Tag Archives: John Agard

When something or someone strikes a chord with you and you can feel “proud” + Black History Month.

In today’s blog post I have jumped forward to thinking about today – 2015. I have been reflecting on the various interesting events during Black History Month and wondered what to write.

I know that some people think Black History Month is a bit artificial and it would be better if we could celebrate achievements of black people all the year round. However, I think many of the events planned will be informative, inspirational and enjoyable for all. A specific month ensures that talented black people can be celebrated at least once a year – clearly not enough but better than not at all.

When we were bringing up our boys we tried to expose them to all kinds of literature and artistic events. When they were very young we were delighted to find “Mother Goose Comes to Cable Street”. It was a book of Nursery Rhymes chosen by Rosemary Stones and Andrew Mann and illustrated by Dan Jones. It featured children with a variety of skin tones – something quite rare in those days.

Mother Goose Cable St.



Tommy T
















We also read to our boys poems by John Agard and James Berry.   We felt that they would be interested in the fact that they are black poets. I think they were, although as black British boys they were not familiar with patois, or settings that were 100% Caribbean.

I was certainly impressed when Sam’s school invited Benjamin Zephaniah to talk to the students. He was already a big star and a great success with the teenagers and staff.

Wicked World

Jah’s favourite book for many years was about Black Footballers. Fair enough! Football is one of his great interests.

Black Footballers

I was interested today when the grown-up Jah sounded so pleased that the Jamaican writer Marlon James has won the Man Booker Prize. Something evidently struck a chord with him.

Marlon James     (from Wikipedia)      Novelist

Marlon James is a Jamaican novelist. He has published three novels: The Book of Night Women, John Crow’s Devil and A Brief History of Seven Killings, winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

 Jamaican author Marlon James has won the Man Booker Prize for his novel inspired by the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the 1970s.

Michael Wood, chair of the judges, described A Brief History of Seven Killings as the “most exciting” book on the shortlist.

The 680-page epic was “full of surprises” as well as being “very violent” and “full of swearing”.

James was announced as the winner of the £50,000 prize in London on Tuesday.

He is the first Jamaican author to win the Man Booker Prize. Receiving the award, he said a huge part of the novel had been inspired by reggae music.

Even if they don’t read the book “A Brief History of Seven Killings” by Marlon James, I imagine that many people will feel “proud” that a Jamaican writer has won such a prestigious prize.


Jah’s school celebrates 100 years. The importance of drama and the Arts in education.

 One of the biggest excitements I can recall about Jah’s Primary school days was the celebration of 100 years of the school. There were many Centenary events.

The children were very well prepared. They were introduced to elderly past-pupils and enjoyed asking them questions. Sometimes Jah came home open-eyed, with tales of how strict things were in long-ago days. He was shocked to hear about use of the cane especially.

In the attached picture, we can see how drama was used to great effect. The children were all dressed up as they would have been 100 years ago. This dressing up certainly dramatised the whole event. When we look at the photo, however we cannot sense how worried the children were, in case their teacher actually tried to use the cane.

100 year old school(Jah is the child wearing spectacles.)

The fact that this re-enactment stays so vividly in my mind, reminds me all over again of the importance of Arts in educating children. When the children were dressed up in their clothes of yesteryear, that impressed them, but to see their own class teacher transformed into a strict looking teacher of long ago, impressed them even more. (She had not told them that she would also be dressing up!)

To continue thinking about the benefit of the Arts, some well-arranged school trips introduce children to experiences that they might never otherwise have experienced. I know that some children today are incredibly privileged, but many are not. School days and shared experiences are so important for all children.

Other Arts-related things that I remember that enriched our children’s school days are:

  • Drama groups visiting the school.
  • Learning from watching a film company make a film of Anna’s choir and school orchestra (even though she was brimming over with indignation that they mostly filmed one boy to the exclusion of the rest of the class). . .
  • An uproariously exciting visit by a Caribbean poet – I think it was John Agard. I do know that the children walked back to the school in a high state of delight and high spirits!

John Agard's poems




  • An outing to a children’s theatre production
  • An outing to the National Gallery
  • A visit by the poet Benjamin Zephaniah to Sam’s Secondary school.

Wicked World

When Anna grew up and became a Primary school teacher, she took the children from her Tower Hamlets school into a local churchyard. Many of the children had never really looked at wild flowers before and they really enjoyed learning the names and looking at the shapes of all the different flowers. It was a learning experience for them to discover beauty all around them.

In her role as a dance educator, Lucy did a dance project in Southampton and was surprised to learn that some of the children had not even seen the sea, so she organised a trip to the sea before proceeding with the project.

Sam has grown up to be a social worker and he told me how effective a drama workshop had been for him on a training day. The actor who was acting as a client, shot up from the hospital bed and challenged something Sam said. Sam found that dramatic intervention extremely helpful.  It was something he would always remember.

Long live drama and  the Arts!