“Would you like to come to our school and talk about writing?” Mrs Shepherd spontaneously asked children’s author Gillian Cross, in a book-signing queue in 2000. Her reply – “I’d love to!” – led to the first of over two hundred wonderful visits by writers to Bristol Grammar School in the past fifteen years.
From gentle beginnings (1–3 writers every twelve months) to twenty visits every academic year, BGS now offers what we believe to be a unique programme of literary events, held in one school, and run by a dedicated specialist.
Each term offers a range of events, each author-visit being tailored to the needs of a particular age-group: a shorter, interactive activity with small Infant School groups; a longer session for cluster events, two hundred pupils including visitors from Local Authority schools; or a customised event for AS Creative Writing students.
In addition to activities with children’s writers, we’ve also held ticketed events with high-profile adult authors: Ranulph Fiennes, Jodi Picoult, Michael Wood, Penelope Lively, Will Self … the roll-call is long. The ticket price covers live music and light refreshments. Large numbers attend these evenings.
Links with publishers have been carefully nurtured; many authors are now ‘offered’ – rather than being approached – for an event. We have far more potential visitors than we could possible accommodate. This (partly) reflects a changing trend: writers were once left alone to get on with their solitary jobs, putting words on paper; now, however, they are expected to leave their eyries and talk about their books in schools, as well as at festivals. Our link with Penguin is particularly strong, since their founder, Allen Lane, was a former pupil of the School.
What are the benefits of all this extra-curricular literary activity? From Reception upwards, pupils get to meet and talk to the creators of some of the very best books published for their age-group. They are motivated and inspired. Wider reading, improved writing and an engagement with the whole process undoubtedly follow. It is cool to read here!
All photographs on the website are courtesy of Graham Fellows, unless stated otherwise.