Learning with the next generation

Our London office recently hosted a writing workshop for twenty 14-year olds from a local school.

It’s the sort of thing that’s easy to volunteer for, three months prior, when it’s still unimaginably far off. But as the day approached, I felt excited and nervous in equal measure.

Excited because here was a chance to do something useful for young people who might not have had a head start in life. To show them there is no single ‘correct’ way to write. To let them see that work can also be play. And, more selfishly, to find out what ideas spring from a young mind in 2017, when you wind it up and let it run free.

But nervous too, because I’ve never run a school lesson. Because the students might not be into it. Because we might ask too much of them. Or worse, too little. And because the last time I got anywhere near the contents of a 14 year old’s head, it was my own – and that one was mostly full of Liam Gallagher, Romario, and Jet from ITV’s Gladiators.

We were running the session in partnership with The Student View, a charity working to ensure all young people become creative, confident writers. The kids had already been given writing training by professional journalists, and we wanted to give them something a little different. Something that focused less on the noble art of efficient, accurate reportage, and more on the unbridled, free-gunning fun you can have when you lark about with words.

We had the kids complete three task exploring the voice of famous characters, which led on to a team exercise. We asked them to invent a brand, give it a personality, and prepare a range of comms – a name, tagline, billboard ad, and of course a hashtag – to introduce it to the world. 

Without any prompting, all the students took a socially-minded angle. From a brain-training games console, to the flexible footwear (“Fitzu, the shoe that fits you”) that grows with their owner, thereby reducing waste. It was also great to see them divvy up duties and present their ideas to the group with passion and theatre. 

And the cherry on the cake? An appearance from our Chief Storytelling Officer, Mohsin Hamid. It’s not every day you get to ask a twice Booker-shortlisted novelist how he felt about translating work to the Hollywood screen.

The day left the students “talking about businesses they could actually create themselves and feeling that anything is possible.”  

It left me feeling the future might be in good hands. The kids are alright.


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