Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


“He fills the air with tiny, gleaming, anthracite hooks. I wait for the word-hooks to snag the membrane of my being.”

And the tiny word-hooks catch and anchor themselves and their meaning is immediate, like a flash of white light.  I am surprised to find them easy to absorb.  But how to pass on the message?

The English language is fond of neat little partitive nouns which wrap up the key word comfortably, sometimes to lighten the impact or importance of something; it’s a demonstration of the power of words through subtlety, shades and light.  Expressions like ‘a touch of ‘flu’, ‘a spot of lunch’, ‘a shred of comfort’, ‘a sprinkle of snow ‘,‘a stroke of luck’ and ‘a lick of paint’ are common enough – all ways of giving quantity to uncountable nouns while implying small quantities. (You’d never know that I taught English, would you?)

For today’s message, then, I am all in favour of attempting a little comfort wrapping.  ‘A touch of cancer’. Or perhaps ‘a sprinkle of cancer.’ Do they make it sound any better? Am I comforted?  Are you?


Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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 ……………..

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.


Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »