Children's Bookshow Follow-up, Tuesday 23rd October, Webster Primary School
Words by Fiona MacLeod.
Darkness. A spotlight. Rows of chairs. The edge of a stage. Tickets. A flash of bright yellow as a volunteer goes by the door. A rustle of excitement. Manchester Literature Festival. Over 70 astonishing performances in two weeks but the best one, for me, happened on the very last day of the festival, in Webster Primary School in Greenheys, miles away from the bright lights.
A little boy finishes reciting his poem and looks up, squinting in the sunlight streaming through the windows. He doesn't know what to expect. It is his first performance. It is a beginning. He is reading a poem he has written about the holocaust and what it was like for the children who endured its horror, and he has used the opening lines, 'The water was on fire', written by Michael Rosen for the Children’s Bookshow 2012 Poetry Competition. He heard about this competition, which closed for entries this week, way back at the beginning of this year's Manchester Literature Festival, on October 2nd, when he was in the auditorium of the Royal Exchange Theatre, with the rest of his class and his teacher, Miss Dawber, to meet Ulf Stark (read Fiona's review here).
Talking to Miss Dawber, I realised that one hour in the Royal Exchange Theatre was the culmination of weeks of reading and discussion by these children in preparation for their meeting with a real live writer. So Manchester Literature Festival started early for them. And, in the poetry they have written, its effect carries on, as through teachers like Miss Dawber and in schools like Webster Primary, all across this city, a love of literature and the pleasure of writing is made into a reachable reality for our children.
So thank you to all those people who helped Manchester Literature Festival to set up these events for young people. And thank you to all those mums and dads and aunties and big sisters and grandads who brought the kids. Who found the toilets, who lugged the buggies. And, above all, thank you to all those teachers, tirelessly counting children, watching doors, planning follow-ups and encouraging dreams.
The little boy finishes his poem. It is his first performance. It is a beginning. We clap.
Fiona MacLeod is a freelance writer and editor for The Jubilee Press at the University of Nottingham. Her first novel, Impostor (Wardgate Press 2008), has just been optioned for film and television. She blogs here and you can follow her on Twitter @fmmmacleod.