Literary heavyweights praise first time authors

13 July 2015

One of Britain’s most successful children’s authors and one of the country’s most influential political figures have praised the work of a group of young women from Barry whose first children’s books were launched this week.


Former children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo and former Downing Street director of communications and now bestselling author Alastair Campbell both sent messages of congratulations to two groups of parents from Oakfield and Jenner Park Primary Schools who launched their first two books at the Barry Memo Arts Centre on 08 July.


Alastair Campbell, bestselling author and former director of communications and strategy to Tony Blair, passed on his congratulations to the budding authors via Cllr Lis Burnett and commended their work in inspiring others in the community, saying: “You have used the power of literature and the power of community to great effect. Your area, in common with so many other parts of the UK, faces many big challenges. Rightly we look to politics and to business to show leadership and help to deliver change. But we sometimes underestimate the impact of community engagement and community projects done by small groups of people who can achieve a huge amount of change. Well done for what you have done and for what you will inspire others to do by your actions.”


Michael Morpurgo focused his praise on one of the books themselves saying: “All I can say is that this is a terrific story, beautifully told, funny and meaningful, inventive and original.  And the illustrations are so perfectly in tune with the text, wonderful colours, and full of life. Children would love it. The child in me loves it! This is a very considerable achievement, and everyone involved should feel very proud.  Bravo! Bravo!"


Their praise followed that of Hollywood actor Michael Sheen who tweeted his support ahead of the book launch saying: “Barry Mums are a rare breed. Congratulations!”


The two books ‘The Vulture and the Lion’ and ‘My Monster and Me’ were written as part of a pilot project run by Putting Families First designed to regenerate disadvantaged communities through literature.


Kathryn Benbow, the project’s manager, said: “The parents felt strongly about making sure there was a message or a specific social issue behind the books. In Jenner Park they chose to focus on identity issues and in Oakfield a lot of the parents’ children had imaginary friends so they followed an anti-bullying and friendship theme.


“The storyteller taught parents how they can come up with stories from simple ideas. The project worked so well we are going to be doing it again in Palmerston Primary School in Barry.”


Putting Families First is a jointly resourced scheme funded by the Welsh Government programmes Families First and Communities First. The scheme runs in 17 primary schools across the Vale, as well as in the local community.


The first run of the books has been printed and copies will soon be available for purchase through a new social enterprise scheme.