On Friday, July 1st I had the honor of spending the day with director of the Pop Up Festival Dylan Calder. With a sponsored train ticket from London Midlands, I was able to see three amazing authors as they inspired 3 different classes from 3 different schools at 3 different events in one day.
I originally heard about Pop Up Festival when we attended the Children’s Laureate announcement as they had two Pop Up Festival Ambassadors at the BookTrust event. I was able to talk to them and their usher for the day and that is when I found out about this incredible literacy program which works with inner city schools over several months with the assistance of, well, a lot of people (authors, illustrators, publishers, volunteers, etc).
The premises is schools are invited to choose a book they would like their class(es) to work with. The teacher is then provided with assistance/resources to help with getting the kids to really digest the book – this could be in form of workshops, creating design & technology lessons, etc. The culmination is the children then being invited off site (really cool off-sites like the British Library or Foundling Museum) to meet the author and discuss what they learn and for the author to also learn what the kids learnt from their books.
At the end there is a huge two-day event called Festival of stories that has so many amazing authors and activities that I would challenge anyone to not find at least one activity that didn’t amuse them!
This Post is about my Day with Pop Up Festival (click Read More).
I met Dylan at the Foundling Museum. The children arrived early as they were so excited about meeting the wonderful Beverley Naidoo. I must admit that I hadn’t had time to read any of the books the authors would be talking about but this was sort of done on purpose as I wanted to see the type of information the kids could provide – basically, I was a blank canvas.
Beverley was such an inspiration. The class spent the first hour with Beverley in the education room where she brought her book Journey to Jo’burg to life. This book dealt with challenging topics such as apartheid and being an orphan. I tweeted throughout as I was so impressed with how Beverley brought this book to life with pictures, stories from her own childhood in South Africa and encouraging the children to express their own thoughts and feelings on the subject.
.@PopUpFestival Beverley Naidoo getting class thinking about connection of the book to the Foundling Museum. Great conversation!
.@PopUpFestival Beverly Naidoo – pupils really know this story and can not only retell it but use some modern day examples. Fascinating.
.@PopUpFestival Beverley having Q&A now. Pupils asking brilliant questions about book but also about Beverley. Lovely engaging conversation.
Unfortunately, Dylan and I had to leave after the first hour as the next event with a different school was about to start but I can truly say it was an honour to have met Beverley before we left. She was a true inspiration to the pupils and to me!
On the way to our next event, Dylan and I were able to have a great conversation about PopUp Festival. This event is something I think could really work locally (West Midlands) but from that one event, and from speaking to the teacher and some of the volunteers, it’s obvious that a lot of work is involved. However, Dylan and I were able to bounce ideas off each other which was really beneficial. I would ideally like to see the literacy linked with local museums (something they do strive for also).
The next event was just as amazing but on a different level. It was with the incredibly talented Levi Pinfold. Due to a miscommunication, the event had already started when we arrived at Free Word. Again, I had no prior knowledge of Levi’s work so when we walked in and I saw a class of about 28 kids laughing and drawing and having extraordinary conversations in their groups, I knew I was going to enjoy this session. Straight away, the kids started telling me they were drawing ‘characters’ for a book. ‘What book?’ I asked. ‘Any!’ was the reply. And this is where Levi is a genius – his engagement level with the kids was absolutely astounding. Yes he had the kids drawing but all the time they were drawing he was pushing them – challenging them to think further than pen to paper. Where do they live? What do they eat? What job would they have? All these questions being asked but then he did something that the pupils *loved*. He went around and listened to their answers.
The teacher explained that the class really loved being part of the Pop Up Festival and they really connected with the book. This was evident during the Question and Answer session when Levi was quite impressed with the research that was done prior to this event. They even knew where he lived!
I was fortunate enough to have lunch with Dylan, Levi and Levi’s publisher where we had an extended conversation and discuss the work that goes into his breath-taking illustration. I also asked about his take on Pop Up Festival and he was clearly honoured to be part of the festival.
Afterwards, Dylan and I made our way to the British Library to see the brilliant Gareth P Jones. This event worked differently in that the children were seeing the Out of This World exhibition first with a facilitator of the British Library prior to meeting the author. Again, I was so impressed with the dialogue the pupils were using, and this was clearly due to the environment (eg British Library). The children were being asked to think outside the box.
.@PopUpFestival Really amazed at the vocabulary being used by
pupils: parallel universe, continuous time. facilitator led @britishLibrary
Sadly, I couldn’t stay for the actual event as I had to catch the train back but heard nothing but positive about it afterwards. I was able to stay long enough for the class to come into the room and you could see the immediate excitement on their faces when they saw Gareth there. One child was brought to Gareth as he was a huge huge fan and the teacher must have promised a personal meet and greet. It was very heart-warming and again, very inspiring to see the pupils so excited about an author.
Initially, I had no idea if this event could work in the West Midlands or if so, could it work with our local museums/art galleries. The resounding answer is absolutely! The crucial objective would be to ensure there is a proper balance between authors, pupils and cultural venue. There is a lot of work involved, and perhaps it wouldn’t need to be as large as the London based one but this is something that Dylan and his team could look into franchising. The sooner, the better.