More than 50 post-primary school pupils have taken part in a workshop delivered by renowned author, poet and broadcaster, Lemn Sissay, MBE.
In the third and final of a series of author events organised by Mid Ulster District Council as part of the Seamus Heaney Education Programme, the students heard Lemn talk about his past, his work and his experiences as a poet and author.
He is the author of books of poetry alongside articles, records, broadcasts, public art, commissions and plays. He was the first poet commissioned to write for London Olympics and his landmark poems are installed throughout Manchester and London.
Sissay was the first Black Writers Development Worker in the North of England. He created Cultureword (part of commonword) where he developed and supported many new writers who’ve gone on to a life of creativity and he received an MBE from the Queen in 2010 for services to literature as well as an honorary doctorate from the University of Huddersfield who run the Sissay Scholarship for care leavers, the first of its kind in the UK.
The session was delivered to post primary school students from schools in Magherafelt. St. Mary’s Grammar School and the Rainey Endowed School took part in the workshop at the Bridewell, Magherafelt.
The event follows two previous author workshops that took place in Cookstown, with Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, and in Dungannon, with Dan Freedman, creator and writer of the Jamie Johnson series of football novels.
Speaking about the event, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Cáthal Mallaghan said, “Lemn’s is the final author workshop in the Council’s Seamus Heaney Education programme, which aims to get children writing and thinking creatively in advance of Seamus Heaney HomePlace opening in September, and I feel it is perhaps the most fitting of all.
“Given that Lemn is a renowned and recognised poet first and foremost, it is incredibly fitting and will give the young people participating a real taste of the world of poetry which will help them understand Seamus Heaney, his work and thinking more easily. The workshops have all worked brilliantly and I am delighted they formed part of the education programme.”
Mr Sissay said: “Being a fellow poet, and actually having had the absolute privilege of reading with and meeting Seamus Heaney personally, it was an honour being here speaking to students taking part in the Education Programme about the art and craft of poetry and creative writing. I look forward to coming back and visiting Seamus Heaney HomePlace when it opens later this year.”
Mrs Olivia Reid, Head of English at St. Mary’s Grammar School, Magherafelt, said, “This was an excellent opportunity for the pupils to meet a writer of international standing. Lemn Sissay’s honest approach, coupled with his mission to inspire and be inspired, has encouraged our pupils to believe more fervently in their own ability to write and to create.”
The Education Programme is being delivered by the Verbal Arts Centre on behalf of the Council and is part-funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Other activities will take place in the coming months as part of the Council’s Seamus Heaney Education Programme.