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  1. Inspiration from our audience
    There are times when we all lose inspiration. It can lead to disaffection in our lives, professionally, personally emotionally or creatively. I've been struggling recently with ideas for a new book. The planning is coming together, but slowly. Very slowly. Maybe that's how it should be - how it HAS to be - but as many writers/actors/musicians know it's so easy for that disaffection to take hold at such a stage of the creative process.

    To help us get over that stage we all need a quick injection of inspiration from somewhere, or someone.

    Occasionally it comes in the form of being gently reminded of why we are doing what we do, of what we are striving to create something for. And so, a lot of the time we can get that inspiration from our audience. An email from ASSITEJ about a forthcoming festival led me to this short video which I had somehow missed during the recent World Day of Theatre for Children. It's worth a couple of minutes of anyone's time, and might leave you feeling a bit better about the world. (If you work with children in any capacity, it might just bring a tear to your eye too.) It certainly came as a timely reminder of just how important, and how fulfilling, my field of work can be. It's also the kind of inspiration I need to get over the disaffection and get on with the work.

    Who couldn't feel a little bit inspired by the children's faces, their smiles and simple eloquence as they describe what theatre means to them?

    If you watch to the end, the final quote bears thinking about. 'Take a child to the theatre so they can see, hear, feel and think.' Theatre and the arts in general have a tremendous capacity to help us do all these things. They affect the whole person: professionally, personally, mentally, emotionally, creatively, spiritually.

    Note that the video takes place during a break - not as part of a lesson. The children are doing this for fun, and that is key. They are learning and communicating through play. That sense of play is as valid and vital a part of education as any other. And it might be more effective than most, particularly within the primary school age range. 

    It also struck me that some of the references to characters and stories that the Russian children mention in the video would not be known by many British children of a similar age. Of course, cultures change and develop along different lines in different places around the world, and you could argue that some 'classics' are now dated or irrelevant to a modern child's experience.  Even so, education needs to protect that sense of play, of fun and enjoyment, so children are able to discover  a wider range of stories and cultural experiences; so they can develop a variety of ways of seeing, hearing, feeling and thinking.

    We can't achieve this through an academic approach alone. Young people in turn need inspiration to get over their own disaffection and boredom. Theatre, literature and music remain some of the best ways to deliver it to them. If we can inspire them, they will continue to inspire us.

    Find out more about the vital work of ASSITEJ here:

  2. I am very pleased and excited to be appearing near Nottingham at the Lowdham Book Festival on Thursday 28th June and at the Manchester Children's Book Festival on Saturday 30th June. If you are nearby on either of these dates, do come along and say hello, listen to some stories, and chat to me about my books. I would be delighted to meet you. There is a lot going on at each festival as you can tell from the web pages below.
    I will also be reading an extract from my new book at the Hubbub event by New Writing South in the Berry Theatre at Hedge End on July 9th. At the moment I'm more nervous than excited by that one!