Here Comes That Tired Old Trumpet

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Here comes that tired old trumpet, AGAIN.

I’ve written about the trumpet before. It’s a living, three-dimensional prop I use with students of all ages to get them using their senses, generating ideas and thinking, and helping them to write with energy and attack.

It’s been working hard for nearly twenty years.

Slightly older and more battered, rather like its owner, it was produced last week in a classroom at the University of Leeds Department of Education where I was giving my annual talk to the students there who are preparing to be English teachers.

I walked that particular plank myself nearly forty-five years ago in a secondary modern school in west London. But I still remember the experience keenly, the exhaustion, the laughs and the back against the wall feeling you sometimes get dealing with adolescents.

I was talking to the twenty or so PGCE students about how to stimulate creativity in the classroom, using the trumpet as a starting point for their writing. As with every year there was some brilliant writing produced at breakneck speed where the trumpet figured as a person, as an object, a repository of emotion or history.

As I walked back over the park following pretty much the same route I did as an MA student all those years ago, I realised that the instrument had worked its particular magic again.

A New Year

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A new year inevitably seems to be about new beginnings and change. Change can’t be avoided, so I have always tried [sometimes harder than I’d like] to welcome what it brings in terms of fresh opportunities and challenges.

As ever my work in 2015 involves a lot of teaching, of working with groups in schools, colleges and community spaces to engage with literature, whether as a reader or a writer. Some work carries on from year to year, working with literature festivals as a host, or organising young people’s writing opportunities as I do with the Headingley Literature Festival and the Bridlington Poetry Festival.

Sometimes I’m lucky enough to work with the same people from year to year on a project. Working in a team, as someone who mostly writes alone can feel wonderfully supportive and fun. Equally I treasure the time when I am writing. It seems that at last I may have achieved a balance in my professional life between teaching and writing.

But perhaps most excitingly 2015 will see the publication of a new collection written in collaboration with another Leeds-based poet Matthew Hedley Stoppard, ‘Cinema Stories’ about some of the lost and forgotten cinemas in Leeds, as well as some of the triumphant survivors in a world of DVDs and streaming, will be published in August 2015.