Bolton School Senior Girls

Poetry Workshops With Mandy Coe

Poet Mandy Coe visited the Girls’ Division to work with pupils on their creative writing skills. Mandy writes for both children and adults, and has had a number of poetry collections published. She is a Hawthornden Fellow, has won a number of prizes including the Ilkley and Ted Waters Memorial Prize, and has been featured on BBC radio and television.

Mandy ran two workshops in the afternoon with girls in Years 8 and 9. She began with a number of poetry readings, some of which were taken from her most recently published collection for children, ‘If You Could See Laughter’. This was followed in each session by a brief round of questions from the pupils, and the girls were really eager to ask about the poems they had just heard, as well as about writing poetry and the creative process, and about getting published more generally. Mandy was able to give some really great advice to girls who are hoping to one day submit their work to publishers. She also talked about the source of her ideas and inspiration before getting the girls to do some writing of their own.

She asked the girls to step out of their own shoes and become something else. In the course of the readings, Mandy had shared a couple of her own poems where she took on the persona of something outside of herself: ‘Blue’ where she became the colour, and ‘The Gift’ where she became the wind. She also showed the girls ‘Oxygen’ by Roger McGough as further inspiration. She then gave pupils a list and asked them to pick something from it to ‘become’ in their poems.

The girls were given a very short time frame to work on their poetry. Mandy encouraged them to be bold and dramatic, and also to be different to everyone else. This was a fantastic opportunity for the girls to stretch their creative skills and work with the idea of voice and character in a new and interesting way. Mandy’s workshop also asked them to think carefully about specific instances and to consider their own unique ways to relate concepts such as light, darkness, and silence.

At the end of the School day, Mandy met with the Creative Writing Group for another workshop with older pupils. She led them through creating a new piece of poetry based on a ‘recipe for an accident’. She also helped the girls to look at their writing habits and encouraged them to explore less abstract ways of writing by finding a tangible way to relate meaning to their readers. Mandy was able to talk to the pupils about the work they came up with in the session, making this an enjoyable and valuable experience.

All of the pupils had a lot of fun talking to and hearing from Mandy and exploring the creative ideas that she brought out in her workshops.

Mandy with some of the Year 9 girls who enjoyed the workshop

Mandy with some of the Year 9 girls who enjoyed the workshop

Reading from her poetry collection 'If You Could See Laughter'

Reading from her poetry collection ‘If You Could See Laughter’

Some members of the Creative Writing Group working with Mandy

Some members of the Creative Writing Group working with Mandy