Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Being creative with children

THE Creative Writing competition for deaf schoolchildren, which is sponsored by the Belfast Telegraph, is now organised by the National Deaf Children's Society and development officer Pauline Walker has sent me details of the first prize day of the new millennium.

THE Creative Writing competition for deaf schoolchildren, which is sponsored by the Belfast Telegraph, is now organised by the National Deaf Children's Society and development officer Pauline Walker has sent me details of the first prize day of the new millennium.

Pauline says the NDCS was fortunate to receive three year's funding from the Lottery Board's Access to the Arts Fund and this enabled them to appoint a new part-time arts officer, Sharon Rollston, in February this year.

Her job is to develop an arts strategy for deaf children in Northern Ireland and her first task was to run the writing project this March. The fund enabled a number of schools to host a professional writer pilot project for workshops designed to inspire original and imaginative poetry and prose.

The poet Adrian Rice visited 15 schools across the province with children from other schools joining the workshops, and as a result, a record number of children from a total of 34 schools took part in this year's competition. All who entered received a certificate and a small gift to acknowledge their hard work.

Sharon said she would like to thank the judges for what was a very enjoyable, but more difficult task than ever, choosing the winner from a total or 116 entries. She also thanked Angela Reid from the Ulster Museum, the Belfast Telegraph for sponsoring the event and Peter McCartney who co-ordinates this. Her personal thanks went to Wendy Hall who ensured the whole event went smoothly. She welcomed the guest of honour, Adrian Rice, and asked him to present the awards. I'm including his speech in full:Being involved in this creative writing project with the NDCS has been both a privilege and a pleasure. I've travelled all over the country (getting lost several times en route) and I've met with a variety of hearing impaired schoolchildren of all ages and abilities.

I've been very impressed by the level of attention shown by the pupils and by the high standard of their written work. All of the budding writers have a good measure of talent and some of them have an extra edge - a note of authenticity - that promises even more if they choose to apply themselves to creative writing in the future.

I'd like to thank Sharon Rollston for asking me to take part in this year's project. She showed great faith in someone who hadn't much experience in working with hearing impaired children. And she also allowed me to "do my own thing" in the workshops. I've always believed that it is the visiting writer's enthusiasm which is the key to getting children interested in writing themselves. Consequently, I tended to steer clear of involving the children in formal, creative writing exercises. Instead I tried to pass on my own enthusiasm for writing in the pupil. And I believe it bore some fruit - the competitive standard of the children's efforts certainly gave the judges more than a few headaches on judging day!To conclude, I'd like to congratulate the NDCS and the sponsors, the Belfast Telegraph, for promoting such a worthy event. I'd like to congratulate the prizewinners and all the other children involved. And I think a final, special mention should go to the teachers involved- their dedication and obvious professionalism was a constant challenge and support to me throughout the project.

The NIDYA cup for best entry from a profoundly deaf pupil was awarded to Joanne O'Boyle of Jordanstown Schools.

The St Michael trophy went to Brian Babb of Cregagh Primary School.

The Belfast Telegraph for best overall entry was awarded to Christine Haslett of Limavady High School.

Northern Ireland Go Kart club organised a competition last Saturday with teams from Scotland and the Republic of Ireland joining in the fun. Northern Ireland came first with Scotland second and this was a nice upset as they had previously won four times in a row. Our own Peter Barr came first in the final.

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