The Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen, describes his hectic schedule and reports on progress with his Laureateship ideas.
Since I wrote last, I’ve visited schools and festivals and done performances in Chingford (London), Chesterfield, the Italian Institute in London, Guildford, Belfast, Sheffield, Bedford, Croydon, Kings Lynn, the Tricycle and Soho Theatres and Bookmarks Bookshop in London, and a Stop the War benefit in Hackney. I’ve done three days of poetry workshops as part of the ‘Can I Have A Word’ project at the Barbican, given the Patrick Hardy Lecture for the Children’s Book Circle (to be published in the School Librarian and on www.michaelrosen.co.uk , chaired the Arts Council conference on the ‘Cultural Hubs’ project, taken part in a discussion about children’s literature organised by PEN, helped judge the Poetry Book Society’s Children’s Poetry Competition and presented the award for the Best TV writer for children’s programmes at this year’s Children’s BAFTA ceremony.
We’ve been pushing on with my eight Laureateship ideas but some of them have run into difficulties. There will definitely be an exhibition at the British Library on the history of Children’s Poetry and I’m working with Morag Styles on that. We’re working on the idea that there’ll be a conference and performances running alongside the exhibition – scheduled date: first part of 2009. The Patrick Hardy Lecture was very much in support of Booktrust’s ‘Big Picture’ Campaign and we definitely have progress on putting together some kind of ‘Funny Prize’ for the funniest children’s book of the year. The interactive webpage for teachers to talk to each other about poetry-friendly classrooms is proceeding apace. I’m hoping that that’ll be up and running before the end of 2008. The other projects are proving to be a bit harder to get going. I’m also hoping that off the back of the Patrick Hardy Lecture we can get together a bank of ideas on how schools can help create book-loving environments. My argument in the lecture was that the Government seem particularly keen and thorough to stipulate exactly what should go on in Key Stage 1 classrooms in terms of what they think is the best method to teach reading – Synthetic Phonics – but do not seem equally keen and thorough to stipulate a series of specific ways of encouraging the circulation and reading of ‘real’ books. Why not?
I’ve carried on doing my Radio work which has meant finishing the series on the past, present and future of European languages for Radio 3 (‘Lingua Franca’), presenting ‘Word of Mouth’ for Radio 4, including a fun programme about children’s playground songs and rhymes with Dan Jones and a special on the languages crisis in Belgium. Also coming up is a programme about the 200th anniversary of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ featuring, amongst others, Brian Alderson, and another on humour under totalitarianism.
As you can see, no day is the same as the next, so my days end with me looking in my diary to see what I’ve got to do tomorrow. And, yes, I have once had the nightmare experience of not opening the diary till the morning only to realise that I should not have been sitting reading my diary. I should have been standing in front of 200 children doing ‘Chocolate Cake’! A flurry of phone calls and some pathetic grovelling managed to shift the booking to two days later. By the time I arrived, I was forgiven. Two pleas: may I not be so inefficient again. If I am, may the victims be as gracious as the teachers at St Mary’s, Chingford.