Schools with literary connections

I’ve kickstarted the Book Weeks of two Yorkshire schools recently that each have strong literary connections of their own – neither of which I had originally been aware of.

First up was a visit arranged by Book Events for Schools to Carlton Miniott Primary School. Have you ever heard of Carlton Miniott? No, neither had I. Turns out it’s a village of around 1,000 souls near Thirsk, in the old North Riding of Yorkshire.

However, when my husband happened to ask where I was going next, he immediately said ‘Carlton Miniott? That’s where J.L. Carr went to school.’ (Trust my husband to know that sort of thing!) And he went over to the bookshelves and got down a copy of A Month in the Country.

Book cover of J.L.Carr's A Month in the Country

I hadn’t read it before, I’d only seen the film version, of which I had fond memories. Made in 1987, the film starred Kenneth Branagh and Colin Firth. (Who doesn’t have fond memories of Colin Firth?!)

So as part of my preparation for my visit to Carlton Miniott Primary School, I read A Month in the Country. It’s in the Penguin Classics list, and rightly so. It’s beautifully written. Poignant and touching, it gently transports you to a very different time and place.

How inspiring for the pupils of Carlton Miniott Primary School to know that one of their forebears became a famous writer. If J.L. Carr can do it, why not them too?

Cover of J.L. Carr's A Month in the Country

Next up was Norton Community Primary School, which invited me to come and kickstart their combined ‘Book and Bug Week’.

It’s a big school, with some 600 children. My visit there was organised by Year 1 teacher Mrs Everitt. As she was leading me through the school to the place I was going to do my book signing session, she kept pointing out parts of the building that had been used when filming J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls. I assumed she meant a film that had been made decades ago, but no, it was a new BBC production filmed just a couple of years ago, starring David Thewlis, Miranda Richardson, Ken Stott!

So, to wind down from my visit to Norton Community Primary School, I watched An Inspector Calls. I’d seen it at the theatre many years ago, so the dénouement wasn’t a surprise, but I very much enjoyed the production, and spotting the locations used. (The primary-aged children may need to wait a few years before watching it, though!)

However, what I was doing at the school was age-appropriate – lots of Buzzing! minibeast activities, including two Buzzing! shows, Buzzing! poetry writing and performing workshops and Buzzing! book signings.

Here’s what Mrs Everitt told me afterwards:

‘The children have loved it – lots of staff have stopped me in the corridor to make positive comments about today – so mission accomplished, thank you.’

And here’s some feedback from a Year 5 teacher:

‘Excellent content which really enthused the children about the topic. There was good interaction with the children and they participated fully. In the classroom afterwards there was a lot of discussion about the content.’

Thank you to all the staff and pupils of both Carlton Miniott and Norton primary schools, for inviting me into their – literature-rich – schools. And to Clare Burkhill-Howarth of Book Events for Schools for organising my Carlton Miniott visit.

If you’d like me to kickstart your Book Week, get in touch with me or with Clare. (And you can find out more about my school visits here.)

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life

Terrific Technologies at St Anthony’s Primary School

It was Terrific Technologies week at St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School in Leeds last week, and I went along one afternoon to teach Year 4 how to take photos using my BigBuzz Photography Technique and my digital cameras. The children caught on fast. Very fast! Take a look at some of the terrific photos they took in their school grounds:

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It’s amazing what you can find on a cold, grey afternoon in February when you’re being observant, isn’t it?

What did the children think of the workshop? Well, more than one came up to me and said they now wanted to be a photographer when they grew up!

And what did form teacher Miss McGuire think about it all?

‘Thanks so much for the fabulous workshop. The children really loved it and I was so impressed by the quality of the photos they took!’

I was really impressed too! Congratulations to Year 4 for learning to use the terrific technology that is the digital camera so fast and so well. It’s a skill for life. Who knows where it will lead them?

If you’d like a BigBuzz photography workshop in your school, and you’re within an hour of York, then just get in touch.

And you can find out more about my photography workshops here and here .

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz

Family Fun at Ryedale Book Festival

‘Step through the magnificent gates into a magical woodland world …’ the Festival brochure said. And it wasn’t wrong.

On Sunday, children, parents, grandparents and godparents galore gathered in Malton’s ‘secret garden’, Castle Gardens, for the Ryedale Book Festival Family Fun Day themed around nature.

The day started off with artist and illustrator Matt Sewell teaching us all how to draw birds, in his Spotting and Jotting workshop:

Matt Sewell teaching us how to draw birds

Matt Sewell teaching us how to draw birds

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Then storyteller Catherine Heinemeyer and I took to the stage to perform our Flying High show all about birdsong – ably assisted by members of the audience, young and not-so-young alike.

Catherine Heinemeyer and I performing Flying High, ably assisted by an audience member. Ryedale Book Festival, October 2015

Catherine Heinemeyer and I performing Flying High, ably assisted by an audience member. Ryedale Book Festival, October 2015

And the entertainments kept coming! I had had a word with the Mayor of Malton on the previous Friday about securing us good weather for the day, and she didn’t disappoint. It was a beautiful sun-soaked Autumn day. So we were able to enjoy and explore the outdoor space with a book-cover trail, particularly fine face-painting

Face painting by Sarah Corner

Face painting by Sarah Corner of facepaintingcorner.co.uk

… freshly baked pizzas and coffee and cakes, all accompanied by exquisitely crafted book-themed songs written and performed by the fabulous Bookshop Band.

The Bookshop Band at Ryedale Book Festival

The Bookshop Band at Ryedale Book Festival

Waterstones was on hand to sell books, with a nice big space for us authors to sign and dedicate copies for our readers.

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Signing copies of Buzzing! at the Waterstones bookstall

And whilst we were roaming the Gardens, Matt Sewell was at the boundary wall creating a wonderful bird-themed mural – a flurry of Long-tailed Tits:

Matt Sewell creating his mural at Castle Gardens, Malton

Matt Sewell creating his mural at Castle Gardens, Malton

All in all a lovely, lovely day with a huge range of inspiring activities and experiences for all ages. If you missed it this year, then do put Ryedale Book Festival in your diary for next year.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the Festival brochure:
‘The Ryedale Book Festival is an inclusive, community-led, not for profit organisation run by a team of dedicated volunteers with a passion for books. If you would like to get involved, contact the Festival team: events@ryedalebookfestival.com

And … it even has its own beer!

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Thank you to all the volunteers who put so much work into creating such a friendly and well-run Festival – especially Sarah Tyson, Audrie Woodhouse, Helen Lowdell and Pinelopi Bourke. It was a great pleasure to be part of it.

Anneliese Emmans DeantheBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life

Big garden thrills

You don’t have to have a big garden to have big garden thrills. Here are two of my highlights from the past week in my 8m x 8m garden in Heslington, on the outskirts of York. Both were ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ thrills – hence the less than 110% perfect pix!

The nearest thing to a hummingbird that I'm going to see in my garden - a Hummingbird hawkmoth, 7 June 2015

The nearest thing to a hummingbird that I’m going to see in my garden – a Hummingbird hawkmoth, 7 June 2015

Baby robins being fed on my recliner, 7 June 2015

Baby robins being fed on my recliner, 8 June 2015

Keep a beady eye out for big garden thrills where you are. It’s a great time of year for them!

Anneliese Emmans Dean  – theBigBuzz.biz – Bringing poetry to life

Photographing the darling buds of May

The theme chosen by Half Acres Primary School in Castleford for my photography workshops with them on Monday was ‘Signs of Summer’. However, this message clearly hadn’t percolated through to the relevant meteorological authorities, because the weather as I travelled down to them was appalling: driving, torrential rain and thunderous grey skies.

Fortunately, by the time Year 6 were ready to go on the photography missions I assigned them late morning, the rain had eased enough for us to be outside collecting material to photograph – albeit taking the actual photos under cover.

Taking photos undercover

Taking outdoor photos under cover

And when Year 5 went out in the afternoon, the sun decided to make a (brief) appearance, which meant that the children were able to find – and photograph – some fantastic minibeasts, amongst other things.

Young Half Acres photographers

Taking outdoor photos outdoors proper

I was very impressed by all the children I worked with at Half Acres. They got the hang of my Top Secret photography technique very quickly and put it into action in their school grounds enthusiastically.

The results? Well, here are a few of the – many – great photos they took:

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Well done to you all! I think Half Acres will be able to create their ‘Signs of Summer’ photography display after all!

Thank you to everyone at Half Acres who made my visit possible. Here’s to a sunny summer for us all …

If you’d like a photography workshop for your primary school, do get in touch. I’m afraid I won’t be able to guarantee good weather for my visit to you, but your pupils will learn a skill for life in a workshop that enhances their observational, motor, teamwork, art and IT skills, increases their confidence and their curiousity and knowledge about their surroundings, and leaves you with a bank of great photos – and great budding photographers.

‘I’m going to go out tomorrow lunchtime and look for more minibeasts on the playing field.’ Year 5 pupil

‘I’m going to go to my grandma’s house tonight and take pictures of her garden. She’s got lots of flowers.’ Year 5 pupil

Anneliese Emmans Dean – www.theBigBuzz.biz

Wildlife Wonders of 2014

So, as we head towards the end of January 2015, it’s high time I looked back over the wildlife wonders of 2014 here in my little garden in Heslington, on the outskirts of York. As ever, there were plenty of wildlife surprises over the course of the year. Here, in chronological order, are some of the highlights.

In May, Tree bumblebees took to nesting in our bird nest box, for the first time ever. As if it wasn’t amazing enough to see bumblebees trooping in and out of our bird box, instead of the usual Blue tits, we then witnessed an extraordinary sight: Tree bumblebee airconditioning. Which I wrote about here:

Moving away from the buzzing of bees, do you happen to know what this sound is:

The astute amongst you may have guessed that what you were listening to was courting hedgehogs. On several nights in July we had a pair of hedgehogs wandering – warily – round and round and round each other in circles, making a noise that explains where they get the name ‘hogs’ from! This courting goes on for quite some time.

Courting Hedgehogs, 11 July 2014

Courting hedgehogs, 11 July 2014

We’ve been lucky enough to have hedgehog couples come to our garden for their amorous ‘getting to know you’ routine before, and it was great to see them back here in 2014.

I’m pleased to report that come June, for the ninth year running we had my world-first insect discovery, Berberis sawfly larvae, in our Berberis.

Newly hatched Berberis sawfly larvae, 24 June 2014

Newly hatched Berberis sawfly larvae, 24 June 2014

On the moth front, the highlight was undoubtedly the appearance of a Hummingbird Hawkmoth on our honeysuckle in late September. With the added bonus that I managed to get my camera out and the settings sorted in time to take this photo.

Hummingbird hawkmoth on our honeysuckle, 24 September 2014

Hummingbird Hawkmoth on our honeysuckle, 24 September 2014

It’s not brilliant, but it’s my best Hummingbird Hawkmoth  photo yet – and a distinct improvement on the ‘blur at a fleur’ pix of said moth that I’ve managed on the two previous occasions I’ve seen this beauty in our garden. (Yes, a grand total of 3 sightings in 18 years!)

You can find out more about the Hummingbird Hawkmoth in my Buzzing! book.

Our Memorable Amphibian Incident of 2014 happened late in the year when I found a frog in the dining room. (Tricky things to catch, leaping frogs. But I did eventually manage to escort it off the premises.)

And finally … staying indoors, I noticed a speck of dirt on our living room carpet in early November. I was making a mental note to sweep it up at some point, when it jumped. Now, I’m no physicist, but I’m pretty certain specks of dirt don’t jump.

So, out came the camera, and when I zoomed in on the photo, I saw that far from being a speck of dirt, it was in fact an insect. The same insect I had mistaken for a speck of soil outside on our patio the week before.

Yorkshire Orthoptera Recorder Dr Dave Chesmore confirmed it as a Slender groundhopper (Tetrix subulata):

“It is a species that has been really under recorded,” he said.

I’m not surprised – it’s tiny!

Slender groundhopper - just 1cm long.

Slender groundhopper – just 1cm long.

This is the first indoor record Dave has of a Slender groundhopper. Moral of the tale: don’t be too assiduous in your hoovering. It may be you are in the presence of an important biological specimen that needs recording! (And then releasing into the outdoors before you continue with your housework.)

So, that’s a brief rundown of the best of 2014. What wildlife wonders will 2015 bring to Heslington? Who knows. However, the year has started well, with a visit from a Lesser Redpoll – a bird I’ve only ever seen once or twice here before. An excellent start to my BTO Garden Birdwatch year.

Lesser Redpoll on our sunflower seeds, 16 January 2015

Lesser Redpoll on our sunflower seeds, 16 January 2015

I wish you a 2015 filled with wildlife wonders, wherever you may be. And don’t forget to let the relevant recording organisations know what you’ve seen. There’s a list of  who to tell about what at my website.

Anneliese Emmans DeantheBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life

 

 

 

 

Le Tour de France in Yorkshire

The Tour de France finished in Paris this evening. Congratulations to the winner, Vincenzo Nibali.

It may not have escaped your notice that this year’s Tour started off here in Yorkshire.

Here’s my take on our Yorkshire Grand Départ, from my vantage point in York:

It was back in 2010 that I first became gripped by the Tour de France, which that year turned into an epic battle between two riders, Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador – as you can hear in the following clip from my Rhymes of the Times 2010 show:

(For those of you who are interested, my complete Rhymes of the Times 2010 are available to read on Kindle.)

Never did it flit across the furthest recesses of my brain when I wrote that poem that just four years later, the very same Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck would be hurtling down the streets of my home town of York. Down the very streets that I used to cycle down every day on my way to school and back! But of course that’s exactly what happened here three Sundays ago.

Thank you to Gary Verity (and his team) at Welcome to Yorkshire for bringing the Grand Départ to Yorkshire. And to all the people who got Tour fever and bedecked our region accordingly. We had farmers dying their sheep yellow, green or polka dot red. We had a butcher who created a bicycle out of pork pies. (This was quickly re-christened a ‘pie-cycle’!) And my home city, York, was festooned with yellow bikes and bunting, as you can see in my video above.

Yellow bike in YorkAnneliese Emmans Dean – www.theBigBuzz.biz – Bringing poetry to life