Forgot the Mince which toured
throughout 2016 and 2017 to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 12 theatres and 10 prisons
across the UK reaching audiences of over 2000 people.
#MakeThatChange is a youth arts project which has worked with young people aged 15-20
years old who are dealing with social, housing, and educational issues. Offering a barrier-
free introduction to the arts, #MakeThatChange has engaged with young people who have
not had any other engagement with the arts. Looking into types of abuse and how they can
be reflected in the arts, Imagine If provided workshops across multi discipline art forms
including: Film, Spoken Word, Theatre, Photography and Rap for this new, innovative arts
project. Following the workshops a final performance was created which brings together
everything this group of young people have been working on since January, exploring
themes of power, control and abuse. THEY DECIDED! THEY CREATED!


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Interplay Theatre

A think piece by Interplay Theatre
Steve Byrne, Artistic Director of Interplay Theatre, discusses the importance of creativity and
stories in educational practices and how institutional investment in these values has
changed over time.
This think piece video briefly explores the ethos of Interplay Theatre under Steve's creative
direction and how the organisation promotes collaborative working with audiences and
artists to embed story into the lives of young people and adults across a range of needs and


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Digital Storytelling

A research and development insight by Lyn Farrell

As an author I’m interested both in the way stories can help us deal with mental health
issues, and in the different mediums in which such stories can be told. Digital storytelling –
using computers to create short stories (a few minutes long) - is one such medium, one that
is powerful, visually striking and endless in variation. A basic definition of digital storytelling is
using computer software to tell stories. Because of the range of software that can be used,
from the simple to use to the highly advanced, expert user programs, it is open to technology
novices and experts alike. If you have ever used PowerPoint, for example, then you have a
program at your fingertips that you can use to create your digital story.

Digital stories can be used in a wide range of settings, from classroom teaching and
academic research to professional training and development. My own interest lies in the
great potential of personal digital storytelling to give a voice to those too often marginalised
in society. Our personal stories might be sad, difficult, uplifting or funny; we can help each
other learn, heal, connect - they all deserve to be told. The democratic potential here is truly
exciting. We no longer have to have others deciding what is or isn’t a worthy story. We can
decide that for ourselves and then go ahead and create and share with each other, and
organisations such as StoryMakers, with their partners and local communities can work
together and pool resources to allow this to happen, to ensure that everyone either tells or
hears stories that reflect the diversity in society.

The digital storytelling medium is new to me so what I found most surprising is that digital
storytelling itself is not new. The Centre for Digital Storytelling was founded in the 1980s and
since then, there has been a vast amount of research, collaboration and experimentation.
We now have a huge bank of exemplars and tried and tested methods to learn from.
Something that the research tells us is that storytelling technology has to sit on a foundation
of storytelling craft. We need to learn effective story telling skills to make effective digital
stories. This in itself gives rise to the possibilities of creative collaboration. Writers, digital
media experts, education providers, researchers can come together with communities
across the world to ensure stories are told.

I created my first story when studying on my first course in digital storytelling. It is not
particularly good and I vacillated over whether to link to it at all; there are so many unique,
potent, fascinating stories out there that far better showcase the power of this medium.
However, on reflection, I thought it important to share precisely for that reason. The
accomplished TED story I’ve linked to show the end result of developing creative and
technical skills, but it’s important to show the start point also, the novice’s attempt at digital
storytelling and the process of learning. My first story uses very simple software, Adobe
Spark that is really limited in terms of function. You can’t upload multiple images to a single
slide (unless you group them together and save as a single picture as I did) and you can’t,
as I’d hoped, put different pieces of music onto different slides, nor can you get much control
over the music volume. My story is also too long, contains mistakes in narration and with a


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script that rambles in places. Recording directly to an internet based software program
means that the audio may drop and you can hear the pops and crackles where this
happened (I’ve since worked out that if you refresh the browser, after narrating one slide but
before narrating the next one, the audio records more consistently). Despite that, I’m happy
with my story; it’s ‘warts and all’ that demonstrates that what we create doesn’t have to be
perfect (and how quickly you find workarounds to get closer to what you want).
I started my research into digital storytelling with moderate enthusiasm, curious, more than
anything, to see what it is all about. I never expected to experience such a wealth of creative
and imaginative stories with such a vast range of application, to be absorbed in other
people’s stories to the point where the hairs on my neck stood up. I want to tell my own
stories and facilitate others to tell theirs. It’s a magical world that spans the globe, full of art
and knowledge and generosity. I am thrilled to be part of this community.
The following stories, resources, courses and reading below are by no means exhaustive,
but selected with the aim of providing an introduction for those interested in learning more
about digital storytelling.

Three Examples of Digital Storytelling:

Walking Disaster by Lyn Farrell
The Meaning of My Life – anonymous
The Power of Digital Storytelling by Emily Bailin

Digital Storytelling Resources

Educational Uses of Digital Storyelling
30 resources for digital storytelling
Adobe Spark software


Powerful Tools for Teaching and Learning: Digital Storytelling Coursera course (free)


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Digital Storytelling JISC course (paid)

Articles and books

The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling
Robin, B. (2006) The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling. In C. Crawford, R.
Carlsen, K. McFerrin, J. Price, R. Weber & D. Willis (Eds.), Proceedings of Society
for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference
2006 (pp. 709-716). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of
Computing in Education (AACE).
Page, R. (2012) New narratives: stories and storytelling in the digital age.
Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.


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Bea’s Flight

A research and development insight by Daniel Ingram-Brown

I run, my cheeks burning.

Tesco. Phone shop.

I had a reader in mind. An intended reader (Iser,1978, p.33). A child. Not an academic.
Better keep up the pace.

I run across the high street, a car screeching to a halt. I dive into the narrow passage that
leads to the market square.

My reflection flashes in the glass of a charity shop window. I hate how my cheeks are always
flushed, how my skin is freckled and pale. I hate my wispy hair. I look like a doll.
I didn’t want the knowledge that there would be an academic reader to undermine the story,
to change it.

The story was of an adopted girl who runs away from home and encounters the ghost of the
prophetess, Mother Shipton, who helps her to understand her past and learn how to re-write
her future.
If I am a doll, I’m a china doll. Hard. Nobody’s getting in here. Least of all them.

But could I choose exactly who this story was for? Was I in control?

I dash across the market square, my feet pounding the cobbles. I miss the anarchy of the
city, the graffiti, the smell. I leap over the stone steps of the market cross. Everything here is
so sickly quaint. Even the jumble looks placed, as if some Santa Claus planner decided to
build a toy-town.
Iser says that meaning is made between an author and the reader (1978, p.21). He doesn’t
go as far as Barthes in “Death of the Author” (1977, p.145), but he argues that the author is
not fully in control.
Cross-Graves! That’s what they want to call me. It’s not going to happen. I won’t let it. I’m a
Moore. That’s who I am!
I was named after my grandma, Beatrice. I hate the name, but at least it’s mine. At least it’s
real! I won’t let them take it away. I won’t.
He suggests that there is a dance between reader and author, a relationship that’s
established. It’s in that dance, that performance, that meaning is made (1978, p.26/7).


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Past the Market Tavern. The black, iron cat peers down from its roof. It’s been frozen in time,
like everything here, mummified.
Perhaps I was not in control then, but Iser does suggest that the author could still guide
proceedings, still lead the dance… (1978, p.26/7).
Mother with pram. Avoid.
…by the way they construct the text, using literary devices. Short sentence, for example.
Simple language.
I can’t stand it.
Clear, uncluttered, speech.
The butcher waves as I pass. What is this, some sort of children’s TV programme? Am I in
Postman Pat?
Such choices leave a fingerprint in the text, in the real words, the actual structure, the visible
style. A fingerprint that points to an implied reader, not based only in the author’s intention,
but suggested by the text itself.
Carcasses hang in the window, pink and drained of blood. They’re the only real things here. I
scramble on, past the ice cream shop. King John looks down in technicolour.
But isn’t that just control by another name (Knowles, M & Malmkjaer, K, 1996, p.62) – the
image of childhood constructed by an adult? Again.
My heart pounds as I sprint into the castle car park.
Well, yes. There’s no escaping that. All writing is biased, after all. Should I put my pen down
Public toilets. The smell of urine. Sidestep the bins.
What to do?
Chamber suggests that an author can balance the power they employ by inviting the child to
be an active reader.
A driver waves, angrily, as they reverse from a disabled space. I stick two fingers up.
He suggests that this can be achieved by adding complexity, not making characters too clear
cut. Establish a rhythm of identification and disruption that provokes the “paradoxical


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demands [of] involving the reader in the narrative while at the same time helping [them] to
stand back and contemplate it” (Chambers, 1978, p.8). Be on the child’s side, befriend them,
write from their perspective, but challenge them to fill in the gaps, to share in the work of
meaning making. Hold out your hand but invite them to join the dance (1978, p.2-15).

The castle gate’s ahead. Two pillars of broken rock that have held their position like good
townsfolk, solid citizens. I dash between them.

This invitation opens space to explore the rich symbolic world in which stories exist.

Inside, a workman piles leaves into a heap. His leaf blower roars like a motorbike. It makes
my head hurt. I cover my ears as I run. Everything here must be neat and tidy. The paths
must be clear. There’s no room for mess.

Despite his efforts, a flurry of leaves swirl around my feet. The light catches the gold and

Many of the symbols used in children’s literature are shared by different stories and across
times. Natov highlights the symbol of The Green World, for instance. She suggests it’s a
response to the “worldliness of the world” with all its adult structures, inflexibility and injustice
(2006, p.91) – its statues and mummified cats.

I race past the ruins, its wooden doors and fences to keep out intruders, but I bet I could
scale that wall.

They thought they could keep me in, thought I couldn’t reach the locks. They put them high
up. Did they think I was incapable of standing on a box? So naive.

It is a place of escape, away from a world of incarceration, locked doors and lack of choice,
where children’s agency is denied.

Who do they think they are? Am I some sort of toy to be added to their picture-perfect
postcard lives?

I jump down the first few steps towards the river.

The ‘natural’ world symbolises freedom and restoration. Hunt argues that landscape can be
a “rich source of plotting” (1994, p.180), one that opens shared psychological space. He
connects “a sense of place” and “the frequent journey motif” with the “desire in the child to
comprehend the shape of the world, literally and metaphorically…” (p.179).

Half way. A viewing point.

The town clings to this side of the valley, which rises steeply, a church visible beyond the
viaduct. But the other side of the river is dark. It’s covered with trees. There are no houses.
No sign of human settlement. I stop, just for a moment, and look.


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Booker (2004) reveals a pattern found in stories: a division between a rigid upper realm and
a shadowy lower realm. He connects this to “the relationship between consciousness and
the unconscious” (p.556/7).

Car park. Tall fir tree. Lamppost that looks like it’s straight from Narnia.

This borderland is a place of imagination, where the boundaries between the real and
fantastical are blurred. It is a place where one can experiment with possibilities.

Past a little row of cabins. They look like they’ve been plucked straight out of Enid Blyton. I
hate Enid bloody Blyton. And Narnia. The kids in those books are from some sort of alien
world. Nothing like me. Nothing like my life.

A criticism made of fantasy is that it simplifies the world too much, particularly concepts of
good and evil, gratifying our wish to rectify the world (Hunt, 1996, p.185). But perhaps
walking the line between fantasy and reality can keep a story rooted in recognisable
experience while allowing a suspension of physical, as well as moral and ethical laws,
allowing constructions of reality to be challenged and investigated.

My chest burns now. I glance back. There’s nobody there. The light is fading.

Past a row of gingerbread cottages and I’m at the main road. I stop, panting. A car roars

Perhaps that’s why “Many of the most interesting examples of realism lie on the borderline
between realism and fantasy; each contributing to the life of the other” (Hunt, 1996, p.170).

I need to get across the bridge, over to the other side of the river.

I don’t want to be seen. I dart onto the road, the water tumbling over the stones beneath me.
On the far bank is an inn. It looks like a cottage, covered in ivy, hanging baskets flanking its
windows. But one half is covered in scaffolding, and its sign has been taken down. It’s being
repainted. Reworked. Restored.

Such borderlands are places of deconstruction and reconstruction, which is why “so many of
the greatest children’s stories involve thresholds, place-warps, time-slips and doorways…”
(Macfarlane, 2015, p.316), places where the “fantasy embodies radical revelations of the
human psyche…” (Hunt, 1996, p.184). These are spaces where solid identities dissolve into
more fluid forms, where they can be reshaped.

Reaching the other side, I duck behind the inn, away from the main road again.

On a whitewashed wall, a black and white painting of an old woman stares at me. Her face is
silhouetted, her nose long and crooked, like it’s been chiselled from the rock. A scarf hangs
from her hair, flowing down like the river. Rock and water. I slip down the side of the building
with the picture, and I’m there.

A wooden gate stands in front of me, blocking my path.


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Is that supposed to keep people out? I think as I jump up, using the fence to its side as a

“Near this well I first drew breath,” a sign next to the gate reads. “Ursula Shipton (1488-

I pull myself up, scrambling over the gate and jump down the other side, landing on the
mulch of fallen leaves. They feel springy under my feet.

They won’t find me here. It’s closed for the winter. I remember the dates from when we
visited a few weeks ago.

Here, the rhythm of the text changes to signal a shift between realms. There are less
interruptions, the prose is less fragmented. The protagonist is making “a retreat from…the
world…” (Natov, 2006, p.91) to “the resting place of the story, where the child retrieves
something that has been taken away…” (p.92), in Bea’s case, her home, her name, and her
friends – her identity.

The path ahead is dark. The trees that line it are ancient. Their long, straight, silver trunks
reach into the twilight, creating a tunnel ahead. It makes me think of a Worm Hole. I’ve been
reading about them in my “Strange Science” book – passages through time-space, held
open by negative energy and negative pressure, creating shortcuts for long journeys across
the universe, as predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The branches
sway high above me, dark against the bruised and stormy sky, making the shadows on the
path shift. I set off, moving slowly.

I’m safe now, I tell myself, but I don’t quite believe it. I feel more nervous than when I was
outside. The darkness thickens as I creep along the passageway of trees. High above me,
the long, clear call of an owl echoes through the woods. Down the bank to my right, I can
hear the river flowing.

I flinch, spinning round. There’s a face in the trees. I almost cry out. It’s ghostly pale. As my
eyes adjust, I see it’s a statue – an angel, carved from the trunk of a fallen tree. The original
tree lays stretched out behind it like a corpse. The angel is pale – made from the tree’s
insides, from its heartwood. Her wings are as big as her whole body, making her look
mysterious and majestic. But she looks vulnerable too. She stares up, her face melancholy,
her eyes fixed on something beyond the canopy. Her arms hang by her side, but they’re
open, as if welcoming whatever is to come. She reminds me of one of the Weeping Angels
from Doctor Who. I shiver and shuffle on, quickly.

The wind stirs the fallen leaves, making them swirl around my feet. It sounds like somebody
whispering, like a voice calling.

Don’t be silly, I tell myself. It’s just your imagination. They say I’ve always had a keen
imagination. I guess it comes from all the books I’ve read, the worlds I escape into, away
from reality. That’s why people think I’m older than I am. I speak older. I use words kids my
age shouldn’t know. But they’re just stupid.


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This isn’t the time for imagination, though. This is a time for cold, hard reason. This is a time
to survive. She did it. So can I.

The wind whispers through the leaves again.

At the end of the passageway of trees is a brick wall with a gate in it. I’m worried it might be
locked, but as a tug the handle, it swings open. Slipping through, I begin down the steps
towards the Dropping Well. I can already hear the irregular rhythm of the drops beating the
water below. I read about the well when we visited. It starts at an underwater lake about a
mile beneath the earth. From there, the water’s pushed up to the surface along an aquifer –
a thin band of porous rock. As it makes the journey, all sorts of minerals dissolve into the
water. Because of that, it can turn things to stone, much quicker than a stalagmite or
stalactite. People used to think it was magic. They used to avoid this place. They said it was

As I descend the steps, I see the well hollowed into the cliff. It looks like a fairy grotto. The
rock above is like wax spilling down in smooth streaks of cream and black. The water runs
over it, making it glisten. When it reaches the bottom of the rock, it drips into the pool below.
The boulders beneath it are soft and slimy, covered in a blanket of bright green moss. The
whole well is surrounded by trees and ivy that tumbles down like hair. Hanging from the rock,
where the water drips down, I can make out the strange shapes of the toys and trinkets that
have been hung in the water’s flow, so they’ll turn into stone. It looks like a necklace from a
strange ritual, dangling around the well’s neck. The shapes are frightening in the fading light.

Silly, I think to myself, hanging teddy bears and teapots. Why does everything need to be
made into some sort of Disney film?

This is a wild place, not a comfortable one. Even here there are echoes of the theme of
incarceration, expressed through the image of the cave and the objects being gradually
turned to stone. The threat of being forced to accept a rigid, imposed structure is ever
present. Perhaps then, this is more akin to the dark pastoral, which “depicts…the other side
of the green world” telling us “what we are afraid of, what we need to know about our fears,
how to locate them, how to transform them into a source of energy and light” (Natov, 2004,

I move past the well. It’s not my destination. I’m headed just beyond it to a cave; a cave that
was once the home of a woman. She lived here hundreds of years ago. When I ran, I hadn’t
thought about where to go. This was the first place that came into my head. They won’t find
me here.

Climbing up the steps to the cave, I move into the darkness. My skin is still hot from running,
but I can feel the cold night air beginning to bite. At the back of the cave is a statue. It’s of
the woman who lived here. It’s carved out of the cave wall, making her one with the rock.
She’s hunched over, leaning on a stick, her hooked nose bent down. But her other hand is
holding up the roof of the cave. Mother Shipton they called her. They said she was a witch.


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Hello, I whisper as I sit down at her feet and pull my coat around me. The light outside is
almost gone. A flurry of leaves swirl around the entrance of the cave, and again I think I hear
a voice.
Hello, child.
I close my eyes.
Mother Shipton, I think. I’ve had enough of mothers. I don’t need another one.

Reference List
Barthes, R. (1977) ‘The Death of the Author’, Image Music Text, New York, Hill and Wang.
Booker, C. (2004) The seven basic plots: why we tell stories. London, Continuum.
Chambers, A. (1978) ‘The Reader in the Book: Notes from Work in Progress’, Children’s
Literature Association Quarterly, 1978 Proceedings, pp. 1-19.
Hunt, P. (1994) An Introduction to Children’s Literature’. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Iser, W. (1978) The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. Boltimore and London,
The John Hopkins University Press.
Knowles, M. & Malmkjaer, K. (1996) Language and Control in Children’s Literature. London,
Mcfarlane, R. (2015) Landmarks, Penguin Books.
Natov, R. (2006) The Poetics of Childhood. London, Routledge.


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Noticesheet 20 May 2018