Lit Reach: Abersychan Illustrated Poetry Project

Published Tue 16 Jul 2019 - By Osian Grifford

From March-May 2019 performance poet Mike Church and illustrator Osian Grifford ran a series of 6 creative writing and illustration workshops with year 7 pupils at Abersychan Comprehensive School as part of Llên Pawb | Lit Reach

This project, provided a platform for young people to express themselves and have their voices heard, and was delivered in partnership between Literature Wales and Inspire to Achieve.

The booklet below is the product of this workshop series, and this blog post offers the illustrator, Osian Grifford’s perspective on working with this group of young people. 




When I first arrived on the project, Mike had already had a couple of writing sessions with the group who at that stage were still pushing for slime to be made in the workshops.

So far they had been writing poems that if I remember correctly would eventually be turned into the poem ‘Where Do Ideas Come From?’. This had been done by Mike bringing in stock photographs (a door in a tree, a person begging on the street) and images which the group responded to.

In my first session with them, some seemed more forwards in coming up with ideas than others and they were mostly reluctant to read aloud although they were good at reading once encouraged to have a go.

As the sessions went on the group quickly took to short quick responsive tasks, especially with the drawing, which they did in thick charcoal so it got quite messy but it worked as the mess meant that the drawings had to be very simple at communicating what they were.

In the early workshops it wasn’t clear what end form the writing and drawings would end up taking, but as the workshops went on, the strength of the group came from the mix of humorous lines about foods and the like,  and emotive sentences about the basic needs and goals in life. From this the sessions proceeded to create poems line by line, with everyone chipping in responses to prompts from Mike.


Where do ideas come from?
Will they come from teachers laughing too much?
Do they exist in a raised eyebrow?
Or do they come upon you when you’re clipping your toenails?
(A Jungle of Ideas, 2019)

When some of the early poems had been worked on the group set about drawing the ideas from some of the lines and came up with some unique responses.

The screaming swings and cheeky monster interpretations, as well as butterflies with tails that grew people were all in keeping with the dreamlike world that they had created in the poetry. Everything worked towards communicating a totally bonkers world within an imagination which stayed grounded only in some of the more melancholic lines about homemaking, family, and friendship.

By the last session the group were a lot more confident with bouncing ideas off eachother and by the showing of the book, and posters they were very proud and happy to read their poems out loud.

Personally I’m very pleased to have got to work on this project – the group were lovely to work with and I think what came from it is a really beautiful collection.

When I leave here I will go and get pizza
I will find a missing person
Someday I will be a person with no hair
and glasses on my head
When i leave here
I will say hello to everyone
I will pray to my oven
and find infinity itself
I will become confused
And jump up and down on teachers
I might climb Mount Everest
Or maybe meet with green eyed monsters
I will leave here through a window
And with slime in my toes
I will fly on the back of a rhino to the ground floor
And get myself a wooden leg
But whatever happens
I will leave here
(When I leave here by Bethany,
A Jungle of Ideas, 2019)

Inspire to Achieve is an ESF funded project which targets young people in secondary school who need some help towards reaching their potential and provides individual support depending on the young people’s needs. Inspire to Achieve is a regional project whose partners are local authorities in the South Wales Valleys; local FE colleges and Careers Wales.