·         Launch of new national poetry project with Amnesty International UK

·         Anne Robinson and Alan Bennett to announce inaugural David Vaisey Prize

·         ‘Beyond Words’ writing celebrated with exhibition at heart of Festival Village

·         2017 Launch of flagship project Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils


Tens of thousands of book-lovers of all ages, including over 7,000 schoolchildren, will head to Cheltenham in October for the UK’s oldest literature festival, for ten days of literary celebration, discussion and debate. Children and young people form the beating heart of the Festival on weekdays, receiving ideas and inspiration from writers and illustrators including Tanya Landman, Michael Rosen, Piers Torday and Alexis Deacon. 


The Festival provides both a launch-pad and showcase for year-round outreach programmes, and this year’s highlights include:


Words That Burn: National Launch with Kate Allen, Amnesty UK Director (11th October) 

Wednesday 11 October 2-3pm: 


Enabling young people to explore human rights and self-expression through poetry, Words That Burn is a new national poetry project developed in partnership with Amnesty International UK and The Poetry Hour. The project will launch at the festival on 11th October with a performance from Keith Jarrett, and is supported by leading poets Hollie McNish, Joseph Coelho, Graham Clifford, Imtiaz Dharker, Vanessa Kisuule, Sabrina Mahfouz, Glyn Maxwell and Inja. Engaging with classical and contemporary poems and exploring spoken word performances, Words That Burn aims to help young people discover that their voice matters and their words can make a difference.


The David Vaisey Prize Announcement: with Anne Robinson and Alan Bennett  

Sunday 8 October, 11am-12.15pm: 


The 2017 Chair of Judges for the David Vaisey Prize, Anne Robinson, will announce the inaugural winner of this award that gives public recognition to the value of libraries and their volunteer support. Playwright, screenwriter, actor and author, Alan Bennett will present the award to the winning Gloucestershire library that has demonstrated the power of reading, leading to more borrowing, reading and discussion of books, and encouraged community support.


Beyond Words Exhibition & Young Writers Showcase: with Miranda Walker & Anthony Anaxagorou

Friday 6 October 1.45-3.15pm, The Inkpot:

At the heart of the Festival village will be an emotive exhibition of word, sound and image created by young people with severe mental or physical illness as part of Cheltenham Festivals Beyond Words programme. The programme, sponsored by St James’s Place Foundation, offers KS4 pupils educated by Gloucestershire Hospital Education Service (GHES) the opportunity to work with ‘Writer in Residence’, author and scriptwriter Miranda Walker. Last year, 100% of students stated the project increased both their confidence and the quality of their writing, reporting an increased sense of well-being, while teachers felt the project gave them the skills, knowledge and inspiration to support students through creative writing. 


Award-winning poet Anthony Anaxagorou will host the Young Writers Showcase, celebrating the talent of the young people engaged with Beyond Words and Cheltenham Festivals First Story as they perform highlights from their professionally published anthologies.


‘Participating in Beyond Words, helped my son to grow in confidence, resilience and self-belief. It re-energised his sense of self-worth and empowered him as a writer. Ultimately, it enabled him to finally put pen to paper and begin to rekindle his love of literacy.’ Parent


Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils Launch

Thursday 12 October 5.30-6.30pm, Town Hall: 

The inspirational launch to mark the second year of the Festival’s flagship project, which enables teachers and pupils to rediscover the joy of reading, and make time for engaging with books in the classroom through a variety of activities such as book clubs and school-wide writing projects. Following the huge success of the inaugural year, which saw 36 teachers and 1080 children from 27 schools take part in the project, Professor Teresa Cremin will launch this year’s project with a keynote speech entitled ‘Reading for Pleasure – a National and International Perspective.’ 


Throughout the year, teachers met to discuss the five chosen books before revealing them one-by-one to their students through a variety of classroom initiatives. The year culminated in two special events: an author event with Piers Torday and William Grill for 600 children at The Everyman Theatre; and a Sharing Day when teachers presented the impact of the programme on their pupils, including Changes in Personal Practice and Changing a School Reading Culture.


In 2016, 100% of teachers reported that they saw an increase in reading attainment and that the RT=RP project had impacted this increase, with 86% stating the increase was moderate to strong. Of the 28 children case studied, 27 said their enjoyment of reading had increased while the remaining student reported their enjoyment had continued.


‘Teachers are the key to so much in a child’s future, we know that, but it needs saying again, loud and clear. For so many of us that first spark that brought us to a love of books and reading came from a teacher. This is a great idea. I’m amazed there isn’t a network like this already.’ Michael Morpurgo


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