As long ago as 1992, when that very first Festival of Literature took place in Wells, children were very much top of mind, with Terry Pratchett as an inaugural, wizard-like speaker. The Festival very soon found itself with sufficient profit to support educational projects in the local area. After all, a primary objective of the Festival organisers has always been to foster a love of books and reading. Where better to achieve that ambition than with the children in our schools? Over the past 30 years our work in this field has gone from strength to strength, even continuing despite the pandemic. Our active and enthusiastic Education Committee liaise closely with schools and colleges to fund projects which they might otherwise not have been able to undertake.
Our 2021 Projects
Throughout 2021, we have supported inspiring projects, creative activities and a love of literature for local schools in our community. By adapting our approach to work around the many uncertainties that have faced education, we have been able to fund a wealth of ideas from virtual events and live streaming to live theatre, competition prizes and book vending machines!
One of the highlights of the Education Team’s year is our years 5 & 6 event, where we invite local schools to listen to and meet an author, with the opportunity to purchase subsidised books, thanks to the support of Chicken House publishers and Wells Festival of Literature. We were absolutely thrilled that we could hold the event this year both live and online, reaching as many local schools as possible.
The amazing Lucy Strange was our guest author this year, going above and beyond to inspire the children and bringing her books to life. Between them, the children bought over 1600 copies of Lucy’s books, Sisters of The Lost Marsh, The Ghost of Gosswater, Our Castle by the Sea and The Secret of Nightingale Wood.
Inspired by Lucy’s visit, St Benedict’s School in Glastonbury held a short story and mood board design competition. We donated books as prizes and Lucy volunteered to announce the winners, sending a delightful video to the school.
To support the work of the festival and education team, Lucy volunteered her time to do a further free virtual visit to 7 schools who were unable to attend. We were thrilled to be able to reach more children with Lucy’s inspirational story telling and beautiful, engaging books.
Virtual author visits
Maz Evans, our year 6 speaker in 2019, made a virtual visit to Evercreech Primary, where the year 5’s were reading, ‘Who Let The Gods Out’. We gave all the children 3 free books each from the series for the event. We have also donated lots more of Maz’s books to schools this autumn term from this fabulous set.
Ross Montgomery never fails to inspire, paying a virtual visit to years 1&2 at Bishop’s Sutton Primary School where he engaged the children with his heart warming tale, Space Tortoise. Along with story telling and creative workshops each child received a copy of Ross’s book to take home.
We were also able to support all of KS2 at St. Vigor and St John’s school with virtual author visits from
both Ross, with the brilliant Rock Bottom and the wonderful Jasbinder Bilan with her magical tale, Tamarind and The Star of Ishta.
Our virtual poetry visits with the marvellous AF Harrold have brought joy to the schools involved. As well as sending weekly poems on a postcard, AF Harrold has inspired the children to perform some of his poems and to write their own versions of his poem, ‘The Perils of Breakfast’.
Books, books, books…
West Pennard school asked us to help with their imaginative idea for a book vending machine, with literary rewards at the push of a button! We also donated a selection of brilliant books from some of the incredible authors we have worked with.
Years 3 & 4 at Butleigh School, were inspired to join the Marcus Rashford Book Club after reading Marcus’s book, How to Be A Champion. We provided 36 copies of, ‘A Dinosaur Ate my Sister’ by Pooja Puri for all the children to enjoy.
The Falcon class at Butleigh school were thrilled to receive their copies of Michael Morpurgo’s Beowulf. Helping both home-learners and children in school with their new topic, the Vikings!
Through Beanstalk, we are supporting reading helpers for a total of 12 children at St Paul’s Junior, Baltonsborough Primary, Nunney First and Coxley Primary.
Words at Work
We were delighted to support higher education English students at Strode College, who took part in the Words at Work events. Over the course of the programme students had the chance to listen to and interview a range of journalists, digital content writers, literary agents, broadcasters, playwrights and actors.
Make The Sunshine always make us smile with their endless creativity and we continue to provide funding for their local projects in education. The summer festival, ‘All the World’s Our Playground’, was held at St Paul’s School in Shepton Mallet, with theatre, puppets, circus performers and lots of family fun for all.
The wonderful Happiness Hunt project brings schools and care homes together through stories, pictures and poems. From ages 4-94 we have loved hearing about the creative connections across generations.
We are excited to be part of a new project, ‘374 ways to change the world’. Working with local schools to explore big and small creative ways to change the world, through story telling, theatre, dance and art.
In the pipeline…
- Wookey School, online Library system.
- Emily Mayhew, a visit to The Blue School.
- World Book Day events with Ashcott & The Fosse Way School.
- Library visits, Happiness Hunts, more book vending machines and book club donations…and more Words at Work for 2022!
Follow our Educational Instagram Page to see our latest projects
Schools supported by Wells Literature Festival 2021
|Ashcott Primary School||Fairlands Middle School||St Paul’s Junior School,
|Baltonsborough||Hemington Primary School||St Vigor & St John Primary School|
|Bishop Sutton Primary School||Horrington Primary School||Stoberry Park Primary School|
|Brookside Academy,||Meare Primary School||Stoke St Michael Primary School|
|Butleigh Primary School||Nunney First School||Strode College|
|Catcott Primary School||Oakhill Primary School||Walton Primary School|
|Coxley Primary School||Priddy & St Lawrence’s Federation||West Pennard Primary School|
|Croscombe Primary School||St Aldhelm’s Primary School||Whitstone School|
|East Harptree Primary School||St Benedict’s Junior School||Wookey Primary School|
|Elmhurst Junior School||St Cuthbert’s Junior School|
|Evercreech Primary School||St Joseph & St Teresa Primary School|
Throughout 2020, in spite of the uncertainty facing schools, we were delighted to be able to help and support our local schools during the problematic times and despite the many challenges faced. It was a busy year for the education team!
At a time when books have provided escape, magic, comfort and inspiration, we were able to find new and exciting opportunities to support schools and colleges, from reading sheds and library books to poems by post and virtual author events. We have been working closely with authors and publishers to provide children with access to books, as well as with opportunities to read and to inspire their imaginations.
“It is amazing to hear about how many different schools you have supported over the past year despite the difficulties everyone has faced. It’s interesting to read about the different initiatives and the new ways of encouraging reading across the area. Thank you for all of your support and we look forward to seeing you soon!” Richard Briar, Head Teacher Ashcott Primary.
In 2019 we aim to provide another full programme of projects which schools are unable to fund themselves. And of course we will continue to support our regular projects such as the Small Schools Book Clubs, the Plays in the Playground Initiative and Poems by Post.
Other initiatives already arranged this year include a visit from performance poet Hollie McNish, and a schools workshop with author Emma Carroll. We are also collaborating with the Somerset Literacy Network and are sponsoring performance poet and educator Josh Seigal who will be working in 24 schools later in the year.
Finally (for the time being) we are delighted to announce that the speaker at our special Year Six event, which happens every year during Festival week, will be Maz Evans, author of Waterstone’s Children’s Book of the Month last year – Who Let the Gods Out?
2018 saw the Wells Festival of Literature continue to encourage a love of literature by helping to fund many more education initiatives across all age ranges including, amongst many others:
A Poetry by Post project with poet AF Harrold (the recipient school received a specially written poem on a postcard each week through the term, together with a visit from the poet).
Tony Walsh spent time with local schools in October, and Inja visited Fosse Way School and the Mendip School.
We arranged a visit from the team responsible for Channel 4’s The Secret Life of Four Year Olds for Psychology and Media students, and an event with Andrew Motion for Lower Sixth and Gifted & Talented children, as well as a literature event with Professor John Mullan for Sixth Formers from eight Somerset schools.
A week of workshops in Primary schools with author Ross Montgomery
The purchase of 37 set books (Much Ado about Nothing) at St Dunstan’s School and 20 copies of A Monster Calls as part of the Exeter University Grammar for Writing project.
2017 was a very busy year for the Education team, working with schools and colleges to help fund literature and literacy projects for all age groups.
Tony Walsh, the poet made famous when he read This is the Place at the vigil after the Manchester bombing, stayed in Wells for two weeks while he worked with pupils from 21 schools around Wells, Shepton Mallet, Cheddar, Glastonbury and Street. Other poetry events included: Inja, poet and rapper, worked with English and Media students at Strode College and spent a day at Fosse Way School, Radstock, working with autistic children through the school. Poet AF Harrold spent a day with pupils at Ashcott School.
WFL arranged author visits to several local schools including Joffre White to Croscombe Primary, Steve Voake to West Pennard School and Marie Louise Jensen to St Dunstan’s Secondary School, Glastonbury Similar workshops and projects have been arranged with storytellers, poets and actors: Annie Fisher and Anne Harvey spent a day at Shepton Mallet Infants School; the Two Steves ran writing workshops at St Benedict’s School, Glastonbury; Chris Connaughton, actor and storyteller, worked with all the pupils at Baltonsborough School.
WFL buys books too – in one case so that children from Whitstone School, Shepton Mallet, were able to take part in the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards shadowing project. And in another case we purchased 210 books for a new transition project at Crispin School, Street, so that Year 6 pupils could work on the same book during their last term at Primary School and in their first term at Secondary School. We provided books for able readers in five small schools so that they could meet on a termly basis at a book club event. We also supplied Wookey School with books to start a school Book Club for higher ability children. And Coxley School’s Short Story Competition awarded prizes funded by the Literature Festival – all part of our on-going commitment to literacy.
We funded St Paul’s School, Shepton Mallet, to enrol with the Shakespeare Schools Festival, staging an abridged version of Romeo and Juliet at the Merlin Theatre, Frome. We also supported a Community event, including poetry workshops and theatre performances for families at the Bishop’s Barn, Wells. With the Theatre Royal (Bath) and with input from Mendip District Council, we funded Plays in the Playground – an ongoing initiative to bring theatre to school children, and their families, in Shepton Mallet. Throughout the year, Higher Beings, Paddleboat and Squashbox visited Bowlish Infants, St Paul’s, and Shepton Mallet Infants, performing for both children and parents and interacting with families in the playground. The Festival paid for transport so that Hemington School pupils could attend a performance at The Egg Theatre in Bath.
Nearly 320 Year 6 children from 11 schools attended talks by author Ross Montgomery in Wells, and 300 children plus staff came to his talks in Glastonbury. Every child was given the chance to buy a book for £3 (subsidised by WFL). 500 books were sold, and teachers expressed their appreciation that children who had never shown any interest in reading were queuing excitedly to buy a book.
St Cuthbert’s (Wells), St Paul’s (Shepton Mallet), Nunney First, Coxley School, Hemington Primary, Hindhayes Infants (Street), and Shepton Mallet Infants were all funded with Reading Helpers from the literacy charity Beanstalk, an ongoing project, supported by WFL. Helpers are each allocated three children in a school, and by working with them individually twice a week for a year they give children who may have fallen far behind the confidence to work at and enjoy their reading
Much of our original education work was traditionally focused on projects with primary schools, but as our involvement grows, we find we are increasingly working with secondary school students and older.
Our 2016 projects with primary aged children included:
- Our traditional festival event for Year 6 pupils grew: during the 2016 Festival Piers Torday spoke at two events
- Glastonbury Small Schools Book Club for five schools
- Reading workshops at Butleigh School led by author Joffre White
- Creative writing sessions at Wookey School, led by Joffre White
- Writing workshops for local Junior Schools led by Actiontrak and culminating in performances at Wookey Hole Cave
- Award of prizes for story writing competition at Coxley School
- Partnership with Shakespeare Schools Festival in their work with Horrington School culminating in a performance at The Egg, Bath
- Contribution to printing costs of pupils’ stories based on local history
- Workshop led by Piers Torday at Ashcott School
Our 2016 projects with older students
Many events in our Festival programme have attracted a number of students to the Festival. With topics such as literature, politics, science, poetry and history being covered by some of the leading experts in the country, our speakers continue to offer inspirational new insights to ambitious students.
In addition, projects instigated and funded by WFL in 2016 included:
- Seminars led by author Emma Craigie for students at Strode College, discussing novelists’ research methods and the use of the media.
- Shakespearean drama workshops at St Dunstan’s School
- Writing workshops for senior students with author Alison Rattle
- Partnership with Shakespeare Schools Festival in their work with Sexeys School leading to a performance at Merlin Theatre, Frome