This is a review of my school visit to Lytham High School by librarian Gerry Bruen.
“Author Visit: Alan Gibbons
I just thought I’d share our experience of having Alan Gibbons in school last week. We had of course been promoting his titles in the months leading up to the visit, with his latest novel, The Trap, which focuses on a terrorist attack. The week of Alan’s visit was the last before the summer half term, and began with the shocking attack in Manchester, which 4 of our students escaped unhurt from.
After having some discussions at school with SLT it was decided to contact Alan and had a conversation about how we might continue with the event in such a way as to lighten everyone’s load and see the students off safely on their half-term break. Alan was really very understanding – even agreeing not to promote The Trap – and managed to deliver two stellar sessions to large groups of younger readers in the morning. He was just great with the kids and got them all laughing and listening closely to his pathway into writing. Beginning with his early childhood, he took them through his love of the Beatles and American soul music which then took him into the politics of equality, justice and the Civil Rights movement. Using a PPT with some great YouTube clips, and a cracking sound track, he carefully outlined how he connected the personal up to the social and political, and how that flourished into a career and lifetime of writing. All the staff that attended (including Head of English and the Deputy Head) agreed that he managed to get the balance just right. Many of the students had been reading his thrillers in advance, and I’m sure that given the shocking events that had just happened nearby, appreciated the very, very funny mix of self-deprecating humour and pathos of his childhood years and growing up. Of course he wove in his books with hard-hitting themes, and he did so with a very positive message and spirit.
During the afternoon, he delivered two masterclass writing sessions with smaller groups of PP boys from years 7-9, which was very interesting to watch from my point of view. He took students closely through a short section of a Hollywood film. By pausing it continually, he led them through the film really slowly and carefully as they formed a short piece of writing describing the action and mood of the scenes. The students – all able but under performing learners – got what was expected of them straight away and just got stuck into their writing for the duration of the session without fuss or distraction.
Alan was excellent.”