To me it is obvious that programmes like Inkhead are clearly an experience children need. I wasn't even aware of how much I needed it till I started working with Louise. My need to write is on a par with my need to teach. I think it's built into my dna as both my maternal grandfather and mother were teachers. I love the buzz I get when I see that certain something click in a student's mind, the hunched shoulders relax and a smile of relief appears. And more than anything, I love that I was able to give that opportunity.
There is no doubt in my mind that children relish the clubs and courses. I've watched shy youngsters become more confident in a matter of days. I've seen reluctant writers produce and complete a story in no more than 9 hours. And I've seen children's writing progress in giant leaps. But I'm not going to wax on.
Their testimonials speak for themselves.
The Inkhead facebook page also has countless photos of children enjoying writing. Not just enjoying it, relishing it.
Interview Part II
Louise Pearce is the founder of Inkhead which runs creative writing workshops for children aged 7 – 14. The main aim of these workshops is to inspire and encourage children to write fiction. Inkhead runs after school clubs during term time and workshops in half terms and the Summer holidays.
Have you ever run poetry courses?
Yes we have – in the after-school club at Blackheath High School, which went very well.
Will you be running any more?
Hopefully! We are always looking for different ways into writing and different ideas for workshops. I think we should run a course for boys and use writing prompts connected to Minecraft to get them into writing their own stories.
What do you think the main benefits are for children who do an Inkhead course?
I think they realise that writing is about thinking, imagining, solving problems, being empathetic, hope, and power. They can access all these things inside themselves and express them through writing – and each of them will have a unique way of doing so. They meet different people, they learn how to listen to each other’s ideas and they realise that writing is fun.
Inkhead provides a story critique service. How do children react to this?
They react very well. They really understand that a critique is not a criticism of their work but a constructive view of their stories with helpful advice and encouragement. We really want them to feel that what they are writing is worth reading.
What made you decide to add a Crime Busting course to the Inkhead repertoire?
We have run a Crime Busting course before which was very successful. The children loved it. We set up a crime scene in the library and they have to solve the crime, then write a news report about it – and a fictional account. We are using the idea this summer as the course covers report writing and not just creative writing. We show the groups the difference between the two.
Inkhead now has an African connection. How did this come about and what does it entail?
The African connection comes from me as I was born and brought up in Kenya. I came to England when I was 10 years old. My grandfather had a farm in Koru, which is now a school. We have started a writing competition in two schools in Koru and will publish their winning and highly commended stories in an anthology. My father, after living in Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Dubai, went back to Kenya when he was 70. I try to visit him when I can and I would love to be able to offer African schools the opportunity to learn how to write stories. I am really interested in finding out how different their stories would be to those of an European child of a similar age.
Where do you see Inkhead going in the future?
I am hoping that inkhead will become better known and continue to inspire children to write stories. I would love our Kenyan connection to really develop into a stronger link too. I am writing a book about teaching creative writing to children and looking in to offering training in our methods to schools. It would be good to find funding as well – so that we could expand and develop. Inkhead is really only as good as the tutors we have – who are all writers and passionate about writing so I hope that, in this respect, we will stay as we are but also attract more brilliant writers to us. I’d also love to develop a community of writers from the children who have been in our courses and been inspired to keep writing – we have a few 16 to 18 year olds who are still writing and keep in touch with us. I would love them all to follow their dreams and get their books published!