Creative Writing at Southside House with Ursuline High School

Partner: Ursuline High School Wimbledon, Wimbledon, London
Partner type: Maintained School
Project category: Academic

Since September 2014, Ben Bransfield, who teaches English at King’s College School, has run a cross-sector creative writing project for secondary pupils in the atmospheric setting of Southside House, a Grade II seventeenth-century house in Wimbledon. A group of sixteen Year 10-12 pupils from Ursuline High School and King’s meet at the house every Friday afternoon to develop their creative writing skills through discussions, group exercises and individual projects. Southside House, with its astonishing collection of paintings and other artefacts, provides the stimulus for the activities. Last year’s group produced a remarkable anthology of poetry entitled ‘Keep Destruction Out’, with an introduction by the chief executive of Faber & Faber, which is on sale at the house. Proceeds from the sale of the anthology contribute to the upkeep of the historic building, which is preserved and maintained by the Pennington Mellor Munthe Charity Trust. There is also a poetry reading to which the pupils’ parents are invited. The project is unusual in that it does not involve mentoring; rather it is a collaborative project between pupils of a similar age.

This year’s project began in September 2015, and is building on the success of the first. A design element has been added, attracting pupils studying Art GCSE and A-Level, as this year the pupils will be designing and printing elements of the anthology they produce, using an antique printing press recently acquired for King’s by its PTA, the Friends.


 

 

 

 

Aims of the project

The aims of the project are to enhance the creative writing abilities of Year 10-12 pupils and to increase the awareness of literary features and techniques in pupils studying English Literature. The project encourages communication skills and breaks down cultural barriers between pupils at schools in different sectors. It is also in harmony with the policy of the trustees of Southside House to open the doors of the historic building to a more diverse range of visitors. Since 2015 the project has also included a design element, designed to enhance the learning of pupils studying Art A Level.

The immediate beneficiaries are the pupils themselves, but their parents and others are able to share in their success by attending the poetry reading and reading the anthology. Critical factors for success have been inspirational tutoring, the use of an historic building and liaison between the King’s and Ursuline. The latter has been facilitated by the trust which had built up between the two schools since the creation of the Wimbledon ISSP.

Background and goals

The project developed out of discussions between Ben Bransfield and the trustees of Southside House. The involvement of pupils from the Ursuline sixth form was made possible following discussions between the SMT at Ursuline and the Head of English.

Resources

The availability of an English teacher and an art teacher to supervise both aspects of the project, mainly on Friday afternoons.

Collaboration between the English and Art departments in the two schools.

The availability of sixth form pupils from both schools on Friday afternoons.

The financial contribution is mainly invisible, e.g. staff salaries etc.

Impact

As the project is creative, the principal measure of its success is the quality of the anthology produced. The first anthology impressed the chief executive at Faber so much that he agreed to write the introduction. In 2015, four students from the project were prestigiously named ‘Foyle Young Poets’ by the Poetry Society, following the selection of their work from a pool of over 13,000 international entries.

The project is also designed to strengthen applications to read English and Art at Russell Group universities. As last year’s cohort was predominantly in Year 12 evidence of this should become available later this year.

Pupil involvement

About 16 pupils each year, half from King’s and half from Ursuline. Mixed.

Frequency and duration

Ongoing; every Friday; every year.