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Applying RefugeeCrit to Recent Middle Grade/Young Adult Children’s Literature About Refugees

Dr Julia Hope has just completed a chapter for the Routledge Handbook of Refugee Narratives entitled: “Applying RefugeeCrit to Recent Middle Grade/Young Adult Children’s Literature About Refugees” and to be published imminently.

This chapter considers that since the millennium there have been a plethora of texts about the refugee experience for children and young people across the Western world.  Although not a homogeneous category, literature of this kind can follow an almost formulaic representation of the refugee experience, with a recent trend towards increasingly grim and explicit depictions of the suffering of refugee children, especially when trapped in refugee camps.

There is an emergent field of academic study that questioning the motivations of authors, the messages of such stories, and the images of refugees proffered by the books.  I examine in depth two middle grade/young adult texts, “The Bone Sparrow” by Zara Fraillion (2016) and “Boy, Everywhere” by A. M. Dassu (2020), both of which have received considerable public acclaim.  However, RefugeeCrit suggests that narratives can depict refugee children as victims of politically sanitised global disasters, without background explanation of the causes, and in need of “white saviours” with “helping hands” to bring them to safety.  Nevertheless, this framework is helpful in critiquing these texts, but can prove challenging when authoring this literature, and when recommending quality refugee narratives for middle grade/young adult readers.

                           

Blog by Julia Hope

Opening up multilingual spaces in the superdiverse primary school

Schools are and have always been places of languages. Children and educators talk to each other, they talk over each other, they listen. Yet, they do more: they bring their linguistic repertoires into the school, they hope to find their voices in the classroom and to achieve something with the words they say both for participating in their groups of peers and colleagues and for learning and teaching. At the same time, mainstream schools are places of language ideologies that regulate whose language experiences count as knowledge and whose do not. Walking down the High Street of any neighbourhood, we hear a plethora of languages; yet the mainstream school remains more often than not a strangely monolingual space that confines children’s superdiverse voices to its unofficial niches. My curiosity began here: How do children’s linguistic repertoires and the schools’ language ideologies come in contact with each other? How do educators and children negotiate the meanings of those repertoires and ideologies? And how does this play out in classrooms, where children have on average nine or ten languages in their linguistic repertoires?

(pupil, Year 4)

My research (PhD 2021 at Goldsmiths) addressed teacher agency in multilingual pedagogies – a lens with considerable conceptual power, because it allows for an exploration of both the educator’s present role and possibilities for new pedagogical developments. I talked and listened to class teachers. Yet, within the ethnographic study, my interest and curiosity needed to move on: Debates around multilingual pedagogies evolve fast in many schools worldwide; their ‘local’ circumstances as much influenced by traces of transnational movements – past and present – in the neighbourhood as by education policies. Globalisation and transnational migration are frequently referred to when these pedagogies are advocated. But is the ordinary, mainstream, superdiverse primary school sufficiently considered? Thus, I listened to children in these classrooms talking about their language experiences, the diverse meanings their languages have for them, and their ideas for what they could do with these languages in school; a question which pupils are rarely asked. The ethnographic inquiry showed the vital role of class teachers as experts of the classroom and as advocates of broader pedagogical perspectives, but it highlighted also the numerous constraints for educators in an institution that is often still firmly rooted in monolingualising ideologies.

Talking about languages

… to do more with your languages in school? Would that be a good idea?

 … yes (…) because everyone can hear your language and what you can do with it

  (pupil, Year 3)

Based on the insights from this research, a book is going to be published in March 2024, and the findings will be used in further lines of research, designing and exploring formats for professional development. More spaces for multilingual pedagogies will – and can only – open up, if teachers feel empowered to explore multilingualism together with their students, and when all three – educators, children and researchers – find spaces to voice and share their experiences.

Blog by Thomas Quehl

Thomas taught for many years at inner-city primary schools in Germany and teaches now in London. He obtained an MA at UCL’s Institute of Education in 1997/98, and this encounter resulted in two books (ed. & transl. from English) in 2000 and 2006, which focused on anti-racist pedagogy and the institutional discrimination of multilingual students. In 2011/12, he re-trained for British schools with a PGCE at Goldsmiths where he also received his PhD in 2021 and is a Visiting Research Fellow.

 

Why and how should we encourage young people to research their local parks and green spaces?

Our parks have a problem with young people. While our parks cater for children aged 0-8 years with playgrounds, they too frequently make older children feel unwelcome and unwanted, particularly young people from poorer backgrounds. This is because young people struggle to find their own spaces and activities in them, and often feel they are unfairly blamed for things like anti-social behaviour (Aalst & Brands: 2021: Brown 2013). The privatisation of park spaces has led to them feeling victimised by various authorities (such as security guards, park wardens and the police) and excluded from parks, even though parks are one of the few places they can come together in groups. While small minorities, such as skateboarders, might be provided for in terms of activities, the majority of young people have few activities open to them, and little power to say what they want from their parks (Brown 2013).

So what can be done?

The research we are doing at Goldsmiths intends to change this situation. It’s called the Parklife Project and it’s headed by myself, but involves many different academics, students, school pupils and people connected to parks, both professional and ‘amateur’.

The aim of the research is to make young people feel like they can engage properly with their parks, and use parks to foster their own wellbeing and environmental awareness as well as other park users. Fortunately, this March 2022, we were delighted to receive some seed funding from Goldsmiths’ Strategic Research Fund to carry out a pilot for what we hope could be a much bigger project. So far the results have been wonderful.

Connecting up with the British Academy and Students Organising for Sustainability UK (SOS-UK), we brought together a number of undergraduates and masters’ students from Goldsmiths, and helped them work with some pupils at a secondary school near to the university. The Parklife project seeks to see if more creative approaches to research can be successful, so as part of the research process, 11-14 year old pupils worked the Goldsmiths’ students to write poems, to draw pictures, to photograph and film their local park. They then reflected upon this work, and took the research process further by questioning school pupils, park users of all sorts, local businesses ecological experts and professionals connected with parks, such as park managers and people who organise the contracts for parks. Using this research, they have drawn up action points for improving their local park, and will be addressing policy makers, local politicians, representatives from park user groups, the police and park managers about what they think should be done. The aim is for young people to learn how to research their parks and promote meaningful ecological, social and psychological change in park users.

You can watch a video which explains how the Goldsmiths’ students went about conducting the research here: https://youtu.be/R3ppVlUMjo8

You can also read a Goldsmiths’ student’s blog about the project here.

References

Aalst, I-van & Brands, J. (2021) Young people: being apart, together in an urban park, Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability, 14:1, 1-17, DOI: 10.1080/17549175.2020.1737181

Brown, D.M. (February 2013) Young People, Anti-social Behaviour and Public Space: The Role of Community Wardens in Policing the ‘ASBO Generation’ Author(s): Urban Studies Vol. 50, No. 3, Special Issue: Young People’s Im/Mobile Urban Geographies (FEBRUARY 2013), pp. 538-555 https://www.jstor.org/stable/26144227

Blog by Francis Gilbert

The Remaking of Language Education

Read about an exciting new book publication co-edited by 4 members of the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning and published in February 2022.

This blog was first published on the Multilingual Matters website:

https://channelviewpublications.wordpress.com/2022/02/24/the-remaking-of-language-education/

Liberating Language Education emerged from our desire to unite our passion about language, education, and lived multilingualism with our visions of what language education can mean, feel, and look like in times of unprecedented change and uncertainty. This passion is reflected in our personas of ‘the weaver’, ‘the fool’, ‘the traveller’ and ‘the activist’ in the introduction of the book: they illustrate the complexity and richness of language experience and language learning across the lifespan and highlight the entanglements of the personal and biographical with the historical and socio-cultural dimensions of language and language pedagogy.

This kaleidoscopic perspective is amplified by the plurality and heterogeneity of voices and orientations manifested in the chapter contributions. The book calls into question a single and unified approach to language, culture, and identity, dismantling monolingual and prescriptivist discourses of pedagogy that have long dominated language education. Instead, it proposes new ways of understanding language and language education that move beyond rationalist and instrumental perspectives and emphasise locally situated meaning-making practices, messiness, and unpredictability.

These new ways liberate our understanding of language to encompass the full range of semiotic repertoires, aesthetic resources, and multimodal practices. They reimagine language education from a translingual and transcultural orientation, showcasing multiple, alternative visions of how language education might be enacted. The translingual, transcultural and transformative approach to pedagogy that underpins the book rests on the following principles:

  • an integrated and inclusive view of language and language learning
  • challenging binaries and fixed positions between formal/informal learning, school/home literacies, schools/other sites of learning
  • attention to language hierarchies and linguistic and social inequalities
  • a synergetic relationship between language and culture
  • the transformative process of language learning as reconfiguring our existing communicative resources and nurturing new ways of being, seeing, feeling and expressing in the world
  • foregrounding embodied, material and aesthetic perspectives to pedagogy
  • emphasis on learner and teacher agency and making their voices heard
  • supporting multiple ways of knowing and a decolonising stance to knowledge building
  • creating trusting, respectful and collaborative relations in research and shared ownership of knowledge

This critical and creative translingual and transcultural orientation repositions teachers, learners and researchers as active language policy creators in the remaking of language education today.

Vally Lytra, Cristina Ros i Solé, Jim Anderson and Vicky Macleroy

For more information about this book please see the Multilingual Matters website.

You can access this podcast where Vally Lytra discusses Liberating Language Education and what vision underpins this collective project:

You can also access Vicky Macleroy talking about Liberating Language Education for the Multilingual Matters Spring Conference 2022:

 

Sustaining multilingualism and social and emotional well-being among multilingual families during the pandemic

In our second webinar of the virtual events series ‘Re-imagining language education during and after Covid-19: opportunities, challenges and possible futures’ we attend to the lived experiences of multilingual families during the pandemic. We show how the digital mediation of communication has shifted language use in transnational families (in some cases towards the majority language for home schooling purposes, in other cases in support of the heritage language, celebrating the oft-ignored role of grandparents in heritage language maintenance), expanded possibilities for interaction between extended family networks and facilitated the creation of new “brave spaces” (Mahera Ruby) to express uncomfortable feelings associated with, for example, grief and financial instability.

Our four invited panellists Dr Mahera Ruby (Personal growth and family coach, founder of ‘Blooming Parenting’); Busra Akgun-Ezin (PhD candidate, Goldsmiths, University of London); Dr Sara Young (Lecturer, UCL/Institute of Education) and Linda North (parent and teacher assistant at the Czech School without Borders London) share personal and community experiences on these and other topical questions raised by the audience:

  • How has communication adapted and changed within multilingual families during the pandemic?
  • What role can language play in sustaining social and emotional resilience during times when we are told to keep apart in order to stay safe?
  • What new possibilities for language learning and interaction within families might the digital mediation of communication open and how might these be sustained?

The webinar is organised and moderated by Dr Froso Argyri and Dr Vally Lytra.

Watch the webinar and join the conversation.

 

About ‘Re-imagining language education during and after Covid-19: opportunities, challenges and possible futures’: We are a group of researchers based at the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning, at Goldsmiths and UCL BiLingo. We are passionate about multilingualism and language education and want to share our passion with language educators from formal and non-formal educational settings, parents, researchers, policy makers and other interested parties. The pandemic has brought about unprecedented change and we wish to collectively reflect on how it has affected language education in the UK and beyond.

Group members: Dr Froso Argyri (UCL BiLingo), Dr Jim Andrerson (Centre for Language, Culture and Learning, Goldsmiths), Dr Vally Lytra (Centre for Language, Culture and Learning, Goldsmiths), Dr Merle Mahon (UCL BiLingo), Dr Vicky Macleroy (Centre for Language, Culture and Learning, Goldsmiths), Dr Dina Mehmedbegovic-Smith (UCL BiLingo and hld) and Dr Cristina Ros i Solé (Centre for Language, Culture and Learning, Goldsmiths).

Blog by Dr Vally Lytra

Mark Kirkbride on Learning to Write by Doing It!

Inspire Conference 2021

Mark Kirkbride delivered an important online workshop as part of the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning’s Inspire conference, which was organised by Dr Francis Gilbert (Head of MA Creative Writing and Education) and Dr Vicky Macleroy (Head of MA Children’s Literature). Here you can read a summation and reflection of his important work.

This is an unedited video of Mark Kirkbride’s talk at the Inspire Conference 2021.

Mark Kirkbride: Learning to write by doing it!

The timeline of my experience of the ‘Inspire: Exciting Ways of Being Creative’ conference begins at 9:30am on Thursday when I get to attend the introductions from Dr Vicky Macleroy, Dr Francis Gilbert and Carinya Sharples, then promptly have to log off to give an online workshop elsewhere.

In my lunch break, I catch Jake Smith’s presentation on ‘Re-writing Narrative’, championing nonlinear narrative, and wish I could adopt a nonlinear approach myself because by then it’s time to switch platforms and deliver another workshop. That finishes at 4:30pm, by which time the first day of the conference has already ended. I’ve missed so many great sessions with fascinating topics but at least I’ll be able to catch up via the videos and while I wish I could have been present for the whole day, the dipping in and out has certainly had an energising effect on the external workshops.

The second day starts with Camilla Chester’s presentation on ‘What Makes A Successful Author Visit?’ As well as being informative, it’s also hugely entertaining, with the highs – effectively being treated like a rock star – sounding like they make up for the lows.

At 9:30am it’s time for my presentation on ‘Promoting Active Learning’, exploring the dilemma inherent in teaching creative writing that knowledge acquired second-hand doesn’t have the same impact as discoveries made for oneself, and setting out to demonstrate that if as much learning as possible is embedded in prompts and exercises, that sense of discovery can still be retained. I illustrate what I mean by running through how I would teach characterisation for beginners. We each construct a character from two or three traits, together with a flaw, then describe that character as if to a friend. The workshop is even more interactive than I’d hoped with some really astute comments in group chat and complex characters emerging. For example,

Bill enjoys the company of others but often overshares his thoughts.

Sadly people avoid him. He has no idea this is happening.

Next we convey our characters’ qualities without describing them at all. Instead, we dramatize them, using action and dialogue, and more work comes through in chat, including

 I rap my knuckles against the reception desk as they continue to sift

through my belongings, removing a laptop, pens and a six-pack of

Dr Pepper. The sign next to me says, ‘Please keep noise to a

minimum on arrival.’ I rap a little harder, the micro-rebellion

thrilling me.

       The tiny red-head manager pulls one final item from my case.

       ‘Oh, come on, I’m not allowed biscuits?’ The words slingshot out,

high-pitched and pink-cheeked.

In just this mini-scene, one really gets a sense of a fully-formed person acting and speaking for themselves.

The half an hour goes quickly, so I race to the conclusion. While new writers might think, perfectly reasonably, that adding more and more layers of detail to the description of a character will bring that person to life more vividly for the reader, they demonstrate, to themselves, that characters live or die on the page by what they do and say. The trial and error involved in writers working in isolation and figuring things out for themselves is designed into the workshop, so that they have a sense of making their own discoveries. Loading prompts and exercises with key knowledge, so that the lightbulb moments happen during the writing, enables new writers to become active participants in their learning, thereby increasing engagement.

The half an hour comes to an end and it’s time for me to introduce Emily Davison’s presentation on ‘Using social media and fairy stories to inspire creative writing’. I at least get to enjoy all of that before having to rush off again, this time to take a family member to a hospital appointment, a trip that takes longer than expected, meaning I once again miss a lot of the day but at least get back in time for the Plenary. It’s a privilege to witness the progress of Emma Brankin’s drama pupil and be there for the launch of Niall Bourke’s book.

Somewhere between work and life, we reflect.

Biography

Mark Kirkbride is the author of two novels and a novella published by Omnium Gatherum in LA. His most recent novel was a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Awards 2019. His short stories have appeared in Under the Bed, Sci Phi Journal, Disclaimer Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine and So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. He teaches creative writing and writing for wellbeing and is currently an Arts Facilitator for OPEN Ealing arts centre and a Creative Workshop Tutor for the University for the Creative Arts.

https://markkirkbride.com/

Blog by Mark Kirkbride

 

Niall Bourke on Inspiring Creative Writing in Schools

INSPIRE CONFERENCE 2021

Niall Bourke delivered an important keynote address as part of the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning’s Inspire conference, which was organised by Dr Francis Gilbert (Head of MA Creative Writing and Education) and Dr Vicky Macleroy (Head of MA Children’s Literature). Here you can read a summation and reflection of his important work.

Below is an unedited video of the introduction to Niall’s keynote address for the Inspire Conference, 2021. Please note Dr Vicky Macleroy, Dr Francis Gilbert and Carinya Sharples introduce this talk.

Niall addressed these key questions: What does it mean to write creatively? What are the barriers to facilitating creative writing practices in the current educational landscape? How might we overcome them? Why should we bother? Can writing creatively be means to a wider academic end? Does this matter? Should we, as educators, try to justify creative writing as having tangible benefits for students? Can we afford not to? Is it important that educators make time to be creative themselves?

His keynote address sought to answer these questions and more, while also providing practical ideas, exemplars and resources to help educators of all persuasions facilitate creative writing exercises with their students.

You can find his PowerPoint here and his notes here. Please note you will need a OneDrive account to open these documents.

Niall’s reflections

It wasn’t long ago that I was a Goldsmith MA student myself, so it was a great pleasure and a privilege for me to deliver this keynote speech for the Inspire Creativity conference.

My focus was to look at some of the barriers to fostering creativity (and particularly in the domain of creative writing) in the current educational landscape, and then offer ideas, resources and suggestions as to how educators can foster creativity in students. Although I stressed that, in general, educators should resist pseudo-justifications encouraging creativity (i.e. – being creative is almost always a valuable process in and of itself and regardless of outcome), being the Head of an English department myself I was particularly keen to be pragmatic when acknowledging the pressures teachers are under. Therefore, I sought to suggest creative exercises which, while excellent in their own right, can also be used to develop understanding of some of the core threshold concepts of English Literature and Language curriculums. Through a series of short activities, I looked at how educators can encourage ‘low-stakes’ creative exercises, and then go on to foster creative response from students by using high quality style-models. The extracts used on the day included the Lyrics of Barrie Louis Polisar’s ‘All I Want Is You’, Leone Ross’s ‘The Woman Who Lived in A Restaurant’ (from her collection ‘Come Let Us Sing Anyway’ – Peepal Tree Press, 2017), John McGregor’s ‘The First Punch’ (first published in Granta Magazine) and ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’, by William Carlos Williams. It was a lot of fun!

Biography

Niall has taught English for sixteen years (in Ireland, New Zealand and the UK) and is currently Head of English at St Michael’s College, in Bermondsey. He completed the Teacher/Writer MA (as it was called then) at Goldsmiths in 2015. His writing has been published widely in magazines and journals, in both the UK and Ireland, and his poems and short stories have been listed for numerous awards, including twice for the The Costa Short Story Award, The ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award, The Mairtín Crawford Short Story Prize, The Hennesy New Irish Writing Award and the Fitzcarraldo Novel Prize. In 2017 he was selected for Poetry Ireland’s Introductions Series. His debut poetry collection Did You Put The Weasels Out? was published in April 2018 and was longlisted as one of The Poetry Schools’ books of the year. In April 2021 Tramp Press  publishied his debut novel, Line. In 2020, The Arts Council Awarded him a grant to develop a ‘Choose Your Own Poetry Adventure’ collection called The Erection Specialists, which will be published by Broken Sleep Books in 2022. He is represented by Brian Langan at Storyline Literary Agency. He blogs on his website about both creative writing and education.

www.niallbourke.com

Twitter: @supersplurk

Niall Bourke

 

Wild Writing

INSPIRE CONFERENCE 2021

Helen Moore delivered an important online workshop as part of the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning’s Inspire conference, which was organised by Dr Francis Gilbert (Head of MA Creative Writing and Education) and Dr Vicky Macleroy (Head of MA Children’s Literature). Here you can read their summation and reflection of  her important work.

Wild Writing: co-creative practices & inspirations

It’s a truism that teaching and learning go hand-in-hand. And yet participating in the conference and contributing my insights to an audience of writers and teachers was far richer than I’d anticipated, particularly given its virtual nature. And although I’d always prefer an onsite setting to explore ‘wild writing’, I was delighted to sense that my attempts to convey it online were successful, both in describing it and through a short workshop, with participants sharing what I sensed to be deeply felt experience of wildish places.

But to start at the beginning, what is ‘wild writing’ and how is it ‘co-creative’?

Acknowledging that there are doubtless many definitions, I understand ‘wild writing’ as part of my own ecopoetic practice, stemming primarily from a desire to respond to the social and ecological crises that we collectively face. I believe wild writing encourages an ‘untaming’ of its practitioners, and builds resilience and wellbeing, allowing us to get in touch with our ‘humanimal’ nature and offering us the opportunity to progress the development of the ‘deep ecological self’ advocated by the ecophilospher Arne Naess.

At this point I shared some examples of my own ‘wild writing’, and I’ll include a poem here – ‘Green Drift’, from my debut ecopoetry collection, Hedge Fund, And Other Living Margins, (Shearsman Books, 2012).

Green Drift (by Helen Moore)

“There is no force in the world but love.” – Rilke

Crawling into bed like a peasant,

with mud-grained feet, soil under the nails

of my toes – but too tired to care –

the heaviness of the day’s exertions draws

 

my body downward – each muscle and bone

finding its bliss – and I close my eyes

on a green panorama, shades of every

nuance, the contours of leaves in high

 

definition.  A film encoded on the visual cortex,

I observe again those lanceolate shapes, the forage silk

which slipped between our fingers and thumbs

(still redolent with that Ramson scent),

 

the mounding herbage that we plucked,

backs bent as in a Van Gogh study.

Behind my eyelids, vernal waves rise and fall,

hymn of this community to which my senses flock –

 

ancient rite of magnetic birds, Dionysus riding me,

greens rushing on the inside of my eyelids,

mosaics of foliage, fingers ablaze with Nettle stings,

soles still alive to the narrow woodland path,

 

its vertebrae of roots, pad of compressed earth.

High on Spring, I’m a biophile

and incurable; nor would I care for any cure –

would only be a node in Great Mother’s body

 

where, drifting into the canopy of sleep, I see foliar veins

close-up – illumined as if by angels –

feel the breathing of stomata.  Then, like a drunken Bee,

I surrender to this divine inebriation.

 

So how does wild writing happen?

Given that it’s a practice emerging from the wilder aspects of our consciousness, there is a strong need to carve out space in our busy schedules/timetables to get away from the digital world to nourish our creativity and deepen our connection with the other-than-human natural world. But we don’t need to seek out places that might typically be defined as ‘wild’. The wild is everywhere, even in our local park/garden/school playing fields.

It’s also about holding an intention, what does life want to show me today? In approaching it this way, we can experience magical encounters that lift our spirits/bring joy/inspire. It’s important to see the time we give it as ‘sacred’; time for nurturing soul and the ensouled world, and ideally we cross a threshold (which might be a garden or park gate, a path to a beach or forest) in order to mark the transition into it. Whilst in this space, we avoid conversations with other humans and open ourselves to the other-than-human world.

We begin by walking, slowing our pace, letting our mental chatter subside in order to open ourselves. We let our bodies soften, our senses receive information such as the breeze on our skin, scents in the air, taste, sounds near and far, and visual aspects such as colours, shapes, patterns. At the same time, we watch what is at the edge of our consciousness, breathing it in and out, honouring any uncomfortable feelings, breathing them in and out. We avoid getting attached to any of those thoughts, or letting ourselves build them into narratives, and instead keep returning our attention to the present moment.

We also practise the Five Ways of Knowing, which Bill Plotkin advocates. These are sensing (with all five senses), feeling, intuiting, imagining and thinking. Practising and valuing these additional ways of knowing helps to balance out the dominant rational mind and allows us to become more receptive to the multiple wild voices and natural sign languages that are usually so ignored in our culture – in fact, the American ecopsychologist, Theodore Roszak, talks about us having become deaf and mute towards the other-than-human world.

We also connect with the elements, the weather, darkness/light, rhythms of growth, abundance and decay, and notice what these may mirror within us. Observing dead wood riddled with insect holes and fungus, we may see what needs to fall from our own lives, what needs to be composted, as we embrace a deeper understanding of impermanence.

Through these acts of paying deep attention, and then finding language, imagery and form to reflect our experiences, we are engaging in wild writing. However, often that process of finding language is tentative, provisional. Our experiences may be difficult to communicate, and so we simply ‘splurge’, forgetting grammar, spelling, punctuation. Sometimes the seed of a poem or story is found later in just a few words of that splurge, a phrase that has a certain ‘energy’ that we want to explore further.

Wild writing fundamentally requires us to practise non-judgement – at least in the initial phase, when we allow everything in. Later we can practise the discernment of the editorial eye, but for now we are open to including all of our experience. Which connects with the co-creative aspect of this methodology.

What is co-creation?

In our culture we’re conditioned to think of the act of creation as happening almost in a vacuum. We’ve come to think of the creative ‘genius’ working in isolation. Often it’s a white, male figure, possibly inspired by a female muse. However, everything happens as a co-creation in Nature. A tree does not grow on its own, but responds to light, soil, water, weather, insects. It interacts with other trees through mycorrhizal relationships. Trees are also home to birds, creatures, insects, all of whom may have a symbiotic relationship with the tree. A bird might find its home in the tree’s branches, eat its berries, benefitting from this food source, and then pooping out the seeds, thereby disseminating them.

This shows that co-creation is at the heart of all experience. All beings are infinitely connected through the web of life, the ecosystems and communities we inhabit. Our co-creation as humans is with other writers and teachers who inspire us, and with the other-than-human as an interspecies experience. It may also involve consciously working with the Universe, the Divine, Spirit, Oneness, however we may call it.

This co-creation can come about through inspiration, and of course the word ‘inspire’ was key in the context of the conference. ‘Inspire’ connects us with the breath, the air we share with all beings. It is the insights, ideas, sudden intuitions which we ‘breathe in’. And as educators then ‘breathe into’ others when we inspire them.

At this point I invited people to prepare for the wild writing workshop section of my contribution to the conference, with an attunement to our wilder selves through the body and breath. I’m sharing my notes here in case they may be useful for others to adapt for their own purposes:

FOCUS ON BREATH

o Getting comfortable, close eyes, feet on floor, align spine etc

o Noticing breath’s journey in & out of body

o Breath can be shallow, deep, irregular

o What does it mean to be at home with our breathing/to inhabit our breath?

o Air penetrates deep into our lungs through this act of respiration, reaching the minute balloon-shaped air sacs that could be leaves at the end of the respiratory tree’s branches.

o Their function is to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules to and from the bloodstream.

o Of all the elements we’re able to survive the least amount of time without it

o We share the air, as we do water, with all human and other-than-human beings. Here we are inescapably experiencing this miraculous existence together inside a delicate pocket – Earth’s atmosphere, a phenomenon I explore in this section of my poem:

READ EXTRACT: ‘From the Pocket’s Circumference’ (ECOZOA, Permanent Publications, 2015)

“… here’s the rub – don’t we all live together in the same pocket? From outer space we see the pale cloud, and here and there the holes. If Earth were a fist balled up and thrust in a pocket, the atmosphere would be as thin as that cotton fabric. Our lungs know this. Drawing 20,000 breaths per day, these twin inflatable pockets point up towards the element on which they depend.”

VISUALISATION

Walking into a forest/woodland you know. Air filled with sounds of birds. The Spring sunshine is gently warming the air and your face. Sap is rising. Season when our ancestors would have celebrated the Earth’s awakening. Birth. Regeneration. As you walk, perhaps you’re starting to breathe in the scents of blossom, new leaves, Wild Garlic?

Talk about Japanese Forest Bathing – Shin-rin-yoku. As we walk in woodland, we’re breathing more oxygen-rich air. Also we’re benefitting from the forest’s natural aromatherapy. Inhaling the aromatic compounds released by trees and plants, called phytoncides. These have natural antibacterial and antifungal properties, and studies show that they support the white blood cells in our immune systems. Take time to be in this space etc.

Finally, I invited people to plunge into some splurging, and gave them five minutes. After that, I asked them to look at their writing and circle any parts that had interest/energy, which might serve for further development.

In the final minutes of the session, people typed into the chat some wonderfully rich snippets, read out some sections of their writings and asked questions. I’m hugely grateful for everyone’s engagement, and I’m open to ongoing dialogue with anyone who may want to know more.

BIO

Helen Moore is a British ecopoet, socially engaged artist, writer and Nature educator. She has published three ecopoetry collections, Hedge Fund, And Other Living Margins (Shearsman Books, 2012), ECOZOA (Permanent Publications, 2015), acclaimed by John Kinsella as ‘a milestone in the journey of ecopoetics’, and The Mother Country (Awen Publications, 2019) exploring aspects of British colonial history. Helen offers an online mentoring programme, Wild Ways to Writing, and works with students internationally. In 2020 her work was nominated for the Forward and Pushcart Prizes and received grants from the Royal Literary Fund and Arts Council England. She’s currently collaborating with Cape Farewell in Dorset on RiverRun, a project working with scientists and farmers in Dorset to examine pollution in Poole Bay and its river-systems. www.helenmoorepoet.com

Blog by Helen Moore

 

 

Deptford Storytelling Project 2020-2021

Figure 1: A multilingual community film-making project celebrating Deptford’s rich history and diverse community

Deptford Storytelling Project was launched in 2020 and brought together people of different ages, languages, and backgrounds to make films about people’s lives in Deptford. Film workshops were run from January-March 2020 resulting in 10 films and two screenings in March 2020 at Deptford Cinema in Deptford, South London. Details of the project can be accessed on the Language Acts and Worldmaking site. The films can be seen on the Critical Connections website with film details in the Film Booklet 2020.

This community-based filmmaking project celebrated Deptford’s rich history and vibrant and diverse community through stories of those living here. Set up in collaboration with Deptford Cinema and Goldsmiths, University of London it offered a creative space for exploring lifeworlds, asserting cultural alternatives, and developing a shared community. Making participant agency and collaboration central concerns, it expanded on our successful work in the Critical Connections project (2012-ongoing) and took filmmaking into the community for all ages. The public and private screenings at Deptford Cinema were wonderful celebratory events and Lucy Rogers, one of the directors of the project and a Deptford Cinema volunteer reflected: ‘the films make a great argument for the value of true grassroots cinema as a platform for creativity and self-expression’. The project was reported in Goldsmiths news.

Deptford Cinema had to close its doors a week after the screening due to the pandemic and the start of the first lockdown. The project directors wanted time to reflect on the filmmaking process with participants and talk to the filmmakers about their experiences of the project. As community events were put on hold, we set up online recorded conversations with participants to talk about their own films and other films in the project; the languages included; understandings of community; and their experiences of Deptford Cinema. Michael and Vanessa made the film Walk with Me and Michael reflected upon the experience.

‘The more I do this, the more I will learn about multiculturalism … Well, I believe that’s the way the world really is, people with different languages … that shows the true nature of the world … everyone’s got a different culture’.

Figure 2: Walk With Me (Michael Williams and Vanessa Crouch)

Walk With Me shows a snapshot of a week in Michael’s life. Michael sadly died in August 2020 and this film stands as a timely testament to his ideas about friendship and community.

As project directors we decided to reach out to the filmmakers in 2021 and see if they wanted to get together for the project’s one-year anniversary. We met with the project participants online and planned a virtual screening of the films on the Deptford Cinema online platform, DC @ Home. We held a celebratory launch of the online screening on Friday 26 March with 9 of the 10 original films and an extended version of My Bad Sister which has been shown at film festivals.

The 2nd edition of the Film Booklet 2021 can be accessed here.

The online screening of the films included pre-recorded introductions by the filmmakers reflecting on their films a year later in March 2021.

Deptford Storytelling Virtual Screening from Critical Connections on Vimeo.

The filmmakers also reflected on the project, ‘Deptford Storytelling Project: Celebrating One Year’ through creating short written pieces, photographs, artwork, poetry and recordings for the online Journal for Deptford Cinema.

The Deptford Storytelling project was funded by Language Acts and Worldmaking (a flagship AHRC Open World Research Initiative project aiming to transform language learning by foregrounding language’s power to shape how we live and make our worlds) and two of the project directors, Lucy Rogers and Vicky Macleroy, presented the project at the final online conference, ‘Languages Acts and Worldmaking Conference: Languages Future’ in April 2021. The online screening of the films hosted by Deptford Cinema @ Home became part of the international conference and shared with all conference participants. The conference presentation can be seen here.

The Deptford Storytelling Project has become a vital part of our multilingual digital storytelling work and research and became part of the larger international digital storytelling community when one of the project directors, Vicky Macleroy, presented the project at the online International Digital Storytelling Conference (June 2021), ‘Story Work For A Just Future Exploring Diverse Experiences And Methods Within An International Community Of Practice’. In the presentation ‘Cultural Webs of Deptford: Multilingual Digital Stories of Friendship and Belonging’ research was discussed that showed how the storytellers’ language repertoires were drawn upon and extended in their films. In the Deptford Storytelling Project (2020-21), we moved beyond school settings and worked across generations to see whether filmmaking could bring people together and play a vital part in multilingual activism and understanding our local communities.

As the Critical Connections project moves into its tenth year, we hope to build on the collaboration with Deptford Cinema. Deptford Cinema volunteers, Lucy Rogers and Louis Holder supported the online screening of ‘Our Planet Festival 2021’ with 20 films including 20 languages. Read about the ‘Our Planet Festival’.

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. Margaret Jennings (in collaboration with Jun Koya) created a film for the Deptford Storytelling Project’, Urban Wildway Rooutes. Margaret set up the Eco Haven at Goldsmiths and the film explored the shift from human centredness to wildlife centredness. Margaret and other participants in the Deptford Storytelling Project are keen to be part of future filmmaking projects.

Figure 3: Urban Wildway Rooutes (Margaret Jennings and Jun Koya)

Please get in contact if you are interested in participating in future projects.

Project Directors: Lucy Rogers, Jim Anderson and Vicky Macleroy

Blog by Vicky Macleroy

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.

Reflections

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