Pupils "Glued" To Wimbledon BookFest's Word Up! Event

Digital education programme and competition help keep students stimulated

Celia Pereira from Ursuline High School

Adapting to the demands of the current situation, Wimbledon BookFest has successfully run a series of event for schools as part of its annual Word Up! education programme this autumn.


BookFest’s programme featured events and Q&As with authors Michelle Paver (primary) and Patrice Lawrence (secondary) filmed live - Michelle in the studio and Patrice at Wimbledon’s Ursuline High School - and then digitally relayed to participating schools.


For sixth formers, the Critical Minds Conference, a partnership with Festival Sponsors University of Roehampton, filmed live at Wimbledon College, provided invaluable taster sessions and information about applying to university.


Thirty primary and secondary schools from across South-West London and Surrey took part. All three events are still available to view at www.wimbledonbookfest.org.


Teacher Kerry Surkitt from Wimbledon Chase Primary School commented: “The children in my class were glued to it from beginning to end and were so amazed at having their questions answered by a well-known author (they seemed genuinely starstruck when their names were read out!). Hearing Michelle (Paver) talk about her experiences certainly inspired the children; they got so much out of it.”


The events also featured virtual prize giving ceremonies for BookFest’s Young Writers Competition – the Seniors competition took place live at Ursuline High School and was relayed to watching schools.


This year’s competition, on the theme of ‘The Secret,’ ran in the spring during lockdown and attracted a record number of entries, with 53 schools from Merton and outlying boroughs entering. Twenty-three different schools had either a winning entry or a runner-up and the overall competition winner – chosen unanimously by the judges - was Celia Pereira from Ursuline High School.


The panel of judges included representatives from the Polka Theatre, Waterstones Bookshop Wimbledon, Merton Library Services and the University of Roehampton. Over 130 entries including the winner, runners-up and highly commended entries will be published in a special anthology (available from www.wimbledonbookfest.org.)


In celebration of the work of black writers BookFest will be donating a selection of books by black authors to the library of every Merton state school (five for primary and 10 for secondary schools) in late 2020.


In partnership with Chocolate Films, young film makers have produced a series of short interviews with authors and artists such as Afua Hirsch, Lemn Sissay and Patrice Lawrence on the theme of ‘Hidden Stories: Black Lives’ which are available to view on IGTV @wimbookfest.


Wimbledon BookFest will be launching its 2021 programme and writing competition (on the theme of nature and identity) as usual on World Book Day – 4 March 2021.


To date, over 100 schools from the state, independent and SEN sectors have taken part in BookFest’s ‘Word Up’ initiative, which includes author events and workshops, writing competitions, sixth form panels, film-making projects, stewarding and volunteering opportunities, and a free books initiative for children in deprived socio-economical demographics.


Past authors who have taken part include Malorie Blackman, Akala, Dermot O’Leary, Reggie Yates, Greg James, David Almond, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Tom Fletcher, Cressida Cowell and Simon Armitage.


November 16, 2020