Over the summer I compiled an anthology of original stories written by 6 & 7 year old children from Stamshaw Infants School. They were members of the Story Telling Club, an after-school club which I ran on a voluntary basis for my son’s school.
Around 13 children took part in a series of 5 sessions, and of that number, 10 children managed to complete and illustrate their own unique story (one or two dropped out due to illness or other commitments).
I took the freshly printed books (courtesy of Blurb.com) into school on the first day of term, and the Headteacher was delighted! So much so, that she wrote me a lovely letter, and this is what it said:
“Thank you for the lovely books from the Story Telling Afterschool Club. I felt I must write to say what a wonderful outcome for the children and a special memory for them of their time here at school. It is a superb collection of stories and writing. I really do appreciate all the effort you went to in the organising and ordering of the books.”
Since then staff who have children at the school have also approached me to say how pleased their children were with the books. For my own part I’m very pleased that the children and the school have been so delighted with them, and I hope I get the chance to develop and refine the ideas I trialled at Stamshaw Infants.
The first drop-in exhibition/workshop event took place on Tuesday last week at the Omega Centre. We didn’t have high numbers, but those who did come along had some interesting stories to tell about their own experiences of Somerstown. I was able to interview someone during the event, and have arranged interviews with others to document their stories. This phase of the project will naturally include gathering (and transcribing) some oral history interviews which is, I believe, where the real treasure will lie.
This was followed in the evening by an archive film screening of Portsmouth, hosted by Portsmouth Film Society http://www.portsmouthfilmsociety.org.uk/ using footage that is in the care of the Wessex Film Archive http://www3.hants.gov.uk/wfsa.htm
Meanwhile the Somerstown Stories website, also includes details about the great work that took place at Somers Park Primary School in the Autumn term last year, when the teachers and children were engaged in their part of the project: http://www.somerstown-stories.org.uk/?page_id=100
Overall the project is now in its wider community phase, and local people are getting the chance to go on the same journey of exploration. As I start to gather oral history accounts from local people, these along with the photographs and maps will be catalogued and collated into the Somerstown Archive which will be held and managed by the Local History Centre: http://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/learning/15605.html
This means that the conversations that are being started now can continue after the project has finished, and the material will be available for other people to access and add to.
Part of this second phase series of events includes a creative workshop being led by two local artists: Jane Kilford http://www.janekilford.com/ and Julie Graves http://www.artwanted.com/artist.cfm?ArtID=5843 who are also planning to do some preliminary work with the children at Somers Park, inviting them and their families to bring an object from the past into school to share with others and to use as a prompt for telling their own story of Somerstown.
Meanwhile, Julie has enabled me to make a link with the University of Portsmouth’s School of Architecture http://www.port.ac.uk/departments/academic/architecture/. Her husband Francis is an architect and senior lecturer and his current cohort of students are engaged in a project whose theme is the redesign of Somerstown and some of the key buildings within it, including the churches of St Luke’s and St Peter’s. This is a beautiful overlap for me, and so I was able to attend the students mid-term review on Thursday of last week and see and hear first-hand their ideas and visions for the area. It was fascinating to see an area I’m so familiar with through someone else’s eyes. Francis has kindly invited me back to speak to the group about the Somerstown Stories project and share some of the resources I’ve found and what I’ve learnt so far. I was impressed with the breadth and depth they are required to consider and include in their planning and I’m looking forward to teaching and learning more about Somerstown with them.
As part of our church preparations for Christmas, I volunteered to write a story about the Christingle and what it means. At bedtime tonight I was trying to encourage my children to finish their bedtime jobs – tooth-brushing etc and began a countdown.
At first it was in English and then I decided to countdown in ‘alien’ creating a string of nonsense words, which they found utterly hilarious!
Needless to say it didn’t speed up the bedtime routine at all, but it was rather good fun!
That then inspired me to think about the Christingle story and 3 hours later here is the result. I don’t normally post a piece of work in its entirety, but on this occasion I will, and if you like the story then please share it with someone else, and hopefully it will help them find a bit of peace this Christmas.
Chris T. Ingle will be performed at Sunday Sanctuary, Wilmcote House Community Room in Portsmouth on Sunday 4th December. Visitors are always welcome.