Schools programme introduced to Dorset Literary Festival

Thomas Hardye School | Insets: Authors Alex Foulkes (top) , Richard Pickard (middle) and Kit de Waal (bottom) <i>(Image: Newsquest)</i>
Thomas Hardye School | Insets: Authors Alex Foulkes (top) , Richard Pickard (middle) and Kit de Waal (bottom) (Image: Newsquest)

Schoolchildren will be able to take part in this year’s Dorset Literary Festival for the first time as a new programme is added to the event.

The new schools' event will take place between Monday, October 16 and Wednesday October 18 at the Thomas Hardye School Theatre.

Authors Kit de Waal, Richard Pickard, Alex Foulkes, Andreina Cordani, Neal Layton and David Solomons will all be taking part in the programme at this year’s festival.

It is the first year that an event of this type has been put on, and is the brainchild of Jenny Stevens, librarian at Thomas Hardye School.

She said: “Having visited other literary festivals across the country, it seemed that a school programme would be an excellent way to allow our young people to be involved in a festival of this kind.

“Living in a more rural location it is often difficult to find authors who are within easy travelling distance and therefore visits can be difficult and expensive to arrange.”

Mrs Stevens was able to secure funding from the Wessex Multi Academy Trust (MAT), a family of Dorset schools, that aims to bring schools together to collaborate, share and learn from each other.

“I approached the Wessex MAT last year with a proposal to organise a schools’ programme which they agreed to fund.

“Running events in this way during the school day ensures that it is fully inclusive, and all students are given the opportunity to hear from an author, no matter what their background, and it does not rely on a parent/guardian transporting the child to an external location out of school hours.”

In total there are 17 schools involved, and the programme hopes to reach 2500 students across the county.

Students from the ages of six to 18 attending schools in and around Dorchester, along with schools under the Wessex MAT, will be attending.

Schools have signed up in advance due to the capacity of Thomas Hardye's theatre space and transport considerations.

This means some authors are now putting on additional sessions at individual schools to help save on transport costs.

Mrs Stevens believes the programme will be of great benefit to students as seeing an author in person ‘is much more preferable’ than virtually or not at all.

She added:  “The National Literacy Trust states that students who have author visits are twice as likely to read above their expected age level, more likely to be more confident in their reading and writing, much more likely to read daily and more likely to enjoy reading.

“But most importantly we want to foster the enjoyment of reading amongst students of all ages across Dorchester.”