First Story’s main programme places professional writers into secondary schools serving low-income communities, where they work intensively with students and teachers to foster confidence, creativity and writing ability. Their programmes expand young people’s horizons and raise aspirations. Participants gain vital skills to help them thrive in life and education.
“First Story fills me with hope: for new books, new poetry, and an inspirational authorship of the future. The role of the writer and the reader are more vital than ever, and the nurturing of new voices more important and compelling than ever. First Story nurtures the beautiful dreamers, the writers that will document our today and tomorrow, our hopes and dreams. These are the writers that narrate our time here and now, and our hopes for the future.” Salena Godden - poet performer and author.
“Our students are on free school meals, live in tough areas, and have really challenging lives. First Story has been a wonderful chance for them to develop a love of language and of writing, to enjoy reading and the process of expressing themselves, in a way that is so safe and so freeing. It has enabled them to discover themselves and develop this incredible talent.” Headteacher.
At the end of July, as schools broke-up for summer and temperatures topped 36°C, teamArchie and First Story took 16 talented students from around the country on a week-long writing retreat, in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside. At the end of each academic year, First Story award sixteen young writers a fully-funded place to attend a week-long writing course at the Ted Hughes Arvon Centre.
The young writers took part in workshops together and received one-to-one tutorials by the brilliant Writers-in-Residence. They picked the brains of Jarred McGinnis, their guest writer. They cooked together. Imagined together. And wrote. Loads. They wrote of ‘collar bones like bridges’, ‘rivers of broken promises and lost dreams’ and ‘wrinkled eyes like crumpled receipts’.
WHY IT'S IMPORTANT
The residential is a rare and valuable opportunity for promising students to further develop their confidence, creativity and writing ability.
Plus, attending the residential is genuinely lifechanging.
It's living and writing alongside your peers.
It's forging new friendships.
It's often being away from home for the first time.
It's learning from acclaimed writers in a much more intense way.
It's drawing inspiration from the beautiful location.
And, it's choosing not to be on your phone for quite long chunks of the day.
This is a piece written by our teamArchie Ambassador Caroline Kenyon.
“I was lucky enough to spend a couple of hours with the Team Archie-sponsored children brought by First Story to the Arvon Foundation.
Driving from Lincolnshire to North Yorkshire, I found the road getting narrower and steeper. At last, I was driving up a tiny cobbled high street, and emerging at the top. On the brow of the hill, I saw a turning to the left, said to be the way to the Arvon Foundation.
Charlotte Predergast, head of learning took me inside and I was immediately in another world. To my shame, I had not realised this used to be Ted Hughes’ home. The house was steeped in atmosphere - I saw a long galley kitchen where apparently the young people cooked together every night, which led to a huge, flagstoned dining room. A long wooden table ran along the centre, dotted with jam jars of wild flowers. Here, Charlotte said, the children ate or wrote in break out sessions. We walked into the garden and the view took one's breath away. We were perched almost on a mountainside, overlooking a magnificent valley. From there, we went to the centre of action - a magnificent barn, where the vibrant performance poet Rebecca Tantony was working with the group. They were just about to start reading aloud their pieces about people forgotten by history. They had been given ten minutes to write. Charlotte and I sat quietly at the back. One girl read a brilliantly memorable poem about women of the past, maids, cooks, washerwomen. Others read too, shy but determined to perform their work.
They were given another break. Some went outside, others were playing a piano together. One girl gently started to weep, a few friends gathered round her to comfort her. Apparently she was overcome by the fact that this incredibly special week was coming to an end the next day.
When the children returned for the next session, Rebecca asked to them to pair off and take part in a really challenging exercise. They all had to write on a piece of paper the thing they most feared about their writing - that people might not like it, or it might not work, whatever their fear might be - and pass the piece of paper to their partner. Then they had to look into their partner’s eyes for a minute, without speaking or laughing.
Charlotte and I did it. It's hard! We exposed our deepest fear about our writing to each other and then had to look at each other, steadily, for what actually turned out to be a minute and a half. How many thoughts and questions can pass through one's mind in that time. I wondered what thoughts the children must have had, what reflections, what fears, what hopes.
I dipped into their magical world for just a few hours and it changed me. How much more must it have meant to those lovely, talented, young people? I can only think it could well have changed their lives for ever.”
teamArchie really hopes that their lives have been changed forever!