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Nottingham Academy

First Story

First Story have kindly produced this piece highlighting the fantastic work they have done with Nottingham Academy this year.

Between October 2019 and July 2020, Nottingham Academy Greenwood Road delivered a year-long First Story programme engaging students in intensive, fun, after-school creative writing
workshops led by their professional First Story writer-in-residence, Ioney Smallhorne.

This year's programme built on the success of previous years in which we have seen:

  • Students launch their book at Nottingham's flagship Waterstones bookstore
  • First Story students Sonia Risat and Emma Sporton featured on BBC Radio Nottingham
  • First Story student Emma Sporton becoming an Ambassador for Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature
  • Students receiving a full bursary to attend the annual summer First Story creative writing residential
  • Nidaa Raoof's successful application be mentored by an acclaimed writer (more below) in partnership with the Rathbones Folio Prize

Over the course of the programme, students worked hard on writing and editing their own work, which now features in their very own anthology, Brainsnacks Rainclouds and Rollercoasters, a copy of which will be archived at the British Library, where their words will live on for future generations! What’s more, they’ve achieved all this during a period of unprecedented uncertainty and change. As we move forward, we believe that creating a shared
space where young people can explore their lived experiences through creative writing will be more vital than ever and we look forward to supporting your students and staff in the coming years.

Brainsnacks, Rainclouds and Rollercoasters is Nottingham Academy's brilliantly titled, professionally produced anthology of new writing, which Ioney introduces with the very fitting words 'On every page, you will be met by a young person who is questioning the world, or creating their own; a new voice testing out their vocal range or making a declaration of love...'
Among these declarations, you'll find Kane Rahman's There's a Forest Fire in my Mouth which is short but packs a punch with powerful imagery, and Nidaa Raoof's Planet Earth which deals with the broader issue of climate change that young people are facing today, and many other pieces in which your students pay touching tribute to friends, families and their lives in Nottingham. Each student who features in the anthology receives two complimentary copies, and the school will receive 5 copies for your library.

As a dedicated spoken word educator, Ioney Smallhorne encourages young people to harness the power of poetry to realise their own greatness, working in schools and community groups across the East Midlands. Ioney earned an MA in Creative Writing and Education at Goldsmiths University 2019. As a filmmaker, she enjoys translating her poems to the screen. As an accomplished performer, she blends the political with the personal.

One of the standout stories of our partnership this year has been Nidaa Raoof's mentorship with prize-winning short story writer Lucy Caldwell, made possible with support from the Rathbones Folio Prize. Lucy writes of her time with Nidaa: 'It has been an utter joy working with Nidaa as a First Story mentor over the past year. Her enthusiasm, dedication and commitment
to all of our writing projects has been inspirational...Nidaa’s work across the year shows, time
and again, the enduring power and importance of the imagination. Her stories and her poems are strikingly bold, deeply felt and intensely passionate, unafraid to channel some of the dark energies of these times, or to engage with issues such as climate change, racism and
the Black Lives Matter movement.'
An extract of the work Nidaa created through the mentoring programme is published here:

The programme is co-ordinated by Mr. Belshaw, who has been instrumental to its success. We'd also like to thank Mr. Wharton and V. Pareja for their ongoing support. Lead Teachers are vital to the delivery of First Story programmes and we are hugely grateful for the energy and
enthusiasm that Mr. Belshaw has brought to the programme. Thank you!