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Our Planet Festival 2021

Critical Connections Project (2012-ongoing) 

Figure 1: Our Planet Festival Languages by Yu-Chiao Chung

In these uncertain times the theme of ‘Our Planet’ is a crucial topic for young people to engage with, research, and think about how to change their environments. In the online festival in June 2021, as well as the digital stories on the theme of ‘Our Planet’, students produced artwork and multilingual poetry to express their views.

Aims of ‘Our Planet Festival 2021’

  1. Connect children and young people with their environment, cultural heritage, and languages through taking action and telling stories on issues that matter to them (cosmopolitan citizenship).
  2. Connect children and young people with each other locally and globally.
  3. Develop children’s imagination, creativity, and multilingual repertories.
  4. Improve children’s communication skills and ability to make meaning through narrative and still/moving images and gain understanding of multimodal literacy and intertextual relationships.
  5. Gain understanding of issues and strategies in translation activities and subtitling (metalinguistic awareness).
  6. Enable creative and critical use of digital technology to transform stories.
  7. Encourage critical thinking, activist citizenship, and international partnerships.
  8. Develop children’s understanding of aesthetics and narration through creating artwork and poetry.

Our Planet Festival 2021 celebrated the multilingual lives of children and young people through their artwork, multilingual poetry, and the bi- and multi- lingual digital stories they created during the pandemic. Educators worked with young participants (6 – 17 years old) across 16 educational institutions (primary, secondary, community-based complementary, pupil referral unit, NGO), 7 countries (England, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Germany, Taiwan, Turkey) and a range of 20 languages. The young people exhibited their striking and original artwork and poetry on the project website and their 3–5-minute films were shown at an online screening event supported by Deptford Cinema.

Online Our Planet Festival – Friday 11 June 2021

Michael Rosen opened the festival with a multilingual poetry performance including some of his latest poems from his book On the Move: Poems About Migration (2020). Michael Rosen commented on the theme of the festival.

‘We’re talking about ‘Our Planet’ so this is one of the things that we share. We share the fact that we are multilingual … one of the reasons why we are multilingual is because we migrate, we move … we don’t stay still … that’s why languages mix and change and we speak many languages’.

Project schools joined from different countries and students were thrilled to participate in a Q & A with Michael Rosen.

Children asked Michael about becoming a poet, writing poetry, his poems, his preferred language, and being an educator as well as a poet.

Artwork and multilingual poetry

Michael Rosen’s poetry performance was followed by a short online tour of the artwork and multilingual poetry children and young people created for the festival.

    Figure 2

   لما لا يسود السلام في العالم

   ‘Why not a peaceful world?’

   Sobhia Anfal Boularas

 Peace School, North London



This work can be accessed from the different schools on the project website here:

Multilingual Poetry Workshop

Michaël Vidon, spoken word educator, poet and French teacher (at Seaford Head School) led an hour’s online multilingual poetry workshop for all participants. Michaël Vidon engaged participants in thinking about words, about obstacles, about places where humans and nature are side by side fighting, about messiness, about danger and comfort. He talked about editing and when and how to move between languages in multilingual poetry and about rhyme and rhythm. Project participants experimented writing across languages.

Online screening event supported by Deptford Cinema

Figure 3: Congratulations, you have won a sheep! (Tawasol Community School, Cairo, Egypt)

There were 20 short films including 20 languages and short, pre-recorded introductions to each film. Participants watched the films together across the different countries and the screening was accessible on the Deptford Cinema @ Home platform for 6 weeks (Deptford Cinema). The films can now be accessed on Critical Connections website.

Deptford Cinema is a volunteer run, not-for-profit, community cinema in Deptford (close to Goldsmiths). Deptford Cinema volunteers, Lucy Rogers and Louis Holder, supported the online screening producing a film booklet and editing the overall screening. The Our Planet Digital Storytelling Booklet contains a listing of all the films and more detailed descriptions of the 20 films and project participants.

Our Planet Festival Booklet

The individual films can be viewed here.


The film festival was on national news in Taiwan (12 June 2021).

Figure 4: Revealing the Secrets of Joss Paper (Changsing Elementary School, Taiwan)

Children and young people shared their multilingual poetry, artwork and digital stories at local school and community events across countries in the project.

Children/young people reflected on the ‘Our Planet Festival 2021’

‘Some languages are very difficult to talk in. I knew some of the words. I wish I can read Greek and Mandarin’.

‘It was great to see children from around the world’.

‘We, the children, have to save our planet’.

‘We can all start from our homes and schools, influence a group’s opinion and hope they will influence others’.

‘I was very excited to see our film showcased. I loved watching other films’.

‘There were a variety of different films that intrigued me in many different ways, each one was unique, yet powerful’.

‘There are so many languages spoken in different countries.  I didn’t know that.  It was fascinating to see many films in different languages’.

‘People in different part of the world do different things and have their own ways of living and thought’.

Educators reflected on the ‘Our Planet Festival 2021’

‘Tainan Municipal Changsing Elementary School, Revealing the Secrets of Joss Paper. For most of us, this is a totally unknown world.  Even if one is not part of the culture, one could easily follow and understand the importance of the matter to local people, and that, after all, they are facing similar difficulties we have here, with big industries endangering local crafts’.

‘I had no idea about joss paper and I was wondering if there are any other traditions that potentially put our environment in danger. That is a topic I would like to research with children, starting from our little country, and try to find some solutions to either make the effect less damaging for the planet or completely change it with something nature-friendly’.

‘In my class, children have proved they can complete a range of tasks, technology wise, and achieve much more than what we expect of them. They were able to use a range of multimedia programmes to put a clip together, add subtitles and use other features’.

‘I am very surprised and impressed that my students can finish their films during lockdown.  I thought they would lose their motivation but the fact was that they were very engaged and responsible to work on their film.  It has proved that if they are given some tasks which mean a lot to them, they would enjoy working on them’.

Critical Connections project (2021-22)

As the Critical Connections project moves into its tenth year, we are in the process of planning next year’s festival and waiting to hear about further funding for our work in the field of multilingual learning, environmental activism and the arts. Please get in contact if you are interested in participating in future projects.

Project Directors: Dr Vicky Macleroy, Dr Yu-Chiao Chung and Dr Jim Anderson

Centre for Language, Culture and Learning, Goldsmiths, University of London

Our Planet Festival 2021 was supported by Goldsmiths Public Engagement Fund (2020-21) and Deptford Cinema.

Blog by Vicky Macleroy



Gabriel Troiano: The forbidden and creativity

Below is an unedited video of Gabe Troiano’s talk on the Forbidden and Creativity, 15 April 2021, hosted by  Goldsmiths Centre for Language, Culture and Learning and MA Creative Writing and Education Please feel free to scroll to the relevant section.


Gabe writes:

It was an absolute pleasure to participate in the Inspire conference on the 15 and 16 of April 2021. I was impressed with what the participants had to showcase, their work has great value and will certainly be of importance moving forward in the field of critical pedagogy, creativity, and writing. In regard to my session ‘Forbidden’, I wanted to explore a creative writing practice that can take place in a variety of formats.

By formats I mean not only writing, but other artistic forms of expression such as painting, drawing, etc. This goes along with a part of my presentation where I talk about other artistic creations and how they impacted me as a writer. My idea with this piece was to think about a scenario where a person or character finds themselves in a difficult place, a moment where him/her is doing something forbidden or dangerous that could potentially impact their life in some way.

This was the driving force behind my story, and I believe that this simple action of doing something forbidden can and has been extremely explored throughout the artistic world. Some of the examples from different genres that I utilized in my presentation are shown below:

Adam eating the apple, 1786 by Parmigianino (1503 – 1540)

Adam eating the apple | Works of Art | RA Collection | Royal Academy of Arts

Dream Theater’s “Metropolis PT 2: Scenes From a Memory”

Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory - Wikipedia

The generous feedback from my peers and visitors at the conference (which also included my mother, father, and grandmother!) also allowed me to showcase this point quite clearly. After the completion of the freewriting exercise, I was shocked to see so many responses and the amount of creativity that was embedded in only 8 minutes of writing. Some of the comments below say more than I could ever express into words:

‘She’d do what she needed to do. It was the mantra that she kept replaying to herself all those lonely months. And now she was here. The worst was over. Now all that was left was to cover the thing that had fallen out of her in the soft, sweet smelling earth of her parent’s back garden. Then she could go back into the house; get into bed and tomorrow she would just be a cheerleader again.’

‘I stood in the bathroom stall shaking and unfolding the crumpled piece of paper where I had written all the math formulas. My forehead dripped with sweat and my ankles felt stiff. I tried to scan the paper as quickly as possible. When I walked back to the classroom my sneakers squeaked through the cold and quiet hallway. When I opened the door to classroom 2D, Mr.s Levin looked at me. “She knows”, I thought. “Play it cool” i told myself. I slipped back into the seat to look at my math quiz and I had forgotten all the formulas.’

‘I lied. I don’t usually lie. It is hard to do so when one has been brought up in a strict ‘Thou shalt not lie’ household. I lied to my children. I thought at the time I was protecting them and to this day I do not know if that was a good thing. But they lied right back at me. They pretended that they believed my lie. so we lived for years dancing around this strange thing, this lie. It coloured everything and as it turns out, they were having to work harder to protect me. And I had no idea that any of it was going in. How would our lives have been if I’d told them the truth from day on? What would it have been like if they had not lived, knowingly, with that lie, played it out for years? That lie. It had so much power. It carved the gorge that our life path took. To this day I can’t work out if I did the right thing but I remember the shock when my children told me they knew I had lied to them. Did it make them accepting of lies, of untruths? Did it colour their lives. If it did, I hope it has been for the good. But I will never know. I can’t turn back the clock, change that act.’

Overall, the experience of attending the conference as an observer and presenter was a truly magnificent opportunity. It always blows my mind to see so many talented people that are not afraid to showcase their work and inspire people to grow and be creative. I have always thought that creativity is something that you must be born with it, but attending conferences like this makes me reflect on the value of pedagogy and serving as a mentor to others who may want to explore their more creative, abstract side. It is easy for us writers and educators to sit down and jot our ideas to ourselves, but it is when we shed light on the why and how of this process to others that we fundamentally alter the way in which creativity is practiced and perceived. That is to say, one can do the work and stimulate their ideas to oneself, but one can also share pieces of the puzzle that was developed throughout a body of work in order to truly mend these different pieces together. I hope that you become inspired by watching the conference as I did, observing and interacting with the different pieces of the puzzle produced by the trend setting collection of inspirers.


Gabriel Troiano was born in São Paulo, Brazil in 1996. After moving to the United States in 2013 to complete his high school and bachelor’s degree, Gabriel relocated to London, United Kingdom, where he currently resides and is completing a master’s from Goldsmiths University in Creative Writing & Education. His first original poetry and short story collection entitled Inner Worlds is set to publish in 2021, one which he compiled throughout the span of his academic life. The author is also deeply interested in social work and acts as a volunteer for The Reader organization based in Liverpool, United Kingdom. Besides his literary ventures, Gabriel enjoys topics relating to sports, health & wellness, music, and is an advocate for mental health.

Matilda Rostant: How to get started on building your fantasy world

YouTube Video

Below is the link for an unedited video of Matilda Rostant’s talk at the Inspire Conference 15th April 2021, hosted by Goldsmiths Centre for Language, Culture and Learning and MA Creative Writing and Education. Please feel free to scroll ahead to the relevant sections.

The Blurb for this Conference Workshop

The magic of a fantasy story is the exciting world that you are introducing to your reader, a place where they can get lost and explore. Your world will be the backbone of your story, the home to your characters and the beginning of their adventure.

In the 30 minute workshop, we explored the world in which your story is set, whether that is in an alternative London, or your very own Narnia. World building is an integral part of fantasy writing, although sometimes it can be daunting and difficult to know where to begin. Through a series of writing exercises, we broke down the process into manageable tasks to help you get going with creating your fantasy world.

Exercises and responses

Below are the exercises covered in the workshop. You could focus on one question, or try and answer as many of them as possible to get a wider idea of what your world might look like. By first creating a character, we then used our character to show us more of the world around them, whether it was through where they live, or their place of work.

Create a character who inhabits your world (3 mins)

Give them an attribute that doesn’t exist in our world – occupation/physical/clothing etc.

Who are they? Name/age etc.

What do they do for a living?

What are their hobbies?

What are their dreams/ambitions/goals?

What stands in their way from achieving those things?

Describe your character’s home (3 min)

Where do they live? Show us around their home.

Use all the senses – vision, touch, smell, taste, and sound.

What is the climate like where they live? What season is it?

Does your character like where they live?

Can you incorporate something into the home that doesn’t exist in our world?

Write about a day in the life of your character in your world (7 mins)

Where are they going and why? (could be relating to their job/hobby/goal)

What do their surroundings look like (street/village/town/city)? Any landmarks?

Who else lives there apart from your character?

 To take it one step further:

What is the political system?

Is there magic in this world? Magic always comes with a price, what would be the price for using magic in their world?

What plants and wildlife exist in their world?

For this workshop, I included as many questions as possible so that people could find an area that they felt comfortable writing about, whether that was wildlife, or going into more details about someone’s job. However, as discussed in the workshop, when introducing fantasy in a classroom, some might struggle if the brief is going in too many directions. In those cases, it is best to narrow it down to one question and focus on that scenario – such as ‘what if…’.

Writing fantasy isn’t always as easy as one might imagine. Where some writing focuses on having you look inward to what you know, fantasy asks you to let go of what you know of your world and create something out of the unknown. And that can be daunting. Therefore, it was lovely to find that some people who had never written fantasy before, and found it challenging, came up with the most imaginative stories and enjoyed writing them.


Born in Sweden, Matilda Rostant is a fantasy writer who now lives in London. She graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London with an MA in Creative Writing and Education in 2020. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including Reader’s Digest. The aim of her workshop is to encourage anyone interested in creating their own fantasy world to take the first step.

Note about the Inspire conference and anthology

‘Inspire: Exciting Ways of Being Creative’ was a conference hosted online by Goldsmiths’ Centre for Language, Culture and Learning, on 15th and 16th April 2021, 9.30am-4.15pm.

The conference explored through a series of dynamic online workshops and lectures how we can inspire people of all generations to be creative. It was in part a celebration of the publication of Inspire: Exciting Ways of Teaching Creative Writing (ed. Brankin, Gilbert & Sharples: 2020). You can access a free copy of this wonderful book here: