Pupil-led literary festival shortlisted for national award

September 14, 2015

A unique pupil-led celebration of literature has been shortlisted for a national award.

The annual Monmouth Literary Festival, which took over the town’s venues for the second time this summer, is up for Best Independent-Maintained School Collaboration in the TES’ Independent School Awards 2015.

Organised by a committee of teenagers from Monmouth School, Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls and Monmouth Comprehensive, the week-long festival was headlined by British Poet Laureate, Dame Carol Ann Duffy.

Pupils also arranged for poet and author Owen Sheers to appear, along with many other top names in the literary world.

Amanda Poyner, Assistant Head (Sixth Form) at HMSG, entered the event into the awards.

She wrote: “The festival’s aims were to share the talent and diversity of young people within our community, to enhance their learning outcomes and to encourage reading and a love of literature.

“The students planned a week-long series of events which took place in June 2014 and, by including events for local primary schools, reached out to more than 1,000 students from 10 schools.”

Following on from its successful premier, Monmouth Literary Festival 2015 ‘Beyond the Book’ was an even bigger event, which students hoped would appeal to members of the public as well as fellow pupils.

In her entry, Mrs Poyner continued: “The idea for the festival came from the students themselves.

“Through our Joint Schools’ Council, student representatives put forward the idea of a joint literary festival which they thought could be run along the lines of a mini Hay Festival.

“We already ran other joint events and the students wanted to broaden their remit and develop a festival which would enhance the learning of all our students.

“The students wanted to encourage a love of reading and an understanding of its benefits, whilst fostering links between the schools and friendships between our young people.”

Pupils on the festival committee met regularly to plan the events put on throughout the week.

“Weekly planning meetings were essential and the students’ passion and determination led to sponsorship being secured,” Mrs Poyner added.

“The pupils’ enthusiasm when contacting authors and the unique appeal of a student-organised literary festival soon led to a final programme of exciting and diverse events.

“Students worked on the organising, planning, marketing and logistics of the festival.

“Student volunteers resplendent in the festival t-shirts ensured the smooth running of the festival and gained invaluable work experience.”

Following the inaugural festival, book loans at the schools went up by 55% compared to the same period the year before.

Mrs Poyner wrote that the biggest lesson learnt from organising the event is that “our young people in Monmouth from all the schools have boundless enthusiasm and creativity.

“Their ambition is to make the Monmouth Literary Festival an annual event and they are not short of ideas of how they could continue to develop it as a shared activity between schools.” Award winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel on November 27.

Click here for the full shortlist