Tuesday, 9 June 2015

A celebration...30 years on!

Thank you Seven Stories and Shotton Hall students and teachers!  Two weeks ago, I wrote about the project launched by Debbie Beeks at Seven Stories in partnership with The Academy at Shotton Hall in Peterlee. Since then, I've driven 800 miles and every mile was made worthwhile by a wonderful day on 4th June, the highlight being the Drama Club's play to celebrate Journey to Jo'burg's 30th year and the arrival of my archive at Seven Stories in Newcastle.

Weaving their own contemporary story around Naledi's and Tiro's challenging journey in apartheid South Africa, the Shotton Hall students created an imaginative piece about how stories are passed on - both within and across generations. At the heart of their work was a strong empathy with Naledi and Tiro and a rejection of injustice. I loved the freshness and vitality of the students' work and, judging from audience response, so did 200 Year 6 primary school children attending the performance at East Durham College. Watch a short video here! You can also read more about the project in The Northern Echo.

It was also lovely to see Arts Award work created by Year 7s in response to the book. Kate Edwards, Chief Executive of Seven Stories, and I are pictured here admiring some of it. Some pieces were 3D, including one that involved two doors, making a point about segregation and inequality. 

Earlier in the day, Seven Stories' archivists showed me how my materials are being stored and currently being catalogued. Fascinating! Here I am with archivist Kris McKie and collections assistant Danielle McAloon with some of the special cardboard boxes containing papers that not long ago were kept haphazardly in boxes under beds. 

My work will have some very wonderful companions in the Seven Stories' Collection, including some of my all time favourites. Elizabeth Laird is one of them. The archivists had laid out on a table a few items that they thought would be of particular interest. These included a small box of photographs Liz had taken when researching A Little Piece of Ground, a poignant novel about football-loving Karim, trapped by tanks and curfews in the Palestinian town of Ramallah under Israeli occupation. There was much delight when Jehan Helou, President of IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) Palestine, also visiting the Collection, was able to point out in a photo Samar Qutob - translator of Journey to Jo'burg and Chain of Fire into Arabic. What a small world!   

If any sharp-eyed detectives spot on the table (bottom left in our picture) the tell-tale shape of Judith Kerr's much loved Tiger Who Came to Tea, you are right.  There he is with the little girl Sophie in Judith Kerr's original illustration... and you will be glad to know that we all washed our hands very well before handling anything!


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