I’m in Chelmsford at Shire Hall in Tindall Square. It’s late afternoon and we are launching a book by looked after children. Below is my introduction to Don’t Judge A Book By The Cover published by First Story launched today at Shire Hall in Chelmsford Essex with the authors, the foster parents, Nikky O’Shaughnessy Head of Children’s Services, and Who Cares.
Shall We Go
“shall we go down the bottom of the garden and see what’s in the shed” wrote Tia in her poem ‘The Scar’. Sixteen people followed Tia’s lead, but there was no shed and no garden. There was a workshop and imagination.
For six weeks each Tuesday I had the pleasure of working with them all. “Happiness is like when you first ride a bike without stabilisers” wrote Demi in “You’ll Never Grow Up” and a giggling girl on her bike circled the room in mid air. “Anger is a devastating tornado, tearing up houses, the streets of America” wrote Ashley in his poem “Don’t Explode Talk First” and above his head a tornado swirled away.
The girl on the bike was still laughing and still cycling. This was no ordinary workshop and these were not ordinary young people .Each week images filled the room, their imaginations. Someone wrote “the sun in the sky is like a pregnant woman floating on the blue ocean” . That will stay in my mind forever.
When you read these poems ask yourself, where else, how else could they explore in such a way a place where their own stories are not frightening but liberating. This wasn’t school – though I did get called “sir” a few times – this was a group of talented individuals having fun with words.
Poppy typifies an emotive feeling when she says “jealousy is when the angels turn against you” and when Demi Morris in her dark beautiful poem “Softness of The Beast” says “you’re the disturbing ripple on my tender surface” I think of it as the perfect description of a frown.
Whatever task I set them, they took it on. Even when it seemed difficult they took it on. What they reveal is sometimes witty and sometimes harrowing, but always powerful. Creativity and imagination, are the most dynamic and yet often the most unexplored territory of our lives and yet at times in life they are the most needed. Fortunately for us these young people have left a book so we can glimpse some of the word-worlds they've created. Shall we go?