Being Brave with Larkspur Community Primary School: A Gateshead Young Writers project

NWN Young Writers initially worked with Larkspur Community Primary School back in summer 2019, so we were delighted to be able to return to school for our first creative writing project post-lockdown. We had a bit of a bumpy start, with the national lockdown in January 2021 pushing back our original start date, but we finally made it into school in March and were so excited to meet the young people!

Throughout the remainder of the spring and summer term, musician and songwriter Ziad Jabroo worked with Elm (Year 5) and Elder (Year 6) classes on a Monday, while theatre-maker Ruth Mary Johnson came in on Wednesdays to work with Maple (Nurture) and Birch (Year 3 and 4) classes. The sessions were supported by our Gateshead Project Producer, Becci Sharrock, and by NWN staff Ruth Dewhirst and Sophie Hall-Luke. It was such a joy to be back in school after so long!

“It was absolutely magical to go into Larkspur school and creatively explore the concept of bravery. During a scary moment in history and after being in isolation it was life affirming and comforting to share fears and to try and overcome them together. It wasn’t always easy with sessions being interrupted due to Covid, but we overcame the difficulties. Both classes were so enthusiastic and full of ideas and were brave in sharing their feelings with each other; I think we all reached a greater understanding of how hard it is to deal with bullying or feeling left out or just being proud of being yourself.” – Ziad Jabroo, musician and songwriter

Our theme across the classes was bravery, exploring ideas of everyday courage given the resilience shown by the local community during the pandemic. It was so interesting to see how each class interpreted this theme differently, from fantastical stories of spreading our wings in Maple and getting under the skin of being a new student at school with Birch, to the practical advice and anthemic community spirit in the songs produced by the older classes.

“Working at Larkspur is always a real treat because it’s such a friendly, welcoming space, but what I enjoyed most about working with the Year 5s and 6s to write a song was getting to hear their thoughts on what it meant to be brave, and how that translated into their world; from understanding how it might feel to be bullied at school or to have no-one to play with and the heart-warming solutions of peer support, friendship, and kindness they offered up. It was great that this also translated into the classroom – they became more aware of the collaborative nature of the creative process, taking time to listen to each other suggestions and offering praise when someone did well. I especially enjoyed seeing some of the students hang back at the end of a session or as we moved from one space to another, notebooks in hand, hoping to share their writing and ideas with Ziad, and their smiles and pride when he took them seriously, incorporating them into the final piece. And last, but certainly not least, they did all this and created a brilliant, catchy and inspiring song at the end of it.” – Becci Sharrock, Project Producer

As the creative work developed, we brought in animator Sheryl Jenkins and filmmaker Matt Jamie to develop the young people’s work into finished film outputs. We were so impressed with the young people’s bravery as they learnt new creative skills, from animation and acting to audio recording! It was also a fantastic opportunity to work with other classes in the school, as Sheryl gathered drawings from the younger pupils to feed into the final animated pieces.

Covid struck again at the end of the summer term, and so it wasn’t until the autumn that we were able to finish recording and filming, but we are delighted to finally unveil the finished films from Larkspur to the world!

“Wow! Wow! Wow! Watching the amazing videos and animations created by the children with your wonderful staff has really cheered me up (not to mention a little tear shed!). The projects have not only given our pupils a chance to showcase their creativity, they have also marked what has been a very challenging time in schools and shown how resilient our pupils are. Our pupils benefitted tremendously from this project, both in the creative skills they developed and their confidence and self-belief. Thank you so much to everyone involved in the project. They have worked incredibly hard and we now have 4 fantastic pieces that can be shared regularly with our pupils to remind them of their messages of bravery and kindness.” – Joanna Hall, Deputy Head at Larkspur

A huge well done to all of the fantastic pupils at Larkspur Community Primary School, and a very big thank you to all the staff for making us feel so welcome and for being so creatively engaged with the project – these films are a collective celebration of everyone at Larkspur, and we hope they provide you with some hope, laughter and courage as we head towards 2022.

“Working with the young people at Larkspur has been an absolute joy and privilege. Their enthusiasm, creativity and thoughts about the theme of bravery have been wonderful and inspiring, along with the commitment of the school to ensuring that creativity is part of everyday life at Larkspur.” – Ruth Mary Johnson, theatre-maker

Watch the films by clicking on the links below:

The World of Wings by Maple class with Ruth Mary Johnson

Together, We Are by Birch class with Ruth Mary Johnson

Side by Side by Elm class with Ziad Jabroo

Never Give Up by Elder class with Ziad Jabroo

This project was made possible through the generous support of the Kavli Trust, who have recently renewed their support for our Gateshead Young Writers programme, allowing us to continue nurturing young people’s creativity in the region into the future. We are incredibly grateful to the Kavli Trust, and to Arts Council England for their ongoing support.