Thursday, 2 July 2015

Phillip Pullman draws a crowd at Bookfeast

Philip Pullman was one of 23 authors to talk at the Bookfeast Festival, jointly hosted for the fifth year by the Pitt Rivers, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and The Ashmolean.  Over 1,968 children from 27 Oxfordshire primary schools participated in these author events, focussing on the festival theme of 'Once Upon a Place - Places, Spaces and Setting in Children's Stories'.

Philip Pullman signing books at Bookfeast © Pitt Rivers Museum

Top tips were given by Pullman to an audience of 300 pupils as to how to create a compelling setting. He explained how you have to help the reader see something in their mind's eye and how you can use details to make things stand out. When an illustrator came and made sketches in the Pitt Rivers Museum for his Dark Materials trilogy details picked up on were the roof brackets and joists. He encouraged pupils to understand how authors have to suggest things with words - if you read something how do you know where you are? - is it indoors? - what light is there? - is it a small or big room?

 Pullman talks about Pitt Rivers as an inspirational setting © Pitt Rivers Museum

Pupils were then given the opportunity to develop their own sensational settings in creative writing trails around the Museums, led by OUMC Education Officers. Key Stage 2 pupils explored a range of genres as they transformed the Museums into settings for a fantasy, action adventure, and spooky story. These ideas could be developed into a story setting for an opening paragraph and entered into the Bookfeast competition. Key Stage 1 pupils created picture book pages of adventures in a range of settings from underwater to the jungle.

A fantastic line-up of authors explained how they got inspiration for both their settings and characters.  Matt Brown, author of Compton Valance: The Most Powerful Boy in the Universe, explained how village names on road signs and maps give him inspiration for character names. Elen Caldecott, creator of The Marsh Road Mysteries: Diamonds and Daggers, explained how a specific London street well known to her inspired her setting and story.

Gary Northfield introduces Julius Zebra © Pitt Rivers Museum

Illustrators also gave tips on how to create evocative settings and characters.  Gary Northfield got pupils recreating Julius Zebra from the world of the Roman Colosseum.  Meanwhile Carnegie Winner Tanya Landman enchanted younger pupils with her Jetsam and Flotsam dolls.

Jetsam and Flotsam come to the Pitt Rivers! © Pitt Rivers Museum

Thank you to everyone who helped make this such a fantastic festival  - it was a great partnership project between the charity Bookfeast, authors and Museum staff as to how central places, spaces and settings are to successful creative writing.  Now watch out for the winning entries of the Bookfeast competition!

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