A group of children living in Toothill will be writing their views of their community in verse in the early part of the year, thanks to support from Toothill’s Big Local £1 million lottery fund steering committee.
The project will see children from each of six schools, Toothill, Oliver Tomkins, and Westlea primary schools, as well as Lydiard Park Academy, The Ridgeway School, and Bradon Forest, coming together in workshops to contribute lines of poetry that describe where they live, convey their feelings, and give a sense of what they do every day.
Pictured, Toothill million steering committee members Helen Huby and Jason Byfield with Artsword workers
Hilda Sheehan and Matt Holland. Pictured below, images from Toothill taken by swindonlink.com to illustrate the 1968 Long Poem: lollipop ladies outside Toothill Primary School and young poets Natalie Hughes and Jenna Skal at The Watchers sculpture in Toothill Village Centre
Working with Swindon poet Hilda Sheehan, the children will also be asked to draw upon ideas contributed by their classmates. The aim is to have the work ready to be published and performed during the Swindon Festival of Literature in early May.
The possibility of putting the poem to music and making a video involving teenagers is being investigated by steering committee members.
The Toothill project replicates the WestWords Long Poem in 1998 when children from most of West Swindon’s primary schools and Greendown created a 760 line poem describing the area in magical and sometimes surreal terms.
It featured in the May 1998 Link magazine and was performed by the young poets at the Swindon Festival of Literature but was not published. Now it can be read in full with pictures at www.swindonlink.com
Toothill Primary School headteacher Martyn Cowell welcomed the Big Local steering committee initiative: “I was involved with Westwords in 1998 and children came up with fantastic poetic descriptions. I think the Toothill Long Poem has the same potential to bring out lots of fascinating ideas. From it could come many more initiatives to involve people across the community in years to come.”
The 2012 project is being coordinated by Swindon Artswords which works to organise, encourage, support and run creative, entertaining, and educational word-based activities in the town through reading groups, a writers’ cafe, and mentoring of individuals.
Swindon Artswords literature development worker Matt Holland said: “This is a great project, full of western promise. Hilda Sheehan is bursting with ideas to give children a terrific and creative writing experience. Together, they will produce a fabulous picture in words and poetic form of life today in West Swindon. “
Hilda added: “I’m very happy to be involved with such an inspiring project involving young people and, I hope, older residents of Toothill. I’m keen to create a memorable and worthwhile experience for all involved.”
• Toothill has been selected to receive £1 million for community development projects over the next ten years. Ideas for the future are being coordinated by a steering group of representatives from local groups and individuals living in the area.