The Explore Stage of the TICE Programme sees students leaving their classrooms and venturing out into their chosen industry for two non-consecutive days. It also marks the point where students from the different schools on the programme meet for the first time.
For TICE Creative Writing this year, the students from Berwick Academy and George Stephenson High School started their first day together at Northern Stage with a backstage tour and Q&A with Susan Mulholland, writer, playwright and deputy director of participation.
Enter the Green Room
Susan showed us behind the scenes of the theatre, we met the lighting hands, explored the dressing rooms with their 1950s mirror lights, and relaxed in the Green Room, with its displays of posters from past productions at the theatre. Then it was into stage three for a Q&A where we learned just how vital strong written, and verbal skills are in Susan’s job, both as a writer and playwright and as the deputy director of participation at one of Newcastle key cultural venues.
A puppy and some spray paint
As our Q&A drew to an end, Sophie Hall-Luke, Programme Officer (Participation and Young People) at New Writing North arrived, armed with writing exercises for the students that were both brilliant ice-breakers and cause for hilarity.
Working in pairs, the students had to develop a dialogue on paper and without discussion that included a roll of Sellotape, a can of spray paint, 24 rolls of toilet paper – and a puppy. And then – the ultimate challenge – who was going to be brave enough to stand up and perform?
It’s a testament to Susan for making everyone feel at ease – and to Sophie for making us laugh that the whole class was happy to perform. Even poor Sarah, who seemed to get killed off in every scene…
Technology and teleportation
After a quick bite to eat we set off to our next venue, the Apple Store in Eldon Square, where John, James and Stephen worked with the students in two teams to explore visual storytelling with jump-cut video editing – teleportation, anyone? – And illustration.
It was brilliant to see the students’ come alive when surrounded by the intuitive tech of the Apple store and the encouragement of the staff.
(HUGE thanks to John Cullingworth and James McSloy and Stephen Gregory #todayatapple #intueldonsquare).
Writing careers come alive
Day two of the explore stage focused on creative and copywriting. The morning saw the students settling into university life as they took their seats in a large classroom at Northumbria University’s Lipman Building. First on the bill for the day was a Q&A panel with marketer Angela Lynch, whose career spans fashion, trend forecasting, advertising and product naming, and Sharon Thomas, who’s studying an MA in Creative Writing and is writing her first novel.
They talked about the importance of writing in their careers and how it feels to find your writing voice. The students asked lots of questions, which elicited advice from Sharon and Angela that saw lots of nodding heads and smiles: don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t write – and don’t be afraid to ask questions from people who you know will lift you up and help you move forward.
Eyes wide closed
On which note, I introduced the author and film-maker, Tony Glover. Tony is busy writing his fourth novel and started his session by talking about traditional publishing vs self-publishing, before leading the room in a writing exercise.
As he asked the class to close their eyes, a peace fell across the room and the students’ imaginations came to life as we heard Tony describe a street scene, the appearance of a stranger and then – on opening their eyes – the students had to write down who’d they’d seen in their mind’s eye. What was the person’s name? What did they look like? What were they doing there? Before long, the bare bones of a story appeared on each person’s page… And then it was time to eat before heading off to our afternoon appointment with history.
Stepping into the past
Oh, Newcastle. You do harbour some gems. At one o’clock we were able to explore a jewel in the city’s crown with a tour of The Literary and Philosophical Society by Central Station.
Guided by the wonderful Pat and Helen, were shown the oldest book in the library, the ghostly silent room, and statues of our city’s forefathers. Then the students were free to explore, to play chess and to find their way around the beautiful building which is steeped in the culture and history of the city.
And so, it’s onto the Create Stage – with the most ambitious projects I’ve tackled with TICE students to date. Watch this space.
See more photos from TICE Creative Writing Explore Stage here: