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Another new academic year approaching and with it, for BritLit, another date with the Hay Festival in Segovia.  It’s been a very long time since there was an update on this page, and, in fact, we’ve been to visit Hay Festival in Cartagena de Indias in Colombia since the last post (well, someone had to do it) and numerous other BritLit events have occurred in the calendar as well.  Possibly the most important has been the recent two week intensive training course for BritLit at NILE in Norwich, UK.  There were teachers from all over, including Russia and India (the latter linked to Hay Festival Kerala – are you beginning to spot a pattern here?!)  Claudia and Misa were the trainers, and guest visitor was author Melvin Burgess who introduced both the BritLit group and the British Studies group to his multi media epic ‘The Well’, which uses film (a 4 part programme made by the BBC) together with an on-line game which reveals the back story.  He also gave a lesson on creative writing by deconstructing and rebuilding traditional fairy stories.  Much fun and erudition was experienced by all, and a request for more work on creative writing made.

The growing link with Hay Festivals worldwide is part of a protocol signed last year between Hay Festival organisers and the British Council.  This came directly out of the good work pioneered by BritLit in Segovia with the BC Madrid office over the past few years.  Lining up for the BritLit treatment over 2011 and 2012 in addition to Segovia and Cartagena are Kerala and Xalapa (Mexico)  The 2011 Segovia event will feature writers such as Michelle Paver (with whom we worked in Cartagena) whose epic series of books ‘Chronicles of Ancient Darkness’ written with young adults in mind is one of the most exciting adventure series on the market.  We shall also be working with David Mitchell – author of Cloud Atlas – as well as two authors being promoted by the Welsh Arts Council – Tiffany Murray and Jon Gower.  Tiffany and Jon are being promoted to tour ALL the Hay Festivals over the next 12 months – that’s about the best job we’ve ever heard of!

New activity kits will come out of all this work, of course, and we’re all hard at work on a new multi-media production in the model of ‘Coming Home’ – but that’s top secret for now.  Shhhh.  So, lot’s of work coming up over the next few months.

Hope the new academic year, for those who are facing one, goes well.

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A Digest

It’s been a busy September, and October doesn’t look any different. In other words, everything normal!

The events in Segovia have been covered, more or less, by the blogs posted on the Teaching English website but let’s put a bit of wrap around that. The event was the Hay Festival in Segovia. The Hay Festival started life in the small Welsh town of Hay on Wye, and has grown to be one of the most important literature festivals in the UK.

So successful was the Hay Festival that the organisers decided it ought to go on holiday, and the principal mover of the whole affair, Peter Florence, decided to take it to places he liked and that had strong cultural links. Segovia in Spain and Cartagena de Indias in Colombia were chosen first, and both have been running hugely successful international literature festivals as a result ever since. From 2010 and into 2011 new countries are joining in – Maldives, India, Mexico and Kenya are hosting Hay events.

In 2008 BritLit became involved in the first teachers’ event based in the festival in Segovia. It was a simple one day affair, and was conducted more or less as a fringe activity rather than being in the main programme, but Peter Florence himself came along to see what was what and gave an enthusiastic thumbs up. The first event involved a little under 100 teachers and three writers – an English author of children’s books, Michael Morpurgo, and two Welsh poets, Gillian Clarke and Owen Sheers.  A series of mini BritLit kits were made for the event.

In 2010 we decided to expand the activity by running some events from school children and over two days around 500 children from Segovia, Madrid and as far afield as Zamora came to hear two of the finest writers of children’s literature talk – Melvin Burgess and Beverley Naidoo. You can read what happened here and here .

We then held another one day workshop for teachers, and again something approaching 100 very enthusiastic and very lively teachers came along and worked with Fitch O’Connell and Sinéad Russell from the British Council for the whole day, and Melvin and Beverley in the afternoon. You can read about that here . One of the significant differences from 2008 was that we were now officially part of the main Hay Festival programme. You can see the photos of the Hay events, taken by Alberto Roldán  of the Spanish paper La Razón. here. You can follow the blog of BC Spain’s Communications Manager here and here.  You can read a more personal interpretation of one side event here!

One of the results of this successful activity will be to take the lessons learned from running the teacher’s event to Hay in Cartagena in January 2011. Hopefully from there it will start become a natural feature of the Hay Festival programme throughout the world. This helps to resolve what has become a perennial problem – how to get authors to schools. We know from experience how tremendously successful and effective these visits are, but no one has the money to make this anything but an occasional or exceptional event. Shame. But if we can harness the activities of literature festivals, book fairs and publishers around the world with a successful model then perhaps we can, at least, get the schools to go to the authors. There’s an ambition.

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Quiet August?

August in the northern hemisphere is noticeable by its absence (of activity) usually.  In the southern part of Europe everyone has disappeared for their holidays and you can get to work without the usual crowds, traffic jams and delays.  Which implies that some of us are working behind the scenes while most are sunning themselves on the beach or doing whatever they think they should be doing while on holiday (did I hear ‘Sleeping’?)

Some of us do work right through August, and this includes many teachers on intensive summer training courses.  This year, for the first time in about five years, we aren’t running the BritLit NILE course in Norwich but we intend to do something about that for next year, and we’ll start a campaign to recruit for it from October onwards.  Meanwhile there’s a lot of activity behind the scenes as a busy September ahead looms and BritLit is scheduled to appear at events in Funchal, Segovia, Damascus and Pietermaritzburg (South Africa) – volcanoes, sun spots and consular visa departments all willing!  Watch this space ……………..

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Flash Poetry

There is a new mini-kit on-line at TE now, which is derived from the excellent work done at Escola Secundaria José Estêvão in Aveiro, Portugal.  The students and their teacher worked with poet Moniza Alvi to interpret one of Moniza’s poems in the form of flash animation.  There’s an article about this here and you can see the kit and two of the flash animations made by the students here.  We’d be really interested to know if any other schools have been experimenting with anything similar, or if teachers would like any guidance on how this might be done.

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Blogging Away

There’s a new blog on Teaching English which has BritLit as the central theme – and it will last for the month of July (and this little bit of June!). Go to http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/ and take it from there! Already it’s becoming a good place to exchange ideas.

Fitch

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New Link

As from right now we will be hosting this blog on the Teaching English website – http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/literature/blog

For the next few months we’ll also be posting the same information on this blog but eventually it will all be moved over to the TE site and this one will be closed down.  The only difference will be the platform.  Join us!

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The BritLit kit, ‘Fever Pitch’, based on Nick Hornby’s popular book, has been deleted.  In the ongoing programme of making sure that all the kits are up to scratch and meeting the latest requirements we decide that the days of  ‘Fever Pitch’ were numbered.  It was always a slightly different kit compared to the others in that it was based on an autobiographical account (by a football fan) and wasn’t fictional narrative.  The kit was originally conceived for the 2004 Euro cup when it was held in Portugal but when we came to revising it in 2010 we decided that it would be better all round if we simply deleted the files. Call us lazy if you like, but we felt that the project has moved too far away from this book for it to be included now.  If, however, you still want to use any of the materials then you only have to ask.  They still exist, of course – they just aren’t online any more.

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The older BritLit kits have been receiving a regular series of facelifts over the past year or so, and the latest to do so has been ‘Carapace’, based on the story by Romesh Gunesekera.  As a matter of interest, this story was suggested by some teachers as suitable for the BritLit treatment around six years ago, and has proved to be one of our most popular kits ever since it was first launched.  It was also chosen by students in Funchal, Madeira as the basis around which they prepared some work for a visit to their school by the author. It was thus part of the reason that Romesh was so inspired by his visit to the island that he wrote a new series of stories set on the island in the 17th century – ‘The Spice Collector’ – published as part of the 500th Anniversary of the founding of the city of Funchal in 2008 in a bilingual, English/Portuguese edition.

The updated version of the kit is more in line with the later kits, with more emphasis on pre-reading activities and less on follow up work.  Most of the material in the current edition is simply reworked from the older version, making it easier for the teacher to use in a flexible and creative way but without losing that which made it popular in the first place.  The classroom materials are accompanied by an audio of Romesh reading the story and a pdf of an article that originally appeared in ‘In English’ magazine (British Council, Portugal) in 2005, which described in detail Romesh’s visit to Madeira.  The article is also available here: Remarkable Things

You can access the new ‘Carapace’ here.

There are some more changes to be made to other early BritLit kits over the next few months, and one or two new kits are in the pipeline.  Remember that if you want some material relevant to the forthcoming Football World Cup then you might find that Bend it like Beckham will do the trick.  This, too, has recently undergone a change, with new forwards on the team and a shiny new strip for playing away!

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New Shoots?

The most recent incursion of BritLit (and that name has to change, or be modified, as will become apparent) was into the centre and north of Namibia.  NETA, the Namibian English Teachers’ Association, was holding its first ever conference in Oshakati, in the North, and later there was a workshop held in the capital, Windhoek.  The northern conference was a remarkable affair and teachers travelled extraordinary distances to get to it.  With no public transport services many teachers drove for 12 hours or more to get to the event at the University of Namibia’s northern campus.  In fact, 20 teachers made it from the remote Caprivi area, nearly 18 hours away by car.  With that thirst for information, networking, training and other kinds of support we had to deliver something worthwhile.

The conference was themed around literature in the language learning classroom, and the invited speakers were Fitch O’Connell (British Council, Portugal and BritLit manager), Prof Mbongeni Malaba (University of Kwazulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg Campus , South Africa), Lemn Sissay (Performance poet extraordinaire, UK) and Joaquim Rafael (ANELTA, Reggae teacher, Luanda, Angola).  It was quite an extraordinary event altogether – uplifting and challenging at the same time.

The BritLit events (there were two) concentrated on the power of story telling within the overall structure of the materials, handing over responsibility when possible to the students.  The materials concentrated on were already available on-line, except that a challenge was thrown out to the teachers to suggest stories from that region as the basis for future kits, with the invitation to start a new chapter in the project where the texts are sourced from different regions and cultures from all over the world.  You can now see why BritLit seems an inadequate description.  Delegates were also handed part of Lesley Beakes’ novel, ‘The Song of Be’, which is set in Namibia, with the request that new ideas be generated.

In Windhoek another group of teachers, mainly from the area around the capital, met at the British Council facilities to listen first to Professor Malaba talk about a story by the Zimbabwean writer, Charles Mungoshi.  Fitch then introduced the group to a new kit, not yet published, based on the South African writer Beverley Naidoo‘s acclaimed book, ‘Journey to Jo’burg’ and used this as the basis for a workshop.  Again the invitation to suggest new writers from sub Saharan Africa was given and accepted.

We could be entering a brand new phase of the project.  More about this soon.

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Buzzy Sunday

BritLit found itself at IATEFL in Harrogate, rather bleary eyed on the Sunday morning. Not the best time to be bright and cheerful, but the luck of the draw had it that we’d drawn the Sunday short straw (again, for the second year running!) but this year we were taking part in the new ILF, or Interactive Language Fair. Basically this consisted of being a market stall holder with all your goodies for sale, and with a 2 minute sales pitch to the assembled market-goers. The market-goers all had shopping lists and ticked the items they wanted to know more about and then they came and talked to you. And they did! Lots of them and all lovely, chatty people too (half of them, it seemed to me, from Russia, for some reason. Are Russians good at Sunday mornings?) It was a very effective way to get a lot of very directed information to the punters quickly and, as it says on the tin, interactively. Someone said it was like speed dating, without the embarrassment. I wouldn’t know …… If you are at IATEFL next year and you see the ILF advertised, go to it.

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