Treloar College poetry workshops
Perhaps the most ambitious of 2016's community projects has been the series of workshops for the physically disabled students and young people at Treloar School near Alton, Hampshire. This pioneering school and college was established in 1908 by Sir William Purdie Treloar, Lord Mayor of the City of London, and used to be known as Lord Mayor Treloar College. Catering for students aged from 2-25, Treloar’s is one of the country's leading providers of education, care, therapy, medical support and independence training for disabled young people, preparing them for the challenges of independent living and personal development, learning skills for life and gaining qualifications or employment.
Many of the students have complex needs, such as no audible speech, are reliant on augmentative communication aids, have little or no hand-function, most are dependent on powered wheelchairs and some have degenerative conditions.
The school and college naturally includes poetry as part of its English syllabus but the festival felt there was a role for poetry in stretching the students’ writing skills and appreciation through working alongside an experienced creative writing tutor. In partnership with Jenny Judge, the school’s Post-16 Co-ordinator, the prize-winning poet Hannah Lowe was identified as a writer superbly equipped to rise to the challenge. She is the author of Chick (published by Bloodaxe 2013) and Chan (published in June 2016 by Bloodaxe), and her family memoir Long Time, No See (Periscope 2015) was a Radio 4 Book of the Week.
Hannah devised a programme of five workshops over the spring and summer of 2016, following an intensive induction day to meet the students and get to grips with the ethos and nature of the college. The group of thirteen students became fully engaged and extremely inspired throughout the workshops, Hannah supporting and encouraging their ideas, stimulating their writing skills and making poetry fun.
The programme culminated in an afternoon’s magnificent presentation by the group, of the many poems and illustrations they had produced, to other students, staff and visitors. It was an occasion which fully demonstrated the potency of poetry to release people from their surroundings and circumstances. Winchester Poetry Festival is proud to have made a small contribution to the students’ wellbeing and is exploring options to develop the relationship with the outstanding school and college that is Treloar.