Creative writing, not only an exercise of style

Writing is something that always fascinated me, since I flied with my fantasy in the Italian homework during primary school. For me, writing is the easiest way to communicate my feelings.
Some years ago I read a poem which shocked me, and I realized that it’s not necessary to follow rhymes and rules to write something meaningful. So I started to write, when something hurt me, good or bad it was, and I noticed that after have written I was more calm, a problem was more clear, or I was happy because I had fixed on a paper a feeling or a moment of my life which would have never come back. I realized that writing makes me feel good.

This is why the last November I participated in the Grundtvig workshop “Improving adult literacy – using successful creative writing approaches with disadvantaged learners”, organised in Huddersfield, England, by the no profit organization Let’s Go (Yorkshire).
If writing makes me feel good – I thought – it can happen also with other people, and maybe I have some skills to develop that I can use to organize some activities by myself in the future.
The aim of the training was to offer concrete practises to use writing as a tool of learning, with adults people but not only, and for any kind of purpose of learning.

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In Huddersfield, a 140 thousands inhabitants city between Manchester and Leeds, with a fifty years history of strong immigration (in particular from India and Pakistan), we were in twelve participants – mainly teachers – coming from Italy, Spain, Greece, Romania and Turkey. It was an heterogeneous group, made of young and less young people, with different backgrounds and personal skills. This was one of the most interesting things.

In two weeks we made a lot of activities. I only talk about two of them.
The first is the “Poem from two apples”. Our trainer, Adam Strickson (playwright, poet, professor at the Leeds university) gave us two apples, one red, the other one yellow, and asked us to look at them and to tell what they let us think about, while we passed each other the apples hand by hand, in circle. It seemed to be something stupid, at the beginning. But person after person, feelings from the apples – looking at them, touching them, smelling them – took life.
Adam wrote what we said about the apples on the blackboard and he asked us to write some lines making a riddle, taking some words said by the group. Then we read our writings, and from all of them, he wrote a new one.

Inside my circle
is hidden a star
dressed in the colour
of different seasons
the autumn gives it to us
like a present
the origin of our tears
a healthy snack

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But the most interesting activity for me was a visit to the Headfield Junior School in Dewsbury, near Huddersfield, a city with a strong immigration too.
The school is in a neighbourhood mostly inhabited by Indian and Pakistani people, who settled there three generations ago, and in fact the 99,5 % of the pupils are of Pakistani and Indian origins. In secondary school, these pupils will have as schoolmates children of any origin, because they will go to study in another place.

Children with British, Asian, African, Caribbean, East European origins will stay together in class, and if they don’t meet in a kind of way before they are preteens, there could be problems of bullying, as it already happened in the past.
To reduce this risk, the Kirklees Metropolitan Council developed a project called Transforming Thornhill Lees, involving two schools in the area, with children of different origins. The pupils, with the help of their teachers and families, had to discover stories of the neighbourhood in which they live, and then they exchanged them with the children of the other school, meeting them and working together.
When we visited the Headfield school, the pupils were practicing on performing plays based on the stories of people they collected, to prepare an exhibition.
It was touching to see children keeping alive the stories of common people, relatives of the children of the other school.

The training was important for my personal growth. I discovered the Yorkshire region, finding out that the people there are very welcoming, I met interesting people improving my intercultural knowledge, and thanks to the course now I have some ideas that I’d like to develop in the future. Because creative writing can be not only a personal artistic exercise, but also a social activity.

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Text and photos by Daniele Ferro, Evs volunteer

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