Junior Journalists meet their heroes

Bath Children’s Literature Festival ran a writing competition to find a team of Junior Journalists to join the festival team and report back on authors’ and illustrators’ events. We think this is a great way of fostering emerging talent and of getting young people – who are at the heart of this festival – to share their views of the experience.

We promoted the competition in local libraries and through our newsletter inviting children under 14 to submit a review of their favourite book. The entries were then judged blind by our festival team of judges and three winners were chosen. Our winning Junior Journalists were Ash Alway, nine, Lillian Abulrub, nine and Imogen Ellis, 12.

Each Junior Journalist was given an official festival lanyard to wear and invited to choose which events they’d like to attend with their parents. We then put in requests on their behalf to interview some of the authors. This led to some magical moments for our Junior Journalists. Ash Alway, aged nine, chatted to Harry Hill just before his show and Harry told him that Tim the Tiny Horse is to be made into a musical – news that’s not widely known. Ash was also able to have an in-depth chat with writers Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Garth Jennings at their event and was so inspired by his experiences that he’s now planning to launch a children’s literature website.

Imogen Ellis, 12, enjoyed her one-to-one interview with writer Ross Welford after his event at the Masonic Hall. They talked about his books and his characters, which Imogen knew all about as a fan of his work and she was delighted to learn that Ross is a member of the Magic Circle. He even showed her his Magic Circle membership badge. David Baddiel very kindly took time to meet Imogen and posed to have his photo taken with her. Imogen also enjoyed attending events featuring Liz Pichon, Robin Stevens and Helen Skelton and wrote reviews afterwards.

Lillian Abulrub, aged nine, our third Junior Journalist was very excited to get the chance to meet Dame Jacqueline Wilson backstage at The Forum. Her joy at being so warmly welcomed by Jacqueline was doubled when she recognised another of her heroines, Blue Peter’s Lyndsey Russell, who was preparing her notes for the interview with Jacqueline on stage. There was also the chance for Lillian to have her photo taken with Jacqueline and with Lyndsey.

Lillian had a second interview opportunity, talking to Sam Copeland, creator of the Charlie McGuffin series of books. After Lillian had asked her prepared questions, which included asking Sam what he had been like as a nine-year-old, Sam said that she had asked some very good questions and that he had enjoyed her interview.

The Junior Journalists’ final treat was being invited into the Green Room at the Guildhall, which is where the authors and visiting journalists gather backstage before and after events, so it’s quite a buzzy place to visit as people come and go, drink tea, eat cake and chat about books. Our three Junior Journalists posed in the famous Bath Children’s Literature Festival storytelling red chair.
To celebrate National Poetry Day on Thursday 3 October poets from primary and secondary schools bravely took to the stage – some reciting from memory– in front of a cheering audience to compete in a Poetry Slam. This session was led by poet Jonny Fluffypunk who whipped the crowd up to will the performers to give their best. There were prizes, but as Jonny reminded the audience, it was all about celebrating poetry.

The festival also runs an outreach programme, in which professional authors and illustrators visited schools to share their knowledge and enthusiasm. Throughout the festival whether it’s been in small events, in classrooms or in the majestic Guildhall, the message has been repeated, to encourage young people to go out there and create their own characters, to tell their own stories and let their imagination run wild.

We will be running the Junior Journalist competition again in 2020, so keep your eyes peeled for any competition details.

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