The Big Ship Sailed

The big ship sails through the alley-alley-o
On the last day of September

This is a playground song from my childhood and it came to mind this week as we approach the end of September. I remember a life changing event which happened on the last day of September a decade ago.

This was the day that a programme which had transformed many peoples lives and made a difference to creative learning across the country, closed.

Creative Partnerships was the UK government’s flagship creative learning programme and its aim was to develop young people’s creativity through artists’ engagement with schools across England.

My own life was transformed by this programme. As Creative Director, I was able to develop my understanding of creative learning and share a vision for creativity with schools in my region. I also learned about the reality of working in schools day to day and the value of creative learning for both staff and pupils.

Creativity is:

So when the programme folded, I had choice; I could try to find another job in arts management or I could become the creative practitioner I had always wanted to be.

I had written stories and poems since I was a child, but I never considered myself to be a writer. So I went away for a year and became an author by writing and publishing my first novel. I then realised that I had a lot to learn about the publishing industry and the economics of being the author of one book.

I began to apply the creativity lessons which I had learned through Creative Partnerships to my writing and to share those practices with others through workshops. I published more novels and taught more courses for adult writers. The two activities are symbiotic; I needed to be an author in order to have credibility as a tutor; and being a tutor made me reflect on my own practice.

I was invited by my local council to work in schools in my area on a programme which would support children to better understand different cultures. Some of those schools were former Creative Partnership Schools and I was apprehensive. I had worked in those schools in a very different capacity and never in front of a class of children. I needn’t have been anxious. I applied Creative Partnerships values to the work I was delivering and guess what? It still works and I wrote a book about How to be An Author in the Classroom.

I took the learning from this and during lockdown, applied for Arts Council Funding to develop a creative writing programme which would support literacy in KS2 by:

And the rationale behind the project was that:
Creativity can provide an anchor for children’s wellbeing in a world which is sometimes chaotic and often baffling. Children from the poorest backgrounds make two years less progress in school than their peers from wealthier backgrounds; by developing writing fluency and stamina, this programme will help close the attainment gap. By transforming writing from a chore to a joy, children will cope better with a literacy-based curriculum throughout their school career.

And here are some of the responses from children and teachers

A Month of Writing Adventure promotes writing fluency and stamina through a set of key creative tools which are:

Using imagination, asking questions, making connections, problem solving, reflection and resilience. Embedding this set of creative tools will promote a growth mindset and improve life chances for all children

Meanwhile, I have received Arts Council to develop my own creative practice applied to focus my own literary potential. I was on a very different path until Creative Partnerships came along.

Thank you Creative Partnerships for changing the lives of so many children and teaching staff. Your legacy lives on in so many schools across the country. And thanks for nudging me into becoming the author of my own creativity.

Published by Anita Belli

Author and Creative Writing Tutor. Novels: Divas, Dogs & Dreamers. Once Upon A Blue Moon. Ruby Sixpence Whistles Up A Storm. The Traveller & The Rose. The Art Forger's Daughter. Non-Fiction: How to be An Author in the Classroom. Write Your Life. Kickstart Your Writing. Unlock The Block. For Children: A Month of Writing Adventure

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