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PoetryQuest helps pupils find a new creativity and life skill with words
Wed 8 Apr 2015
Poets are lost for words by pupils' imagination and ability to write and perform poetry

A first of its kind and truly inspirational project to get primary school children in Halifax writing and performing their own poetry has been declared an overwhelming success by teachers and pupils alike, and plans are now being made to carry on the good work once the project finishes.

PoetryQuest, created and run by arts education charity, Children & the Arts and generously supported by Halifax-born Children & the Arts donor Jonathan Moulds and the MariaMarina Foundation, has had huge success around the country in getting children with little or no experience of poetry to understand, create and perform poetry through working with talented local poets and arts venues.

The project has also equipped teachers with the practical skills and confidence needed to deliver PoetryQuest, and go on to teach performance poetry in class, by providing specialist CPD teacher training and teaching resources on poetry and performance.

Whilst PoetryQuest is in its fifth year, this is the first time it has ever been run in Halifax. Since January, PoetryQuest has been working with 158 pupils aged from 8-11 years old in four local schools - Warley Road Primary School and All Saints' Junior & Infant School in Halifax, St Mary's CE Junior & Infant School in Sowerby Bridge and St Chad's CE Primary School in Brighouse. All of the pupils have had very little or no exposure to poetry.

The schools have been split into two groups with poetry workshops and performances organised and delivered by Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, as part of their Community and Outreach programme, working with their partner poets Keith Hutson and Winston Plowes,  both at Square Chapel and in school.

The emphasis has been on fun and inspiration with children listening and seeing Halifax poets, Keith and Winston, perform at Square Chapel, hearing for the first time The Football Supporters Alphabet, and experiencing the wonder of Winston's unique Random Poetry Generating Bicycle - the 'Spoke-n-Word'.

Keith and Winston, the teachers and children have between them collected together ideas and chosen themes that connect with what the children are already doing in school and as part of the curriculum, including the Vikings, Sport and Entertainment.

The themes have become the focus for an abundance of poetry activities in four busy workshops over three months in each school, including rhyming and poetry games, rhyming-I-Spy, exploration of metaphors, similes, alliteration, consonance and assonance, and individual and group poetry writing and performing.

Keith and Winston have used two types of popular poetry, kennings and found poetry, to explore the themes and to develop the children's skills in writing poetry.

Each workshop has included a performance in class by the children, which has been a preparation, and more lately, a rehearsal for the grand PoetryQuest finale on 24th and 25th March at Square Chapel.

The finale enables the children to publicly perform their poetry in the same way as Keith, Winston and other professional poets might do. This has helped to elevate the children's perception of the value and importance of their poetry, inspiring them to do well in the rehearsals and giving them pride in what they have achieved over the last few months. 

At the finale Winston's pupils will be performing their own imaginative masterpieces both solo and in groups, and as a whole class recital. Winston will be conducting a whole 'voice orchestra' and will tune in to Haiku TV. The audience will hear Kennings and couplets, rhyming and riddles. Poems about bicycles and ball games, and everything in between.

Keith's pupils will be performing rhyming couplets and kennings that explore their names and delves deep into their identities. There will be poems about found Viking 'found' objects, Viking history and lifestyles as well as sport and entertainment. 

"PoetryQuest opens children's eyes to the inspirational world of performance poetry and spoken word, and by empowering children to write and perform their own poetry  it builds literacy and communication skills, and raises self-esteem and confidence," said Jeremy Newton, Chief Executive, Children & the Arts. 

About Children & the Arts

Children & the Arts was founded by HRH The Prince of Wales with the fundamental belief that every child has the right to be inspired by the arts. The charity’s UK wide arts engagement programmes work with deprived children from areas of social and economic disadvantage and builds partnerships between their schools and local high quality cultural venues.  The charity takes children on a journey into their local arts venue and unlocks the arts for those who need to be inspired by them the most, raising children’s self-esteem and confidence, and nurturing their communication skills. Through the work of Children & the Arts, children learn that cultural venues are welcoming, accessible places to visit and since 2006 Children & the Arts has introduced over 300,000 children to life-changing arts experiences.

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