For the academic year 2014/2015, I am thrilled to be a First Story writer-in-residence. First Story is a charity that (in the words of the FS website) ‘supports and inspires creativity, literacy and confidence in challenging UK secondary schools and their communities.’First story logo

First Story arranges and pays for acclaimed writers to run creative-writing workshops for students in state schools across the country. Over the course of an academic year, each writer-in-residence leads weekly, after-school workshops for a group of up to twenty-one students. We publish the students’ writing in a professionally produced anthology for each school, and the schools host book-launch events at which the students read their stories to their peers, friends, families and teachers. We focus on schools in which more than 50% of pupils are considered deprived according to the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index and/or GCSE results fall in the lowest third of the national distribution.

Tomorrow is my first day as a First Story writer in residence and it kicks off with a visit to the First Story festival at Norham Gardens in Oxford. While there I will be leading my first workshops for FS with groups of secondary school students from schools across the UK and will also meet the students from Banovallum School in Horncastle, who I will be working with over the next six or seven months to create an exciting, vibrant anthology of their work. And to complete this day of firsts, this is the first time that First Story has provided residencies in schools in Lincolnshire. All in all, exciting times.

Back when I was a teenager and busy being educated in a challenging school in the heart of the Black Country, I would have loved to have had the opportunity to work with a writer-in-residence and take part in the kinds of workshops First Story provides for schools. I can’t wait to get started and see what the young writers produce as we develop pieces for inclusion in the anthology. In the summer term of 2015 there will be a launch event for the Banovallum anthology, which we already have big plans for. I will be sure to shout about it nearer the time.

In the meantime, here’s a video all about the great work of First Story:

And if you’re thinking all this sounds like a worthy cause, you can donate to First Story here.

With that, I’m off for an early night. Apparently the only train route to Oxford from Lincolnshire goes via London so, in the absence of an actual rail network that links up more rural areas of the country, I have a long drive ahead of me tomorrow morning. Not that I am complaining. I can’t wait to get started.