Encouraging kids to read is – well – encouraged. But what about taking them seriously as writers too? NICK HAMMOND knows a thing or two about the written word and he wants his children to as well. So he takes them to London in search of a writer’s club with a difference…
THEY say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, which I’ve understood without truly experiencing up ‘til now.
But both my daughters – entirely of their own volition – have shown a real love of, and flair for, the written word. Thank goodness they’ve got their mother’s looks.
When I was made aware of a writing course for youngsters in London I filed it away in the back of my admittedly tiny brain and remarkably, was able to recall it when the Summer hols came and we were thinking of ways to keep the little darlings occupied.
And so it was that at six thirty in the morning we found ourselves on a coach heading to London’s Victoria Station. I can’t for the life of me remember why we got on the coach – there must have been a rail strike I suppose – but coach we did, and were dropped off in London after a sleepy journey down the M1.
The girls are 12 and 10 now, and we’d chosen to attend a morning’s course for their age group run by the aforementioned Chelsea Young Writers. It was a sticky Summer morning and we were held up at every opportunity on the tube, so it was a somewhat sweaty and stressed Dad that led the girls up the hill and eventually to the door of the fantastic St John’s Church, Notting Hill.
Now this is how to run a modern church. The writing group take up residence in one of several modern rooms out back; there’s a brilliant café serving everything from cups of tea to burgers and chips; and locals are in and out of here all the time to meet, pray, study and talk.
And so, with a sigh of relief, I said goodbye to the girls for a few hours and quite literally took a pew to catch my breath. And then it was off for spot of breakfast and to catch up on emails.
Ulvi Pepinova is the founder of Chelsea Young Writers and also its Head of Programmes.
“It started as nothing but an idea from a parent looking for creative ways to light up her child’s early development,” she said.
“I turned to the people who understand this process more than anyone; children’s authors. It has been so important to CYW to generate content which is truly original.”
This team of authors and writers have been picked to offer different specialisms and talents and different styled classes; therefore a range of concepts and genres are included.
As well as the beautiful church, CYW has established a relationship with the Hampshire School, Chelsea, which has already housed two collaborative children’s festivals. Other schools, such as Glendower, EIFA, Chepstow House and Wetherby Prep also hold CYW after school clubs.
Saturday clubs are up and running, there’s a Swiss Cottage branch as well as a Marylebone one and Richmond is now also on the list. Each branch offers a different combination of courses, so you can pick and choose your way around the capital to cover off those ideas which most spark your youngster’s interest.
So how did the girls get on? It was a shame their session wasn’t longer – they felt they didn’t have enough time in the couple of hours or so to do more than talk round the topic in question (Gothic creepiness!) but both were enthused. Grace as the eldest was probably on the cusp of the age bracket for the group and as quite an accomplished writer already, could probably have done with being sent on the next bracket up, in hindsight.
Tess thoroughly enjoyed the session and the interaction with her tutor, particularly enthusiastic about the vocabulary session and the materials handed out to stimulate the brain. They both found the opportunity to let their imaginations run wild and express themselves as liberating as I’d hoped.
It’s a thoroughly brilliant idea, Chelsea Young Writers. While kids are in places like this with people like these, they are not getting into mischief; their minds are being focused on pushing the limits of their imagination.
As you might imagine yourself, this is a state of being that is pretty close to my heart. I was delighted to be able to make a day of it in London to give the girls a sneak preview of piecing together disparate themes.
If your children are bookish and love stories, get them enrolled. And if they’re not, get them enrolled anyway and they might soon surprise you. A universe of knowledge and pleasure awaits those who love to read and write.
I speak from experience.
For more information about Chelsea Young Writers, visit www.chelseayoungwriters.co.uk.