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Spectacular Storytelling at Primary Parliament!

With the opening of the Nottingham Central Library set to open this year, we are celebrating with the Year of Stories! This Summer term Primary Parliament took inspiration from this, and had a grand theme of Storytelling. It took place at the City Council House, and was a wonderful day for all involved.

Many different companies were included in this edition of Primary Parliament, including Ignite!, Lakeside Arts, ChalleNGe, Read on Nottingham (part of the National Literacy Trust), Nottingham City Council, the University of Nottingham, including students. This term, funding from Capital One and University of Nottingham's Institute for Policy & Engagement made it happen. With the theme of storytelling, we also had guests: Darren Simpson, a local author, and Jay Sandhu, a local poet and comedian. Both ran workshops alongside Jon Rea from Nottingham City Council, and set the pupils up for a fantastic day of creative inspiration. These workshops focused on different parts of storytelling, which all came together at the end for their final presentations. The Storytelling theme was strong as pupils were encouraged to be as creative as they could, that there were no wrong answers and to not be afraid to share their ideas. By the end of the day, it was clear that many were confident in sharing their ideas and stories to everyone involved. We had 27 schools in total be a part of this Primary Parliament, with 120 children taking part.

This took place the first week of my placement with Ignite! I am on an internship with Ignite through the University of Nottingham, and this was my first ever Primary Parliament. I had already expected brilliant things, but was amazed to see the unimaginably creative minds of all the pupils involved. I heard so many fantastic stories and admired how their minds thought of such complex stories so quickly.

The first workshop was delivered by Darren Simpson, and focused on Worldbuilding. He told everyone how he was inspired by his first book, “Scavengers”, by going to a recycling centre, creating the world for this story. It showed the pupils that they could be inspired by anything, and make stories about anything they wanted to. With this in mind, they were set a task to identify some key Nottingham landmarks. Pupils shared ideas from Nottingham Castle all the way to Wollaton Park or even the Victoria Shopping Centre. They also were asked to think about the future of Nottingham, and what this looked like for them. With their imaginations running, Darren asked them to make a story about Nottingham, linked with the second theme: acts of kindness. We heard many wonderful stories as pupils all shared. The group I worked with created a story about a tyrant King who had a gem, which was hidden in the caves of Nottingham after his death. This gem created a robot army, and years later was found by a group of criminals who used it to overtake Nottingham. Shelters were built in the caves for protection, and they all worked together to overcome these criminals and put the gem back where it belonged. This act of kindness saved the city, and it was great to work with such creative minds that came up with this entire plot. This workshop enabled pupils to begin thinking about the initial creation of stories and how to channel their creativity so it is not limited, but functions in a story which is incredibly imaginative.

Jay Sandhu ran the workshop relating to poetry, beginning with a word association game to get their imaginations running. Pupils were trying to think of the most obscure words, and came up with some such as gravity, catastrophe and many more. They then began with a rough outline of a story, coming up with ideas for characters, locations, incidents, solutions, and what time period it was going to be. After these had been thought of, the pupils then transformed these ideas into poetry. Jay talked them through the many different types of poetry, some which they knew and some which they did not. They were given the choice to do whatever poem they desired, whether it was free writing, had a rhyming pattern, acrostic, and more. At the end, they had the opportunity to share their poems with their peers, and many were joyful at the chance to create these and showcase them.

Jon Rea’s workshop differed from both of these as pupils were taken to the inside of the council house to see how inanimate objects could tell stories or spark imagination. They looked at the paintings, ornate gifts to the city on display in the Council house, thinking about what their stories might be. Rather than coming up with entirely their own story, pupils invented stories based on the objects they were seeing. The painting inspired the pupils to think about what the different characters might be thinking, a dinner menu from 1909 inspired ideas about what conversations might have been had and rowing trophies inspired stories about success and achievement. It was amazing to see such inventive minds at work, and how they built an entire story from something otherwise small and unusual.

At the end of the day, each school was paired with another and were asked to create a story which they would present to the rest of Primary Parliament. The skills developed in the morning workshops were put to use, with some pupils focusing on character and plot, others thinking about how they could communicate the world in which their story was set and others creating poems to perform. The creativity was off the charts as they were given costumes from the Lakeside prop cupboard and support from all the volunteers to bring their stories to life. The stories, performed on the stage, varied from curses on the land being solved, poems about Nottingham and why acceptance is so important despite being different, and why littering is not good for the environment or the community. Every performance was well thought out and rehearsed, and it was astonishing to see the pupils grow in confidence to deliver their ideas and stories. Some gave performances of poems which was incredible to see; how they combined acting and poetry to create some truly special stories. On Tuesday, they performed these to the Lord Mayor, Councillor Carole McCulloch, and on Wednesday, to the Sheriff of Nottingham, Councillor Shuguftah Quddoos. They both gave feedback on each story, and admired the creativity and work the pupils had put into these performances, which were amazing to see.

On Thursday, another Primary Parliament was held online for Woodlands Academy and Oak Field School. They both created their own imaginative stories and presented them to the team and their Primary Parliamentarian peers. They relished the opportunity to unleash their unlimited creativity and create stories relating to their own interests. It was a lovely environment and was so exceptional to see such inventive stories come to life. It was also wonderful to see these schools being given the chance to get involved with this programme in a situation that works best for them, so to adapt and make it online was wonderful to be a part of. These performances were watched by Councillor Samina Riaz, who loved the stories and was proud of their creative minds to make these stories.


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