Our annual summer residential programme provides an incredible opportunity for a small number of First Story participants who’ve shown great promise during the academic year, to further develop their skills and confidence by working intensively with talented guest writers. Usually, the week-long course takes place at Lumb Bank, Arvon’s idyllic writing retreat in rural West Yorkshire. However, in the midst of a global pandemic, this year we had to do things a little differently!
Thanks to the enthusiasm and energy of our team, our guest Writers-in-Residence, and our sponsors, teamArchie, this summer’s residential went ahead in full – and with great success – entirely virtually. Connecting online via Zoom, we managed to maintain almost all of the key elements that make this project so special and impactful.
If school online learning was this good, I’d be super happy and excited to attend each day!– Chum, participant
The full, five-day timetable included group writing workshops, games and activities, as well as one-to-one tutorials and mentoring sessions. There was even a virtual group lunch, with everyone cooking at the same time and eating together.
We retained the important final day showcase event too, when participants traditionally perform their work before an audience – this year able to invite parents and families along for the first time.
There was some concern, in moving to digital provision for this exceptional year, that a vital benefit of attending the physical residential might be lost: the quick and deep friendships that usually form among the group, as they share in the experience of being away from home without their families. We need not have worried. This year’s group totally invested from the outset. They bonded quickly, seemingly utterly unfazed by the enforced distance. The words of mutual encouragement shared between them via instant messaging chats were evidence of the warm and trusting relationships that were formed.
The camaraderie and the connection of the group and the feeling that we were all embarked together on a creative adventure was, I think, profoundly energising for the young people. I thought the one-to-ones were really powerful. I thought the sharing was wonderful. I loved the different offers that Irfan, Russ, and I provided.– Francesca Beard, Writer-in-Residence
Writing, as ever, was the centre of the week. Bouncing from genre to genre, flitting between moods and topics – all under the insightful guidance of our wonderful writing tutors Irfan Master, Francesca Beard, and Russ Litten – the quality of the writing was clearly not impacted by the virtual format. This year’s participants were a unified group of young writers, bound together by friendship, empathy and mutual respect for each other’s craft.
The thing I most enjoyed this week was getting to know everyone and taking inspiration from all the talented people in this group.– Matilda, participant
Another advantage in the new medium was that we were more easily able to record participants performing their own writing. We’re very excited to be able to share, for the first time, a First Story group audio anthology, complementing the printed publication due out this autumn.
Listen to the album here:
Our young writers really are so talented. The content is relevant, provocative and authentic. I’d like us to provide more opportunities for our young writers to share their work in this format.– Charlotte Prendergast, First Story’s Head of Learning
First Story thanks teamArchie for its invaluable involvement in the planning of this adapted project and funding of the residential.