Retired teacher, full-time Poet, working as a writer in schools.
Originally trained as a visual artist, Phil recently took early retirement – after 27 years as Head of Art at the Purcell School – to focus on his writing, with the intention of re-directing his experience and enthusiasm back into education; to encourage others, old and young alike, to develop their own confidence in writing. He has undertaken a range of poetry workshops with individuals, and in a variety of Primary and Secondary Schools.
He has taught a GCSE Creative Writing module for the English Department at the Purcell School; as well as running: termly poetry evenings; leading individual and group extra-curricula creative writing classes for mixed age and ability groups and individuals.
He was ‘Poet in School’ for a day’s Book Week Workshop at Surbiton High School. And during an exhibition of his sculpture, paintings and poetry at the Fovea Gallery in Oct 2005 he ran Outreach, creative writing sessions for local primary schools.
He has taken part in an Opera Writing Project, (writing a libretto); a 'Writing an Opera with Children'Â€Â™ course at the Royal Opera House; a group Pantomime writing project; and also devised and led a number of mixed media, puppetry, mask making, film and music theatre workshops and events, both at the Purcell School and elsewhere, including school 'Reading Week'workshops for the Children' Discovery Centre.
Phil Barrett is a prize winning poet, most recently winning first prize in the 2009 Barnet Open Poetry Competition (judge Mario Petrucci), and a second prize in the 2009 Ravenglass Competition (judge John Burnside). Phil has also won first prize in the 1999 English Poetry and Song Society Open Poetry Competition (judge Moyra Caldecott); 2nd prize in the 1995 Kent and Sussex Open (judge Maura Dooley); and has received Commendations in the 2008 Kent and Sussex Open (judge Ruth Padel); the 1999 Barnet Open (judge Robert Seater) and 1995 Kingston Competition. He has given readings, collaborated with composers (Purcell Room); taken part in Music Theatre and Opera Writing Projects. His poems were included in Herga Poets’ 1999 winning submission for ‘Writing Magazine’s’ annual Anthology Trophy; Word Aid 2010 Anthology ‘Did I Tell You?’ 131 poems for Children in Need, and ‘Ink Sweat and Tears’ Webzine December 26th 2010. He has a video clip on the Apples and Snakes YouTube Jawdance channel; and a profile and work published on the ‘Write Out Loud’ website. In November 2010 he was invited to join the Committees of ‘Poetry-Next-The-Sea’ and the Cley Poetry Circle ‘Little Festival’; and asked to run workshops as part of Felbrigg ‘Book Week’, Salthouse 2011, as well as Cromer and Sheringham Libraries, on National Poetry Day.
I have attended a number of courses and workshops including at both the National and Tate Galleries; received support and encouragement from a number of well established writers, including Brian Patten, Alan Jackson, Moira Dooley, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Ruth Padel, Robert Seater, Roger Moulson, Neil Rollinson and Mimi Khalvati.
Phil Barrett is a published poet and writer of fiction as well as an artist and teacher of Art. He has run creative writing evening classes at the Purcell School for some years. I was very pleased when Phil offered to help my GCSE classes with creative writing workshops. The approach was impressive. The students were given initially very practical small things to invent or collect as springboards to larger tasks. Everyone felt supported and inspired and quickly moved on to effective writing. I thought the range of techniques employed were completely successful in helping those who did not feel confident. Phil has an intellectual sincerity and kindness of manner which is suited to both adults and children. The range and complexity of the writing the students produced was surprising and gratifying. The students told me how proud and pleased they were with what they had done, and many wanted to continue outside the bounds of the GCSE course. I was most struck with the sense of joy the students had while involved in the workshops.
I can recommend Phil Barrett without hesitation for his expert abilities as a teacher of creative writing.
Head of English
The Purcell School, Hertfordshire
Writer in Residence 11 July 2010
Phil Barrett taught a mixed ability set of four Year 9 boys at Chessbrook Educational Support Centre for three lessons in June and July 2010.
Phil’s focus was that of creative writing, specifically poetry and word play. Phil used a range of approaches which engaged the students and prompted them to be creative with words in their own ways. Writing was presented (and received!) as a fun thing to do. Phil used randomly created lists of words to generate narrative ideas, artefacts (old keys) to prompt fanciful speculation and imagination, and dialogue to unearth creativity.
Phil is an enthusiastic and passionate ‘teacher’ – I have used inverted commas here because, in some ways, Phil does not see himself as a teacher, but he is the best of what that word means. He promotes learning. He likes to take students on a journey with him, yet encourage the students to decide on the direction or directions of that journey.
He is humorous and friendly in his relationships with both staff and students. He is conscientious in the preparation and delivery of his sessions, and in all communications with me and fellow colleagues. He is expert in his own writing but does not claim to be an expert – rather, he feels that we are all experts; that we have all got something to contribute; that we all have an imagination to explore and to create from.
I have looked forward to each session. I have learnt a lot about creative writing, and really enjoyed Phil’s writing processes and approaches. More importantly, so have the students.
Phil has undertaken several poetry sessions at St. Mary’s Primary, Roughton, helping the children to write a variety of poems. The whole school prepared an assembly and presented the poems to the Parents.
Phil is always well prepared and engages with the children fantastically helping them to release their imagination and play with language.
Phil has been an absolute pleasure to work with and I would highly recommend his work.
English teacher, St. Mary’s Endowed Church of England VA Primary School
Comments from a few of the children:
Sam – “I enjoyed listening to Phil’s poems.”
Ben – “He pushed me to use my imagination.”
Sophie – “I really enjoyed our poetry sessions.”
Amy – “He really inspired me to keep writing poems.”
My class recently had the opportunity to work with Phil Barrett, visiting local poet. The children were lucky enough to work with Mr ‘B’ over a period of 3 weeks. During this time they listened to his poetry and wrote and performed their own poems. Mr ‘B’s’ delivery of poetry ‘lessons’ was informative and interesting to all the children. He was able to develop their own understanding of different aspects of poetry which allowed them to create first word pictures and finally poems which they performed before friends and family.
Additionally, he taught me a great deal about how to make my own poetry lessons more interesting and accessible to the children.
Children, parents and myself were all really impressed with the fantastic results of his poetry ‘workshops’ and look forward to a time when he will visit again.
St Mary’s Endowed, Roughton
Phil Barrett exhibited at the Fovea gallery in October 2005. The exhibition was a collection of small sculptures, ink drawings, and poetry. Phil was utterly conscientious and reliable in his approach to organising, promoting and stewarding the exhibition, and he participated generously and enthusiastically in the outreach work then taking place from the gallery.
He ran several very successful creative writing workshops for children from a local primary school. These took place in the gallery, and Phil used the exhibition and his own poetry as structured starting points to provoke the children to produce some outstanding creative writing. He was working with groups of around 15 (mixed ability) children.
He also led an open drop in drawing session as part of the national Big Draw. This attracted people of all ages-pre-school to senior citizens. Phil worked comfortably with everyone.
Phil’s interest in, and understanding of the creative process –whether it be with the visual or the verbal, combined with his empathy, equip him ideally to facilitate and encourage creative explorers.
Formerly director FOVEA Gallery, Middlesex
I joined the Purcell School when I was 13 and began taking part in Mr Barrett’s creative writing classes in my first year. As a result of my initial keen interest and enjoyment of Mr B’s art classes I decided to participate in creative writing.
Designed to be an optional extra curricular class I remember the sessions to be very group interactive with a great opportunity for individual expression. The light hearted approach to the classes allowed for the work produced to be read out and discussed within the group without judgement and with everyone given the chance to offer constructive opinions and observations.
The classes included all the age groups at Purcell which served to benefit everybody in the exchanging of ideas and methods.
As a pupil at Purcell School for 5 years Mr Barrett always showed such a genuine interest in the progress of my learning and understanding of the creative arts and was one of the main factors in my decision to pursue a career in this field. Always approachable and willing to help with any questions, his lessons were full of enjoyment as well as being in a very active learning environment.
Having been a student at the Purcell School from September 2006 to June 2008, I had several creative writing sessions with Mr. Barrett over the course of which he helped me incredibly.
I had asked him if he would help me with some short stories I had been writing and he willingly gave up a lot of his lunch breaks to work with me on some simple exercises which greatly improved my capability to realise that what is left out of a story is often more important than what is put into it.
Some of these exercises included writing a story based around a randomly-selected sentence from a magazine or newspaper. I found this particular exercise very useful as it allowed me to move away from my usual writing topics and explore new ground.
I am extremely grateful for Mr. Barrett’s generosity and patience over the two years I had the privilege to work with him. He is a very caring person who holds a genuine interest in his student’s development and well-being. A talented poet and artist, he would be an invaluable asset to any writing workshop. His skill at manipulating the English language to create something exquisite and beautiful always awed me as I am sure it would awe any others who would be lucky enough to be taught by him.
Manor School has had the pleasure of working with Phil Barrett this year and I would highly recommend the experience he has offered to our children.
Phil worked closely with myself, a Year 2 teacher, during the planning stages of our poetry unit. He looked carefully at the objectives we were hoping to meet and we planned where we could make most use of his skills in areas we were less confident exploring with our children. He provided a lively and varied hour’s lesson for each of the three Year 2 classes. He also lead a ‘show time’ session for all the classes to come together to share their work. Based on the success of the first visit day, we planned a follow-up visit, this time focussing on performance.
Through planning and working with Phil I became much more enthusiastic about teaching the poetry units myself and couldn’t wait to get started on them. The children were also delighted to get to know ‘a real life poet’! Many of the children wanted to write poems at home for Phil to read and all the visits have had a positive impact on their desire to write.
I hope you will be encouraged to make the most of the inspiring skills Phil has to offer.
Phil Barrett visited all 3 year 2 classes at Manor Primary School. He was able to devise a scheme of activities based on the units that we were covering in the Literacy Framework. Many children at this age can find these units about poetry a little tricky and I found that having Phil there as a poet himself bought the units alive to the children and allowed them to explore poetry. He worked well with my class and the children felt happy and comfortable to contribute their own views and opinions. He was able to give them confidence in their own ability and the message that shone through to all of them was the idea that there is no wrong answer with poetry and everyone’s contribution has value. As we are a values school this very much matched our classroom ethos. My children have been enthusiastic about poetry and have written some of their own. I thank Phil very much for his professional and hard working attitude. The children gained so much from his visit and I have had positive feedback from parents also.
Year 2 teacher Manor Primary School, Didcot
My Year 2 class were really excited to meet Phil Barrett, and really enjoyed everything he did with them. He had a great rapport with the children, and pitched his poetry activities at the right level for them. Phil encouraged the children to be creative and really seemed to value all the children's contributions. They all had a great day, and were
really keen for him to visit again. It has really extended their understanding of what poetry can consist of, and the importance of performing poetry out loud. The children loved meeting a real poet, and
it has inspired many of them to write their own poems at home.
Thank you Phil
Form Teacher, Class 2C, Manor School
Alfie: We wrote a poem in sentences, then we swapped it round to make a silly sentence. He visited all 3 year 2 classrooms and he read us some poems from a sheet.
Jake: I thought he was very nice and I thought he was a good man. I thought he was a nice person and he was a good poet. I really enjoyed knowing him and I really wanted to shake his hand.
Lucy: I liked it when he told us the poems and he told us funny poems.
Corey: Well, it was quite good when he read the one in special book and I liked it when he worked with us.
George: (year 1) I liked the special book poem because it was funny.
Nicholas: I would like him to read more poems.
Lia: Maybe we could meet him again because it was fun working with him. I liked the bit when we were writing our own poems.
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