Touchstones Creative Writing Group Workshop – 1st Feb 2018

After a few quiet months, necessitated largely by ill-health and surgery, I was glad to be back in action running a creative writing workshop in Rochdale for the Touchstones Creative Writing Group (TCWG).

TCWG goes from strength to strength in terms of both quality and numbers and there were and amazing 23 participants at this month’s workshop which I had themed around “Home”.

Picture of flipchart used in workshop

After a couple of introductory poems to provide some inspiration the group were engaged in discussion around the theme to broaden the range of approaches that might be taken when writing relating to the theme for the session.

Two writing exercises saw the group fall almost silent as pens rushed across paper to plan and write 23 brand new works. After each exercise a few of the group were able to read some of the work they had just produced and receive verbal feedback from myself and the group. All of the work shared received great support from the whole group and it must be said that there were the makings of some excellent poems and short fiction developed during the afternoon.

As usual the range of topics written about and the range of styles were varied and would have been very difficult to predict.

My next workshop for the group is likely to be themed around “Rediscovery” and will take place at Touchstones on 7th June 2018

Pleckgate High School – National Poetry Day 2017

Picture of Students' poetry display at Pleckgate High SchoolToday I was delighted to be at Pleckgate to provide a series of sessions for students as part of National Poetry Day.

The welcome was lovely and I have to say that each time I’ve visited I’ve found both students and staff to be attentive and supportive. More importantly perhaps they’ve been open to learn about poetry, hear examples, to get involved in active discussion and even a little acting.

With four groups of students including years 7, 8 and 10 I was kept busy, and happy, helping to inspire and being inspired myself. Each group had a discussion of concepts of freedom and each student wrote a sentence or just their thoughts some of which are shown in the images below.

All of those thoughts, 180 or so, of them will be read and collated to create a poetic interpretation to be shared back in school. My early reading is proving to be really enlightening and I’m looking forward to reading the remainder.

Once we’d done the “hard” work around freedom it was time to have some fun with poems; and we certainly did.

At lunchtime students and staff came together to share some of their own new work and some favourite poems. The variety and the quality of the writing by the young people was astounding and bodes well for the future.

Links to the school’s own report and photos from the day will be added here as soon as they are available.

A sad withdrawal from adult education teaching in colleges

This blog usually concentrates on my work as a poet including running workshops etc. Readers may not be aware that I’m also a teacher and have produced and delivered many successful college courses mainly focusing on photography and electronic imaging.

I love teaching photography as much as I love running writing workshops. The feeling when people learn something new, gain new insights and develop ideas of their own is priceless. Unfortunately the paltry price that colleges put on such teaching is now untenable.

It is with real sorrow that I’ve watched the decline in adult college courses, the appalling lack of funding and of course the loss of teachers from the sector.

So if I’m saddened why is it that I’m no longer teaching photography in colleges?

Well, way back in 1987, 30 years ago, I was able to earn £17 per hour teaching IT skills to adults in evening or weekend classes (I wasn’t even a qualified teacher then). Recently the going rate has been dropping year on year. Now, 30 years on, I’ve received a recruitment email from a Leeds based organisation looking for a photography teacher to run a course for adults for 2 hours a week on Saturdays for 8 weeks. It’s the kind of course I’ve run numerous times but my hat is definitely not in the ring, not for the current going rate of £17.70 per hour!

I write all of my own materials, use my own sample photos and update my previous materials to meet current standards in digital photography and provide specialist equipment for the sessions. Before every session I plan and prepare and when I get home I will review how the session has gone. For this 16 hour course I’d spend at least 12 hours preparing and reviewing. I’d spend 2 hours each session travelling and I’d arrive before and leave after the students. My total time commitment would be 48 hours.

If I take away the cost of petrol (about £50 in this case) and then Tax/NI (another £70) I’ll be left with as little as £3.40 per hour.

Frankly that is really insulting.

I am outraged that it is now considered reasonable to pay experienced professionals who are also qualified teachers so badly. It is even more outrageous when the fees charged to the students are not still at 1987 levels. How outrageous is it then that colleges can value providing useful education so poorly.

I’m not generally one to give up.

I really want colleges to be successful, I really miss the time when colleges provided a truly wide and inspirational training for local people.

So, much as it goes against the grain, in the future my photography training will be delivered privately rather than through colleges!