Sunday, 21 February 2016

Rehan Alam, Georgia Rose and Rae Gee - February Brilliant Books at the Free School!

Four sessions have come and gone since the last blog so here's a bumper edition.

Week 3 

Personal Development Specialist Rehan Alam visited the group. 

An inspirational personal development specialist, Rehan talked about his favourite book - "The Lord of the Rings" - and cleverly mixed some of the mythos, the characters and the plot into a series of inspiring messages for the pupils to digest. 

An entertaining speaker, and passionate reader, Rehan works with schools and businesses in a training and motivational capacity and the pupils were highly entertained by his delivery.

If you've not read Lord Of The Rings, then you are missing a treat. Classic example where a film simply doesn't do the book justice - LOTR is a feast for the imagination - and I had several conversations with the pupils about this - after all, this is what Brilliant Books is all about.

Week 4 was me - but you've seen my graphic novel/comic skit before so moving swiftly on, on Week 5, we welcomed the brilliant Georgia Rose coming all the way up from the Beautiful South - those Tolkein-lauded shires of Cambridgeshire.

For new readers, Georgia is the author of popular romance/suspense novels "The Grayson Trilogy", a prize winning short story writer, and, more importantly, a big friend of Brilliant Books. 

Georgia spoke about writing, being an author and what it takes to be a writer - the sacrifices, the pain and the rewards! 

This group contains more readers than we usually see, but quite a few pupils struggle with writing - not English per se, but writing. So Georgia inspired them with tales of the writer's life and then, in session two, supported them with their stories.

Then, the team led a session on Metaphors, Similes and Allegories which produced quite a few interesting examples!

Georgia is a prodigious reader and advocate of children's literature and imparts a passion for reading wherever she goes. 

We'll look forward to seeing her when the next Brilliant Books session comes on stream later this year.

Week 6 saw the return of the Queen of Steampunk herself, Rae Gee.

Rae writes Steampunk - a popular genre whose luminaries include the stellar Alan Moore (writer of Watchmen and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and Kim Newman who wrote massive bestseller Anno Dracula.

This is Rae's second visit and she read from HG Wells "The Time Machine." 

Wells was Victorian England's biggest fiction writer and, along with Jules Verne, is credited with being Steampunk's biggest inspiration. I know this, because Rae informed the group of the same. Rae brought in some superb materials, including this magnificent book full of Steampunkian designs, particularly a mechanical elephant here.

The group then worked on their short stories and were filmed reading extracts - an activity some clearly enjoy!

Activities in this blog are all
supported by the Big Lottery Fund
Rae and Georgia are featured authors in the Access All Areas anthology which supports Brilliant Books along with such popular names as Brenda Perlin, Sally-Anne Wilkinson, Clare Stevens, Katie Oliver, Lorraine Devon Wilke, Annie Lyons, Lynne Morley, Phil Pidluznyj and yours truly, Mark Barry.

Next week, popular Valentine Nkoyo returns for a second shift at the Free School and for Week 8 music critic and reviewer Dom Gourlay brings Nottingham's finest electro-pop combo, the up-and-coming April Towers to bring down the curtain on this year's Brilliant Books at Nottingham Free School.

Until then - get your kids off those consoles and behind the pages of a good book! See you Wednesday.



Georgia Rose Author Page

Rae Gee Author Page

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Brilliant Books: Session II at Nottingham Free School

Welcome back to the second tranche of Brilliant Books from Nottingham Free School. This session, we have 29 schoolchildren, our largest group so far. 

Taken from a student's latest notebook for the upcoming

For those of you who have just joined us, Brilliant Books is a role modelling programme aimed at inspiring reluctant readers to get passionate about books again. You will find tons of information throughout this blog.

We bring in successful people from all areas of life (politics, business, arts) who credit a passion for books as being a big part of their success and they speak to schoolchildren, most of whom are at risk of leaving reading behind in favour of, for example, console games. 

The hosts inspire the schoolchildren with a presentation and then we split the group into small teams. Then, the children write a piece of creative writing which is eventually published in an anthology they can keep forever - and, critically, use for their University applications.

It's an eight week programme funded by the National Lottery delivered by Empleo Community Interest Company and feedback and results have been excellent.

Week one was delivered by Phil Pidluznyj, who is one of three directors of Empleo and is as passionate about books as you can imagine. 

Phil is on the right, with the guitar. Photo taken, due to a
camera malfunction this week, from the final session
of Brilliant Books 1, featuring music journalist Dom Gourlay

A lifetime of helping unemployed people return to work is combined with a thirty year career in music - he is the lead singer of emerging band New Apostles. He is also the Lead Tutor and co-designer of this Brilliant Books project.

He opened this tranche by reading from Day Of The Triffids by John Wyndham, a classic sci-fi tale. 

Phil credits this book with inspiring a lifetime's love of books. Like many pupils at school, Phil was struggling to engage with the chosen texts. A teacher noticed this and gave him a personal copy of the Bradbury classic. He read it voraciously and the rest is history.

It is interesting that the opening chapter that Phil read takes place in a hospital ward in a seemingly abandoned hospital. It is also clear that the world had changed while the patient, in his bed, alone and confused, tries to work out what is going on in the world outside.

Astute students of modern culture will recognise this from a more modern sci-fi piece, the incredibly popular zombie comic and TV show, "The Walking Dead". Many of the school children recognised it immediately.

A US collector recently paid $10,000 for a first edition of
this 2002 comic. (I have held one in my hands - Ed!)

In part II, the groups split up and we had an entertaining introduction session - which, with 29 people plus three tutors to introduce - took most of the remaining session, but it was a great and exciting start to Brilliant Books.

Week Two was led by Hannah Bingham

Hannah works for the Skills Funding Agency, a government body who co-ordinate training and apprenticeships around the United Kingdom. She is the Employer Services and Delivery Advisor for the East Midlands SFA.

Hannah talked about her job and her history and also her aspirations.

She is exactly the type of young professional who can inspire young people, as she is a prodigous and vociferous reader who has read all her life and she told the schoolchildren that without reading, her success in the professions would have been much less likely.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole was Hannah's chosen book and she read from the opening chapters - where Adrian seems to spend much of his time describing a boil on his face! 

Many of the children had not heard of the book - Hannah donated her copy and Phil bought several for the young people to read - an offer gratefully accepted. One pupil actually wanted Hannah to continue reading!

It's a terrific book - perhaps one of the first of the new wave of the genre now labelled YA Fiction (Young Adult) and Hannah delivered it superbly.

Inspired, the young people broke off into groups and we worked on character - looking at character generation, characteristics and motivations. Then, the pupils took turns to present their work. This was another terrific session - from some quite reluctant writers too.

I'd like to thank Phil for his terrific reading (as befitting a lead singer!) which set the tone for the coming session and Hannah for her terrific enthusiasm (and her Kardashian suggestion - my understanding of the world was amplified twofold after that session!)

Next week, I'm back on Graphic Novels and in Week Four, Rehan Alam joins us - he's a successful motivational speaker and personal developer. Looking forward to that one. 

See you in two weeks.


Brilliant Books is funded by the Big Lottery Fund - we are grateful for the help and support they provide and without it, BB and many, many other projects would not continue.