Royal Harbour Academy

Being a writer can be a very solitary job. Of course it is; you can’t be gregarious and out all the time whilst maintaining a prodigious – or indeed any – word count. But there are times when you have the good fortune to get out and meet people who are similar to you; lovers of words, creative thinkers, and maybe even a little bit mad.

Today was certainly one of those days. I had the opportunity to go along to the Royal Harbour Academy – technically, Thanet’s newest school, formed after several complex mergers of other schools – and meet a group of students called the Reading Activists, who gather every Wednesday in the school library with the Librarian. The fact that the RHA has a Librarian, and a group of Reading Activists, is a source of perennial pride to me, knowing that the education system recognises the importance of words and creativity. Well, I hope it does anyway.

So, Steve Bradshaw – the said Librarian, who kindly relaxed the rule stating that everyone he meets calls him “Lord” – and I had a good chat before the activists arrived, and we found ourselves agreeing on quite a lot in terms of creativity, a passion for words and a shared sense of humour. However (and I say this without duress), Steve is funnier than I am, damn him; he’s a comedian as well as a Librarian, and I don’t have that capacity to perform or be funny.

Then I met the Reading Activists. I’d had a brief piece of advance warning by getting the chance to watch a short video they had created to promote the group, and then they arrived en mass; I’ll be completely frank, reader, I thought they were great. They were intelligent, curious, creative and funny. They clearly had very creative minds, and I was fascinated to hear them talk about their own passions, be that words, art or whatever else took their fancy.

I was then recorded in a Q&A session with the students, and I had no clue what to expect in terms of questions. However, the questions I was asked were honestly – and I’m being entirely truthful here – some of the most intelligent and clever questions I’ve had the good fortune to answer. Why? Because they were clearly researched; these students had looked into my background, seen my website, looked at my vlogs, and found about about me. They knew what questions to ask and how to connect the dots between different parts of my life; how my dyspraxia connected to my creativity, for example.

All the questions stood out for me; one made me really think, and that was about bullying. I was asked if I had ever been bullied (I had) and what advice could I give to anyone who was bullied (“It gets better – and tell someone about it”); what powerful questions in just a few words. To also be asked about writing, my books, my favourite genres and so on was also incredibly welcome. Oh, and I was also asked what Mr Man character I wanted to be. Possibly the single greatest left-field question I’ve ever been asked. I went with Mr Bump.

I have also been given the genuinely great honour of being made a Reading Activist (seriously, there’s a badge and everything), and I’m hoping to work with the Activists in the future. No, scratch that – there’s no “hope” about it, I will be working with them in the future. If they’re in any way representative of the school, then there’s hope for our education system yet; I am their most passionate advocate around, and also their most proudest member.

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