In 2021-22, the Writers in Schools Northern Ireland Our Place Project offered approximately 300 children and young people the opportunity to engage in writing residencies where they worked alongside a writer. The programme saw writers and storytellers Frank Galligan, Sheena Wilkinson, Deirdre Cartmill and Pat Ryan working with children from St Teresa’s PS Belfast, Upper Ballyboley PS Ballyclare, Glengormley High School, John Paul II PS Belfast, Grange PS, St Mary’s PS Enniskillen, Fane Street PS Belfast, Star of the Sea PS Belfast, and Holy Family PS Belfast.
The project celebrated the poetry and stories of children and young people as they explored themes of place and shared spaces.
The Our Place Project was made possible through the support of the Reconciliation Fund (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. The Reconciliation Fund has been supporting Poetry Ireland and peace-building and reconciliation themed writer residencies in schools in the North since 2016.
On Tuesday 21 June, a finale event celebrating the success of the Our Place Project was held at the Duncairn Arts Centre in North Belfast. The event featured readings and performances from approx. 120 children who participated in the programme, along with music and stories from renowned storyteller and songwriter Len Graham.
Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “The Arts Council is delighted to once again this year be involved in this wonderful project which connects artists and schools, inspiring them to take a creative approach to learning and literacy, as well as giving children the self-confidence to develop their own artistic voices. Today’s event has been a real celebration, an opportunity for participating schools to come together to share their work. We congratulate all of those who have taken part in this year’s programme!”
Here is some of the feedback from teachers and writers involved in the project:
“The children were highly engaged throughout. They were visibly enjoying themselves during the session and were disappointed for it to end.”
“The children really worked hard, were engaged all the time, and came up with some great stories. The teacher said she got a lot of ideas for classroom writing, teaching creative writing, managing the classroom when doing oral and written creative work.”
“The activities relating to the senses, which encouraged children to think of how to extend their descriptions beyond just sight were very effective. It helped the children to really stretch their writing and think more creatively.”
Our Place Project finale, Duncairn Arts Centre, North Belfast. Photo: Mark McCormick