Jane loves to use her writing skills to help improve literacy skills in young and vulnerable people.
She regularly works, professionally and as a volunteer, running writing and storytelling workshops for various charities. She has approved DBS status and a Certificate of Credit in Mentoring Through Intentional Relationships.
See some of her workshop projects outlined below:
Birmingham Young Writers
From Summer 2016 – August 2017, Jane joined Writing West Midland’s Spark Young Writers programme. She helped author Garrie Fletcher to run workshops for a group of young writers aged 11 – 15 years. They met monthly in the Community Hub at John Lewis, in Birmingham’s iconic Grand Central.
The workshops offered opportunities for individual and collaborative creative writing projects, outside a school environment. They aimed to develop creative writing skills and improve social confidence, in a friendly arena.
The diverse and talented group enthusiastically participated in a variety of themed workshops. These included introductions to scriptwriting, journalism, creative fiction and poetry.
One very popular workshop focussed on the theme of ‘found poems’, exploring inspiration from the working methods of William Burroughs and David Bowie. The young writers selected key words from random pages, taken from existing literature, and created their own poems or lyrics. They responded imaginatively, making colourful and graphic patterns from the words they selected.
Voices from the Ashes Project
In 2014, Arts Council England funded Jane to be a Writer and Storyteller in Residence at the Phoenix Centre, in Birmingham. Here, Jane devised a creative project to specifically engage with people living with mental health issues who came to the centre to find community and assistance.
Through a series of storytelling workshops, group discussions and one-to-one sessions, Jane encouraged participants to explore telling their own stories. The results were very moving and led to the publication of an anthology of poetry and stories and a mini-documentary about the experience.
Speaking Out & Time to Change
From 2012 – 2014, Jane worked regularly as a mentor for the Speaking Out project, devised by Polly Wright and Mandy Ross of the Hearth Centre. The project, supported by the charity Time to Change, aimed to raise awareness of the stigma people face when struggling with mental health issues.
Jane supported and mentored individuals, with personal experience of mental ill-health, to work with mainstream reading groups. She travelled with them to libraries and other community settings in North Birmingham, Lichfield and Solihull. She encouraged them to read aloud to an audience, from a story or poem of their choice, and discuss why this piece of literature had such a special connection for them.
When the mentees were ready, Jane networked with a variety of community groups, businesses and charities to find a wider audience. Leading members of The Lions, Rotary Club and Soroptimists then invited the mentees to be guest speakers at their meetings. After the mentees shared their personal stories, they then faciliated a general discussion about mental ill-health. This created greater awareness of the subject. Audiences often gave positive feedback, which helped to boost the confidence of the speaker. In return, audience members appreciated the opportunity to discuss a subject that is often socially taboo. It is surprising how many people know a relative or neighbour who has to live with mental ill-health.
Write to Be Heard
Jane had the opportunity to work in collaboration with Geese Theatre Company on a project for The Arts Alliance in 2013. Jane was invited to lead themed workshops in scriptwriting at an open prison for men in the North. The aim was to encourage the prisoners to express their imagination through creative writing and enter a competition for National Prison Radio Broadcast.
Jane chose the subject of Masks so she could encourage participants to look at Identity. Her workshop ‘Behind the Mask’ looked at sub-text and involved an introduction to ‘Writing for the Solo Voice’.
Geese theatre members performed various scenes from Jane’s short play Under The Stairs and audio monologue Blind Jump. This then inspired them to write their own monologues for the national radio competition.
The most challenging part of the workshop was leading the prisoners through the structure of writing stories for more than one voice. This explored dialogue in plays and what generates energy and momentum. The participants were very enthusiastic about this topic although they were a diverse group. For example, some had already written their first novel, while others struggled with the basics of reading and writing. All members were included and were enthusiastic about reading their monologues, or having someone read their work, to an audience of peers.
After the workshop, Jane was informed that the group subsequently entered 10 submissions to the National Prison Radio competition. This was a very positive result.
One of Jane’s most exciting workshop project was when she visited Spurgeon’s Academy in Kibera. The school was located in the vast and visiting and sprawling slum area that is an integral part of Nairobi, Kenya.
The school caters for those orphaned by the Aids virus and where Jane and her husband sponsor the education of various children who attend, through a sponsorship program.
While she was there, Jane ran daily workshops teaching drama and improvisation to large groups of children. Most were aged between 8 – 10 years. They were hungry to learn and highly committed to the project. It was a very rewarding experience for everyone, including Jane. Although the poverty was great, the heartwarming times she enjoyed with the children were priceless.
There were stories of joy, in spite of the hardships, that had a profound impact on Jane. One such story inspired her to write the memoir Slum Songs in the Sun which has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 several times between 2014 and 2018.
You can listen to that story here
all starz – here they are…
They were true stars. I will never forget them”.