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Deepings Literary Festival 2017

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The Deepings School was delighted to be involved in the inaugural Deepings Literary Festival which ran from 28th - 30th April throughout our community.  

Following months of planning, we welcomed four amazing and best-selling authors to the school on Friday 28th April.  They spent the day with students and staff running special workshops and presentations and over 1,000 students had the opportunity to join in with the fun. 

Representatives from the school including Mr Lord, Mrs Starling and Chair of Governors Mr Liddle attended the festival launch event at the Deepings Library on Thursday evening and enjoyed meeting other community leaders.  Our staff were particularly impressed with the recitals undertaken by the pupils of Deeping St James Community Primary School, led by Headteacher Ian Wilkinson. 

On Friday, Julian Sedgwick, the author of the ‘Mysterium’ and ‘Ghosts of Shanghai’ trilogies, spoke to year 7 and year 8 boys in the Hall.  His dynamic presentation related strongly to the circus theme of his books and he had the boys on the edge of their seats as he concluded his performance with a daring knife juggling act.  William Moxon, year 7, found it ‘amazing’.

Jenny McLachlan, a former English teacher and author of the ‘Ladybirds’ series and ‘Stargazing for Beginners’, delighted year 7 and year 8 girls with a large group presentation about her experiences of life and writing, followed by the opportunity for some to create their own story in smaller workshops.  Lisa Jackson, year 7, found the workshops ‘friendly’ and ‘really fun’.

Alan Gibbons, the author of many bestselling books such as ‘An Act of Love’, ‘Raining Fire’, and ‘Caught in the Crossfire’ (for older teenagers) and ‘The Number 7 Shirt’ and ‘The Lion Roars’ football stories for younger children, proved absolutely engrossing.  He engaged the year 9 boys immediately with his down to earth and humorous approach, and shared many anecdotes about his working class background and experiences.  Ethan Foster and George Penny, year 9, thought his workshops were ‘really funny and interesting’.

Meantime, from early morning the sports hall was a hive of activity and anticipation as hundreds of chairs were set out for the key-note speaker, former Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman OBE.   Mr Lord, Mrs Starling and invited guests welcomed Malorie to the school as over 500 key stage 4 students took time out from lessons to listen to Malorie’s lively presentation, followed by questions and answers chaired by Mrs Starling.  It was a proud moment: question after question and not just straightforward, simple options, but detailed, thoughtful questions, especially from our Year 13 Literature students.  Malorie has written over 20 novels, including her well know “Noughts and Crosses” series and during the presentation she offered students a fantastic insight to the life and work of an author and spoke passionately about her experiences and dreams, captivating the audience with her drive and enthusiasm.  Following the presentation Malorie spent an hour meeting students and signing copies of her books including her latest publication ‘Chasing the Stars’; she was a great sport, having lots of photographs taken with her many new fans and commented afterwards on how much she had enjoyed the event and in particular the insightful questions that students had asked.  We would like to thank those students who prepared questions for Malorie and in particular Ben Pateman (Year 10), who managed the running of the Q and A and the book-signing.

All the visiting authors took time during the day to meet with students and staff informally and many students enjoyed having copies of books signed by the writers, with Year 9 student Maddie Girvan adding “it was the best day at school ever”.   At one point, we couldn’t see Jenny for the crowds of Year 7 and 8 girls around her, but she admits that the book signings are her favourite part, as she loves talking to the readers and it was great to see the enthusiasm around her.  Over with Julian, one inspired student, Wu, was talking about his GCSE in Mandarin, as Julian’s love of the Far East means he speaks both Chinese and Japanese.  Many students were inspired and returned again, at the end of day to get more books signed and chat with the authors, before it was time to head home.

We would like to thank Tim Walker of Walkers Book Shop, Stamford, for all his help in providing a wonderful variety of books written by the authors for those students who pre-ordered and also for those who wanted to purchase them on the day, providing beautiful displays in the library and sports hall.   Thank you to parents who supported this initiative by buying copies in advance.

The excitement continued at the school throughout the weekend as we hosted events on Friday and Saturday night.  On Friday over 100 people attended a lovely concert given by the folk group Pennyless.  During the interval a group of nine young musicians joined together under the name of the “Black Jackers” to perform to the audience and our congratulations to Deeping School students Hannah and Josie Knight, Tim Clayton and Rhiannon and Sian Morgan Plowright for their part in this group.  On Saturday night the school hall was transformed for a sell-out black tie dinner and speech given by author, TV personality and former MP Giles Brandreth. 

A huge number of festival events took place in the community over the weekend.  St Guthlac’s Church was the sell-out venue for the mesmerising talk given by imminent historical writer Alison Weir on Mary Queen of Scots’.  Our very own History Teacher and Able, Gifted and Talented Co-ordinator Mrs Capper was involved, providing both the introduction and closing remarks to Alison’s keynote speech. 

Hosting the festival at the school was an enormous team effort; our sincere thanks to everyone involved both in the school and community and especially our wonderful school librarian Mrs Lydford.

Headteacher Richard Lord commented “It was a pleasure to host the literary festival events at school last week and my thanks to both the organising committee of the Festival, and my colleagues, for their hard work and commitment.  It was very rewarding to see students benefiting from the opportunity to interact with these inspirational authors and the day was a huge success.  A key role for us all as educators is to instil a love of reading in our students here at the Deepings School.”     

From everyone involved at the school, we send our warmest congratulations and thanks to the Festival organisers for a fantastic event, a community celebration of literature and the lifelong love of reading. 

Mrs Starling, Director of English

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