Like so many the world over, I grew up with Bob Dylan, listening to his music and enjoying the beauty of his lyrics and music. When I listen to his songs today, warm memories are evoked – significant moments in my life. Dylan’s songs have penetrated my soul.
But while it is fabulous that Dylan has received one of the highest accolades in the world, the Nobel Prize for Literature, to me this achievement signals a new dawn for literature!
It was some years ago that I put an idea into action at one of the schools at which I worked.
I had a vision of staging a Literary Festival which would be all encompassing; one that would inspire and enthuse interest in literature. I aimed high by insisting that literature was something that stretched across the curriculum and touched all aspects of students’ education. Although I didn’t articulate it then as strongly as I do today, my idea was based on my strong belief that reading and writing is the cornerstone of all education. Pitched as a Literary Festival for our senior school, Years 9-12, I ensured that there were inspirational events for all 300 students and all of the teachers who taught them. With 18 presenters and nearly 50 concurrent sessions in its first year and 26 presenters and more than 80 concurrent sessions in its second year, the two Literary Festivals held in 2007 and 2008 ran over three and four consecutive days respectively. I have blogged about this event previously: Staging a successful Literary Festival. Always keen to repeat the event, feel free to contact me if you need guidance in making an event such as this happen in your school. It really isn’t as hard to make happen as it may seem on first look!
By referring to this event as a “Literary Festival” from the outset, I was reiterating my firm belief that the event should focus on all aspects of the written and spoken word. When discussing my ideas with other staff, I pitched widely for ideas of the kinds of artists who could be included. At its end, both Literary Festivals included traditional presenters such as authors and illustrators, but they also included poets, clay animators, puppeteers, scientists, journalists, musicians, actors and motivation speakers as well as hip hop artists and songwriters – all of whom are united in their passionate desire to engage, stimulate and challenge us with their love of the written and spoken word.
The songwriter we had in sat around with an enthusiastic group of students running a workshop which aimed to have them compose a short song: words and lyrics. Singing and playing their music to a small audience was a fitting finale. The hip hop artists we brought in presented fabulous sessions to a large audience and then ran workshops in which students were guided on how to go about creating their own hip hop music. By the end of the Literary Festival, CDs were created of the students’ work. While only one small part of the overall Literary Festival, these workshops turned out to be one of the highlights of the overall event. The English teachers and students alike were overwhelmed with the end result.
Undeniably – these were ‘magical’ learning events!
So when I heard that Bob Dylan had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, I felt that my thoughts of nearly ten years ago had finally been vindicated.
While some raised their eyebrows in surprise at the award for Dylan, I feel that finally songwriting has found its rightful place within the world of literature. An awesome achievement!!