“Listen, hit’s semple:/ in Orkney I’m English;/ in England I’m Scottish;/ in Scotland, Orcadian.” And at Kingussie High School, he’s quite a sensation. Probably the first performance poet to visit the school, Harry Giles was with us for most of Thursday 9th September running two workshops and giving an Assembly. Described as “one of contemporary Scotland’s most interesting young voices”, Harry’s work embraces Scots, English, Orcadian and playful dialects of his own, all of which he regularly performs. Having won numerous Poetry Slams, he is also shortlisted for two of the UK’s most prestigious poetry prizes: the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award and The Forward Prize for Best First Collection.
He also loves working with others and came to Kingussie High School through help from Creative Scotland’s ‘Live Literature Funding’ managed by the Scottish Book Trust. In two workshops, S3-S5 pupils wrote poems exploring the question ‘Who Am I?” and experimented with physical and vocal strategies for performance, while in the Assembly, a group of about 200 were fascinated and often amused by Harry’s inventive poems. “It’s okay to laugh,” he assured them as he went on to answer the many questions that pupils had written in advance. These ranged from How much do you earn? (about the same as stacking supermarket shelves, but more fun) to Who’s your favourite poet? (Edwin Morgan) to Do you play Pokemon go? (No, but he loves social media).
Harry’s visit was one of the many activities organised as part of ‘fREADom’, KHS’s Reading for Pleasure programme and was very successful with positive feedback from pupils and staff. It kick starts a focus on poetry in the school library which will culminate in our annual readings on National Poetry Day on the 6th of October.
On Wednesday last week a group of enthusiastic young folk and four teachers from Kingussie High School blazed a new trail by making a trip to the Edinburgh Festival for the day. Organised by the library staff, the first stop was the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where pupils had the choice of talks by either acclaimed Young Adult author, Patrick Ness, or much-loved author/illustrator, Debi Gliori.
While Ness entertained the packed main theatre with his irreverent wit, Gliori held her audience entranced as she told the story of her life through a series of sketches. As well as the talks, pupils revelled in browsing and buying books from the wonderful Book Tent and having lunch in the sunshine in Charlotte Square Gardens.
After that, the party trooped across town, enjoying the street art and performers, taking photos and collecting show leaflets! Mid-afternoon they joined a full house at the Pleasance Theatre, to watch ‘Hotel Paradiso’, an award-winning comic mask show that told the tale of a crazy family feuding and fumbling their way through the running of their hotel.
The busy day ended with a walk back to the station and just enough time to buy dinner before piling on the train home. It was a jam-packed expedition with loads to see and do and a brilliant way to enjoy Scotland’s world-famous festival city.
Pupils declared it a success and are keen to go ahead next year, with lots of ideas and plans for making it even better, so watch this space…