Cultural Learning Alliance

Art, music, dance – and culture more broadly – is essential and transformative. It is about who you are

Tony Hall
Chief Executive, Royal Opera House

Practice

First Story – Fostering Creativity, Literacy and Talent

First Story is a charity that aims to foster creativity, literacy and talent in young people across the country.

We arrange and pay for acclaimed writers to lead weekly writing workshops in "challenging" secondary schools. With the support and mentorship of these writers-in-residence, children get to explore their creativity and find their voices. We've seen how creative writing can build students' self-esteem and self-confidence, raising aspirations and boosting achievement.

We operate in schools in which more than 50% of pupils are considered deprived according to the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) and in which GCSE results fall in the lowest third of the national distribution. In each school, groups of up to sixteen students (aged 15–18) attend weekly extra-curricular creative writing workshops with an internationally renowned author. The sustained contact they have with the writer, who becomes a mentor figure, is unique and powerful. First Story publishes a professionally produced book for each school and supports the school in hosting public readings and a book launch at which participating students can read aloud to other students, family and teachers.

First Story also seeks to give students access to the larger literary and arts community by arranging literary and cultural events for our students. Recently, First Story students, teachers and writers participated in a panel discussion with Philip Pullman at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival. In addition, this year’s writer-in-residence at Somerset House, Romesh Gunesekera, organised a special day of workshops for First Story students. Events like these, which bring the work of young people to a wider audience, make a critical difference in our students' lives.

First Story student Samin Sherzai said of the programme, “First Story has changed my life. It’s showed me I’ve got a talent and that I should keep working at it. Seeing our book Chandenance published is a really big thing for me. It’s the first time I’ve done something good in my life and I feel so happy”.

We are currently working in 11 London schools and three Oxford schools. We hope to be working in 16 to 20 schools by September 2010. For more information, please visit our website at www.firststory.co.uk or contact us at info@firststory.co.uk.
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