Myra Zepf, the Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland and PJ Lynch Laureate na nÓg, hosted a creative writing and illustration event today (Monday 16 April) at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace.
The celebration was the final event in Myra’s Head over Heels creative writing project for primary school children across Northern Ireland, in partnership with Laureate na nÓg (Ireland’s Children’s Laureate), and the final home event in PJ Lynch’s Big Picture Project and two-year tenure as Laureate na nÓg.
Myra, the first Children's Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland, based at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s and supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, selected 25 schools to take part in the Head over Heels project from hundreds of entries she received. She visited each school and held creative brainstorming sessions with the children, who then composed stories to be in with a chance of being selected for the Laureate’s Big Picture event at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace.
Talking about the creative writing project, Myra said: “The idea behind the Head over Heels project was to focus on the earliest stage of the creative process - that sparky, messy zone in which ideas are born and grow. I worked with children in tiny rural schools and sprawling urban ones, and everywhere they met the challenge with an enthusiasm and imagination that simply blew me away. Today's event celebrates that energy and my heartfelt hope that they will blossom from here as writers and lovers of stories.”
After receiving more than 600 entries, Myra selected five winning stories and invited the authors and their classes to the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, where PJ commissioned four top children’s book illustrators to join him in drawing a scene from each of the winning stories live on stage. The participating artists were Tarsila Krüse, Andrew Whitson, Margaret Anne Suggs and Peter Donnelly.
The artists illustrated the winning stories, as acclaimed children’s author and storyteller Dave Rudden narrated. The illustrations were then presented to the winning schools at the end of the live event. The winning authors each received a bundle of signed books by the participating writers and illustrators.
Speaking ahead of the event, PJ Lynch said: “I am thrilled to be partnering with Myra Zepf to bring the Head over Heels and Big Picture Project to the Heaney HomePlace. Children love to meet the people who create their favourite books. We've got some of the best illustrators in the country here today, and I'm very thankful to them.”
He added: “Live drawing is really exciting and inspiring to watch, but it’s pretty scary for the artists because just about anything can happen. Expect great story-telling, brilliant drawing and lots of fun!"
The winning authors included: Lucy Taggart from Orchard County PS, Portadown for her story 'Never Get Braces'; Órán Ó Doibhilin from Gaelscoil na gCrann, Omagh for his story 'Robaí Róbat'; Phoebe Reid from King's Park PS, Lurgan for her story 'The Scaredy Prince and the Daring Princess'; Lily Garrett from Downpatrick PS for her story 'The Magic Village'; and Jamie Braniff from St. Kevin's PS, Belfast for his story 'The Wonderful Wizzy for All', who all attended the event with their classes.
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