Education at Poetry Ireland - highlights of the year.

4th July 2017

The education team at Poetry Ireland have been very busy during the past academic year. With our Writers in Schools and WorldWise Global Schools programmes, Poetry Aloud, the Trócaire poetry competition and performances from students at various events, it has been a very fulfilling time for everyone.

WorldWise Global Schools programme

This year, students in 19 post-primary schools throughout Ireland explored global issues in a special development education project co-ordinated by Poetry Ireland Writers in Schools and funded by Irish Aid’s WorldWise Global Schools. Poet Seamus Cashman with students from St. Macartan’s College, Monaghan, is photoed above during one of the workshops.  

The programme funded writers to work with schools over a six-week residency, during which time they delivered weekly creative writing workshops. The students were given a chance to engage imaginatively with the issues, and work creatively in a range of genres, including poetry, prose, drama, film, song and improvisation. Students produced short stories and poetry. Exhibitions were held and students performed their work for fellow students, teachers, family and friends.

Comments from students:

‘I think I will ask more questions now.’

‘I feel this is an excellent project because it told us all the things we don’t learn in school.’

My writing skills improved immensely along with my skill to be able to speak in class.’

‘I would like the whole school to get the experience I had.’ ‘I think that now I am more motivated to try to do something to make a difference in the world.’

Some comments from teachers:

‘Engaging in a writing project based on the DE topics, we are studying in a practical way to deeper engagement with the topic.  Instead of remote factual information, students get to journey into the lives of the people involved.  It is also creative and gives valuable metacognition opportunities.’

‘It was fascinating to see the issues discussed with such ease and something which seemed complex became more accessible and we learned about the importance of using our voices when feeling powerless otherwise.  This project is a great initiative and so important.  What a wonderful experience.’

‘My students and I learned about the inequalities in our world and explored these through creative writing. By providing valuable educational activities, the impact of this project is great.’

Writers on the programme also produced lesson plans for teachers and these are now available to download from our website.

Trócaire Poetry Competition

Once again, our annual competition open to published poets, un-published poets, spoken word poets and students took place to coincide with Trócaire’s Lenten Campaign.

Ireland is renowned for its literary and cultural heritage, as well as for its generosity in supporting those in need around the world. Trócaire and Poetry Ireland's annual poetry competition brings these two elements together in a creative way, using the arts to raise awareness about the leading global justice issues of our time. This competition is unique, because poets are invited to explore a different global development theme each year. The competition is also free to enter.   

The theme of this year's competition was "Before the Storm", exploring how people prepare for extreme weather events caused by climate change. Winners received their prizes at an award ceremony in May in the National Library of Ireland. They also read their poems at the ceremony and were given booklets with all of the winning poems. (Hard copies of these booklets are available from Poetry Ireland and also to download.

On Culture Night, our Trócaire winning poets read their poems in Dublin Castle as part of the evening performances.

Poetry Aloud

Poetry Aloud, our annual poetry speaking competition open to all post-primary students on the island of Ireland was held in the autumn. Organised by Poetry Ireland and the National Library of Ireland, Poetry Aloud has grown from just a few hundred entries in 2006 to 1,700 entries in 2016. Regional heats were held throughout the country and the semi-finals and the final were held in the National Library of Ireland in December. Our judges for the final were Sabina Higgins, Maureen Kennelly and Margaret Kelleher. 2016's overall winner was Nathan Quinn O’Rawe, pictured above with Sabina Higgins. 

The late Seamus Heaney was a significant supporter of Poetry Aloud. When he won the David Cohen Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Literature, he nominated Poetry Aloud for the accompanying Clarissa Luard Award. In 2016 the competition also received a donation from the John S Cohen Foundation in memory of Seamus Heaney. A special thanks to Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol for particular support in 2016. 

Cruinniú na Cásca

Winners, past and present, of our Poetry Aloud competition took part in a special poetry reading in the Summer House at St. Stephen’s Green on Easter Monday as part of RTÉ’s Cruinniú na Cásca, a day to celebrate culture and creativity nationwide. MC’d by Niall MacMonagle, they spoke their favourite poems to a very appreciative audience in the spring sunshine.

WRaPParound 2017

Now in its 6th year this spoken word programme has grown substantially. The programme, run in partnership with the Junior Certificate Support Programme Library Project and Trócaire, involves participating schools from all around the country. This year we celebrated Poetry Day Ireland in UCC with 19 of our WRaPParound performance schools, with the second part of the event taking place in Trinity College, Dublin and featuring 15 second-level schools. Great creativity and entertainment all round!

Dermot Bolger residency in association with the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks.

Using the Museum’s collections, Collins Barracks Writer in Residence, Dermot Bolger ran workshops for students, from local primary and post-primary schools, exploring the events of 1916 through creative writing.

Teach for Tomorrow: Summer Course Exploring Development Education through the Arts in association with Dublin West Education Centre

This course is funded by Irish Aid and the Dublin West Education Centre under their Summer Course Programme for 2017. The course will be facilitated by a teacher educator / development educator and a writer.

This course will help participants to engage imaginatively with emerging global issues. Through hands-on arts-based activities, it will examine the political, policy and ethical context for development education in Ireland. A combination of appropriate pedagogical approaches and fun creative exercises will enable teachers to bring global issues to life in the classroom. They will also reflect on their own rights and responsibilities as global citizens and consider the ‘teacher stance’ they might adopt when exploring controversial issues with children. Methodologies will include creative writing, storytelling, poetry, drama, debate and speech writing.

Writers in Schools Programme

“It was funny and amazing. It made me feel laughter inside so I had to laugh out loud. I learned that poems come from the heart.”

“I hope everybody gets to experience what I experienced that day… it made me feel happy and it made me believe in myself.”

These are just a few of the comments from children who enjoyed a Writers in Schools visit this year. With Writers in Schools, teachers can be sure that the children and young people will enjoy a quality experience delivered by our dedicated team of writers. As well as meeting our artistic criteria, our writers take part in our mentoring programme as part of their induction training, a programme that is unique in Ireland and the UK.

With the school year drawing to a close, we’ve been taking stock of what has been a very successful year for our Writers in Schools, with visits and residencies reaching approximately 25,000 children and young people in every county on the island through our various programmes.

The following is just a small selection of the single visits which happened through the Writers in Schools programme this school year:

Simone Schuemelfeder in North Dublin Muslim NS; Frank Galligan in Falcarragh NS; Heather Brett in Killasonna NS Granard Longford; Lucinda Jacob in St Thomas’ NS Tallaght; Kevin McDermott in Scariff Community College; Aoife Casby in Gaelscoil Bharra, Cabra; Liz Weir in Ransboro NS Co Sligo; Pete Mullineaux in Limerick School Project; Marita Conlon McKenna in St Joseph’s NS, Templemore; Terry McDonagh in Barnatra NS, Co Mayo; Billy Roche in Bridgetown VC; and Aoife Casby in St Rynagh’s Banagher. Ireland’s Chair of Poetry, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, managed to fit some school visits in her busy schedule, which included, Coláiste Mhuire in Buttevant, Roscommon Community College and Deansrath Community College, Clondalkin.

This year saw the launch of the Island / Oileán programme made possible thanks to Anne Anderson, the 17th Ambassador of Ireland to the United States. Ambassador Anderson was granted an honorary award by the Irish-American Partnership, which saw her bestowal of a donation to a charitable cause of her choice in Ireland. The ambassador was inspired to support a poetry initiative which would give students in Ireland the opportunity to enjoy workshops with poets, on the themes of emigration and the diaspora. Poetry Ireland was delighted to be chosen as the organisation to deliver this initiative, through the Writers in Schools Scheme and the Island / Oileán programme. Visit so far have included workshops by poets in Royal School Cavan, Taobhog NS, Scartleigh NS, Coláiste na Toirbhrite Bandon.

As always we were eager to collaborate with libraries around the island in bringing writers to meet and work with children and young people from local schools, which this year included: Kerry and Tipperary County Libraries, Limerick City Library, and Irvinestown, Lisnaskea and Enniskillen Libraries in Co Fermanagh.

On Poetry Day Ireland, we sent some of our poets to schools on islands around the country to deliver workshops based on Seamus Heaney’s island-based poems, ‘Storm on the Island’ and ‘The Given Note’. These workshops included John Sexton in Valentia NS, Denise Blake in Arranmore NS, Co Donegal, Terry McDonagh in Dookinella NS, Achill, and Kathy D’Arcy in Bere Island NS. Grace Wells also delivered a workshop on Poetry Day in Fota Wildlife Park for the class of Amber Bannon of Ballycahill National School, Co. Tipperary, who won the competition.

We’ve had a huge range of residencies happening all over the country including our Foras na Gaeilge supported Irish language writing-workshops in schools in Antrim, Derry, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Dublin, Kildare and Tipperary. We were delighted to gain the support for a second year of the Department of Foreign Affairs through their Reconciliation Fund, which has made the following residencies possible through the Me, Myself and I project: Denise Blake in Sacred Heart PS, Oakgrove College, and St Joseph’s College, Derry; a shared cross-community residency with St Vincent de Paul PS and Ligoniel PS, Belfast; St Teresa’s PS, Belfast; Gaelscoil Gaelscoil Éanna, Glengormley, and Belfast Model Girls’ PS. We had a great day of celebration in the Lyric Theatre in February (photoed above) where children from the 2016 programme came together performed their work.

Our Writers in Schools programme in the North, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland reached thousands of children once more this year. Highlights of the programme featured Liz Weir in residence in the Hill of the O’Neill Centre in Dungannon where she worked with local children from Derrlatinee PS, Gaelscoil Aodha Rua, Intergrated College, Dungannon, St Joseph’s College Coalisland and St Patrick’s PS, Annaghmore. The children and young people used the exhibition in the Centre as their inspiration for poems about the history and heritage of Dungannon. Thanks to our partnership with ArtsEkta, a day of masterclasses took place in Drumcree College, Portadown. Local schools, Hart Memorial, Ballyoran PS, St John the Baptist, were also in attendance for the intensive workshops, which were delivered by Liz Weir, Malachy Doyle and Deirdre Cartmill. Single visits took place in two special schools this year: Arvalee Resource School in Omagh, and Rostulla Special School in Belfast. Glenveagh Special School in Belfast were our special guests at our Writers in Schools Forum, where teacher Andrew Whitson spoke about working with children with autism. Michael McGuinness a student from the school, and the star of the day, read from and spoke about the book he has written.

We receive many more requests for Writers in Schools visits than we are able to fund, so if you are interested in booking a visit for your school, then be sure to get your application form into us as early as possible – you can even get ahead by submitting your form right now for a fixed date in the 2017/2018 academic year.

We are always delighted to receive photographs of visits and feedback and work from the students, so do keep sending them in!