I love teaching creative writing.
Working with children – and family learning.
- I delivered a Heritage Lottery funded poetry writing project with pupils at Walkley Primary School and the Walkley History Project in Sheffield, creating a poetry booklet called “Walkley Now and Then”, which you can read here:
- I deliver family learning courses in Community Learning Centres and Children’s Centres for Derbyshire County Council, including story sacks for parents and family storytelling days.
- I’ve also delivered creative writing workshops at the award-winning Bearded Theory music festival (Best Small Festival of 2013, Best Family Festival of 2016), writing crazy poetry and stories with children in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017! This also includes sessions at the acclaimed Bearded Theory festival school.
- I have also volunteered extensively with Grimm and Co, the Pop-Up Story Shop and literacy charity in Rotherham.
- I also run writing and craft events for children and families at Walkley Carnegie Library in Sheffield, as well as organising events by visiting authors.
- I ran a Rivelin Story Walk for children and their parents as part of the Off the Shelf Literary festival in Sheffield in October 2014, encouraging families to use their imaginations and make up stories while they are walking and exploring (scroll down this page for a full report and photos).
Creative Writing Courses for adults.
- I’ve run three Open Your Memory Box memoir writing courses in Sheffield. Further down this page are some examples of poetry and prose written on the course I ran in October – which explored biographical writing in a creative way. Watch this space for the next Open Your Memory Box memoir writing course.
- I run bespoke creative writing sessions with local writing groups – and any other groups who are interested in getting creative! Contact me for details.
- I’m also employed by Derbyshire County Council as an Adult Education Tutor, specialising in creative writing, specialising in writing for well being.
- I have worked extensively with service users of mental health charity Rethink, delivering creative writing courses.
- Details of upcoming courses are listed in this blog.
Arts and Health Courses.
- Through Derbyshire County Council, I run weekly creative writing and reminiscence classes at Newholme Hospital in Bakewell and Walton Hospital in Chesterfield, working with residential dementia patients. I have also worked with physical rehabilitation patients and “functional” mental health patients.
- The poems written in 2013-2014 with Newholme Hospital patients became the start of the Arts Council funded project, Dales Tales, with a poetry anthology, and an ongoing blog and social media project on Facebook and Twitter. The project went “on tour” to hospitals and day centres around Derbyshire.
- Please contact me if you would like me to run courses in residential or healthcare settings, including:
- Nursing homes and retirement homes.
- Sheltered housing.
- Mental Health Service users.
- Rehabilitation Centres.
- Doctor’s Surgeries.
The Rivelin Valley Story Walk, 18th October 2014
As part of Off the Shelf Festival in Sheffield, I organised a story walk for families – to encourage children to look at their surroundings in a new way and use their imagination to help them to write and tell stories.
The event was a resounding success, and twenty seven children and twenty three adults attended the event. I had to split the event into two walks, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. Luckily, it was a beautiful sunny day – very warm for the time of year, with the trees in full autumn colour.
We set off from Rivelin Park Café and walked as far as the Nether Cut mill pond, so that we didn’t have to cross any roads. This walk takes about twenty minutes at a brisk pace, but much longer when you are looking out for fairy hideouts and caves, goblin thrones and palaces (Roscoe Wheel), giants’ footprints and magical creatures. The children had a wonderful time, and only two of them got wet when they slipped over on the stepping stones!
The Rivelin Valley is ideal for firing children’s imagination – full of mysterious ruins, gnarled trees, old allotments, and of course, the magical river itself. The children were fascinated by the wildlife that we found on the walk. A bulbous garden spider abseiled down from a high tree branch right in front of us, and we watched in fascination as it climbed back up. When we reached the Nether Cut mill pond, we were treated to a spiny Pale Tussock Moth caterpillar – a miniature dragon!
After the excitement of the walk, we returned to the café, where the children were treated to delicious chocolate cakes, and the grown-ups relaxed with a coffee. The children had a brilliant time drawing and writing about their adventures. Some parents contacted me later and told me that their children spent all evening writing their stories – and they slept soundly after the fresh air, imagination and exercise.
I would love to run this event again, or something else that combines creative writing and the magical surroundings of the Rivelin Valley.
Here are some samples of the sort of thing you might end up writing!
Family Storytelling Fun
Held on Wednesday 16th April 2014 at Bolsover Adult Education Centre
This course encouraged adults and children together to use their imaginations and tell stories. This story was written in a warm-up exercise, where everyone took turns to contribute to a story. I wrote it down, and this is the result! The course ended with a picnic in the grounds of Bolsover Castle, but we didn’t see any exploding tomatoes!
One sunny morning at Bolsover Castle, there was a group of children, who were ready to explore. They met a giant tomato and a panda. To everyone’s surprise, the tomato started screaming, and the tomato broke, and seeds were inside. The children planted the seeds. The panda watched all the seeds growing, and the panda watered the seeds. They grew and grew and grew and bursted. And inside were millions of tiny parrots, floating around Bolsover.
The children and the panda watched the parrots float off into the sunset, driving little tiny cars to Africa. When they got to Africa, a Nile crocodile ate one. The other parrots flew into the trees because of the crocodile.
“Yummy, yummy, my tummy,” the crocodile said.
And then a pirate appeared, and a tiger chased the pirate, but the pirate couldn’t run very fast, because of his wooden leg and the parrot on his shoulder, but the pirate had a motorbike, and the tiger had a moped. And then Spiderman came, and threw a web over the motorbike.
And the pirate decided to go back to the sea where it was much less dangerous.
Open Your Memory Box – and write!
Held on Saturday 12th October 2013, 10am – 4pm, Bank Street Arts, Sheffield City Centre.
This course was part of Sheffield’s Off the Shelf festival of words. We squeezed into a meeting room at Bank Street Arts and enjoyed a day of exploring our life story through special objects, poetry, stories and fairy tales. We also enjoyed a delicious lunch from the “To the Lighthouse” cafe. Here are two pieces of writing created in the class.
By Dave Cherry – from Barnsley in the 1950s
I come from a dark grey land where sulphur was the smell.
Just like Dante’s inferno. Perhaps it looked like hell.
Monday morning, wash day. The weather. Is it fine?
Which way is the wind blowing. It blows coal dust on the line.
I used to hear the sound of clogs that were marching down the street.
And all them tins on’t mantelpiece. It was hard to make things meet.
We used to go to market. All the people looked so thin.
People cared. Nobody sweared. It was an awful sin.
But all the mines have gone now. It doesn’t look the same.
All them pubs, and all them clubs. They’ve gone. Who’s to blame.
All those lovely buildings replaced by glass and tin.
Mobile phones and Brookside homes. We never seem to win.
The old folk they have gone now. It feels that something’s wrong.
And the streets are down in the old cold town where we used to play along.
Whatever happened to manners. Nobody says thanks and please.
Remember all the old ways. Now it’s me, me, me, me, me’s.
The English is now text speak. RU in TOMOZ.
The reply is in the same language NO I’M OUT – SOZ.
And if you watch the telly. The right wing establishment ways.
I know I’m old and feel the cold but we were far better in the old, old, days.
The story of Freya
by Zoe Walkington – a re-imagined fairy tale
A husband and wife lived in Yorkshire and gave birth to two children. The first child was a boy named Steven but he was born prematurely and he did not thrive. At just seven days old he died, still in the hospital, and the mother and father were overcome with grief. Three years later the woman fell pregnant again and the husband and wife were delighted, but when the child was born it was a little girl. Whilst the mother was thrilled with the child, the father was very disappointed, as he had wanted a son, and to name him Steven, in memory of the child he was still grieving.
They named the girl Freya, and she grew into a bouncing and pretty baby who was much admired in the neighbourhood. The father of the child however could not set his disappointment to one side, and try as he might he could not feel happy to have his little Freya.
One day the father was tired and annoyed by Freya’s crying, so he walked out of the house and into the woods to get some fresh air and to escape the baby’s high pitched cries. Whilst he was in the woods he came across some fungi that were grown into a circle in a small clearing. The fungi were a pearlescent white, and the flesh of the fungi grew tall and pointed almost in the shape of a witches hat. The father was enchanted by the beauty of the fungi and he stood in the centre of the circle admiring their perfect form and wondering how long they would last, and whether he could return later on and capture their beauty on his camera. He considered picking one of the mushrooms but he was unsure if they would be edible, so he let them be. As he was stood in the circle his attention was caught by the cry of a black crow that flew overhead and he looked up to see the bird silhouetted against the blue sky of the spring morning. His breath was taken by the beauty of the day, and of the bird, and of the sunshine, and he said out loud “If only I still had my Steven rather than Freya, my life would be perfect”. As soon as the words were out of his mouth the man looked down and saw that the fungi had turned brown and were melting into the soil and the man grew fearful as to what he had said. He fled the woods and returned back home as quickly as possible.
When he returned home, everything was as it should be. His wife was playing with Freya in the sunshine and Freya was giggling and laughing with happiness. In time the man stopped worrying about the fungi and before long forgot about that day in the woods altogether.
Life went on and the man found he was able to throw himself into his work, and found that his wife was delighted to have Freya to look after, so his feelings towards his daughter softened. His wife expected little from him in terms of looking after the girl, as she preferred to look after her herself. In time the husband was promoted and worked longer hours, and at that time they took on a gardener to help them look after the house, as the wife was so busy with Freya. The gardener was an elderly man with a stooped back, but he came highly recommended, and brought with him excellent references. The husband and wife hired the gardener for a trial period at first, but within just a month were sure they would keep him. Under his care their garden was quite remarkable in the fruits and vegetables it produced and the flowers were more vibrant than they had ever been. Once cut and put in a vase the flowers seemed to last for weeks without fading in either fragrance or colour. Freya loved the gardener as if he were a grandfather and loved to help him planting seeds and picking strawberries. The gardener was kind to Freya and the mother became trusting of their friendship and allowed Freya to work in the garden with him while she washed the clothes and tidied inside.
One day the gardener explained to Freya that he had some magic sproutlings that she could plant and that they would grow in a circle around her within minutes to surround her with tall climbing sweet peas that would have the most amazing perfume. Freya thought this sounded wonderful and spent much time preparing the soil where the sproutlings should be planted. As this particular day was a Saturday both the husband and the wife were at home, she was baking and he was reading his newspaper after a long hard week at work. The gardener finally declared the ground Freya had prepared was ready, and he gave Freya nine sproutlings explaining to her that she should work around herself to plant them. She worked quickly and diligently and soon all of the sproutlings were in the soil. The gardener doused them with water from the hose, and told Freya to wait.
The gardener roused the father from under his newspaper and explained to the father that Freya was about to be surrounded by sweet peas of great beauty and scent, so the father, mystified by this feat, came outside to watch. But the Gardener had tricked the family and the earth around the sproutlings swelled and turned over like a mole was underneath them, and in a matter of second the tips of nine white mushrooms could be seen emerging from the soil. As the mushrooms grew up big and tall Freya was sucked into the earth from her feet until all that was left above ground was the pink ribbon from her hair.
The father was distraught and as he tried to get to Freya in the soil he shouted at the Gardener “What have you done?” but the gardener turned to the father and said “Be careful what you wish for, Sir”. “But,” cried the father, at once remembering his wish made in the woods all those years ago, “I wished to have Stephen back, not just Freya gone”. “Yes,” the gardener chastised, “but because you wished it with only half of your heart, we have granted only half of your wish.”