Students Take a Flight of Imagination with LLF Help

Children with owl bird puppet
Category: Live Literature

The Watson Bird Project in Dumfries and Galloway seeks to celebrate birds through community projects in the arts and in sciences. We work with local primary and secondary schools throughout the year to provide a programme of bird-related events for the community and visitors to St John’s Town of Dalry.  The project was developed to celebrate the life and work of bird researcher, artist and Dalray native Donald Watson. Each year we have an annual bird festival where our outreach programme aims to cross boundaries between the arts and sciences.

Our 2012 festival used Live Literature Funding to bring storyteller Anne Errington into primary schools to bring stories of birds in mythology to life. Her visit coincided with singing workshops from musician Jo Millar. Pupils spent the morning learning some new songs about birds, then at lunchtime a mysterious owl found his way into the playground to fly around until (being a very curious owl) he landed in the school library, where he stayed to listen with pupils to Anne’s stories. Over the weekend other events about birds took place in Dalry, including a science seminar on Hen Harriers, an exhibition of 15 contemporary bird artists, children’s art activities, a bird walk and bird ringing demonstration

Anne with schoolchildren
and a musical performance about birds.

The second phase of our programme involved bringing writer Kenneth Stevens to Dalry for a writing workshop. Kenneth visited the schools in November to read from his books and offer writing skills workshops. His ability to reach out and connect with different ages of children was magical to watch and he chose a selection of autumnal and bird-related poems and was then bombarded by questions from the pupils about his creative process. His workshop coincides with outreach in traditional music with Wendy Stewart and Ruth Morris in the school, which was separately funded by the Youth Music Initiative. At the end of the week Wendy and Kenneth teamed up to provide a "Harpoetry" musical evening for the whole community, during which Kenneth’s readings were entwined with Wendy’s beautiful and mystical harp soundscapes and songs. It was a magical performance, with some of the children from

Live Literature author with pupils
the outreach sessions joining us in the audience. The performance was rounded off with homemade gingercake and tea and an informal chat with the writer and musician.

The aim of our involvement with LLF was to ensure that we include literary arts in our programme of events and ensure the school is continually engaged and involved in the Bird Project though many different programmes. The children of this community should end up with increased knowledge and awareness of birds in many different art forms and in science and conservation. We hope that we can continue this process working with the Scottish Book Trust again in the future.

Sarah Keast

Sarah is the Watson Bird Project officer who works with the umbrella organisation “The Glenkens Community and Arts Trust” (GCAT). The Watson Bird Project is a two-year initiative to focus economic and community regeneration on the isolated rural community of St John's Town of Dalry by celebrating the life and work of local resident Donald Watson, renowned ornithologist and artist.