CREATING MY CAMBRIDGE: Creative Writing Workshop with Michael Rosen & Historyworks

Helen Weinstein has been collaborating with several primary schools and commissioning the Historyworks team of artists and musicians to provide creative workshops as part of the S106 public art funded project, and Helen herself has led history field trips encouraging children, their teachers and families to be walking their areas to discover important local history between their school gates, the river and the centre of town throughout this Summer Term.

Thus Helen Weinstein devised an event and commissioned Michael Rosen to write new poems about Cambridge based on the Historyworks research, inviting all the participating primary children to share their work at a special event she called "Creating My Cambridge: Poetry, Song & Body Percussion workshop" with Michael Rosen performing alongside the Historyworks music leaders.  This special event was offered for free to the participating Year 5 Primary School children and their teachers as an opportunity to be inspired by the history beneath their feet through Michael Rosen’s poems about local Cambridge history, including fantastic new poetry commissioned by Historyworks about our River Cam, Isaac Newton & Gravity, the Lions of the Fitzwilliam Museum, and Coldham’s Common & the extraordinary Victorian story of mining Dinosaur Poo!

We also had the privilege of hosting the event on 6th July at Cambridge Union in the Debating Chamber, which has its own rich tapestry of history and provided a wonderful stage for our event, with children having the opportunity to sit where many a famous politician, journalist or writer had once been!

This Historyworks event included the children learning more about body percussion to help them with creating rhythm in their poems, through singing songs such as ‘Who ate the apple pie?’ based on ‘Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?’ to link it to the Issac Newton story.

They also sang new songs about Cambridge local history collaboratively commissioned by Helen Weinstein with CBBC’s Horrible Histories Song Writers and the Historyworks team including Seahorses- a song about the origin of the Cambridge Coat of Arms and a real favourite- What Shall We Do With the Drinking Water?- all about Cambridge sanitation problems in the Victorian Era.

Another key element, was giving the children the opportunity to co-create a poem together with Michael Rosen on the subject of ‘My Cambridge’ on the morning itself, so that was some live participatory learning during the workshop. Also, children were given an opportunity to record their co-created works with the Historyworks team as part of the project and for these to be published on the Creating My Cambridge website and shared across the schools, with some special school assemblies for singing and sharing poetry organised by Helen Weinstein.

A number of children’s pieces of poetry and artwork inspired by the amazing stories of Cambridge’s history were showcased as part of the event and the children had the opportunity to receive feedback from Michael Rosen alongside Helen Weinstein and the Historyworks team as part of the morning. Michael Rosen also kindly agreed to sign the certificates and prizes Histoyworks had produced for encouraging children in their creative wriiting, to commend particular children’s creative works and each class for their fantastic poetry books.

We were absolutely amazed by the inspiring poems, songs and artwork the children created, that tell of so many intriguing stories of the Cambridge history beneath our feet and it was wonderful to present the certificates to children in assemblies and classes at the end of the Summer term to commend their marvelous achievements! We are very much looking forward to continuing this journey of discovery and creativity with Year 4 and 5 children again in the coming year.

CREATING MY CAMBRIDGE: Creative Writing Workshop with Michael Rosen & Historyworks


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