Beyond Words

Published
15.01.2021

A collaboration with the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

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Since 2015 GHES has worked in partnership with Cheltenham Festivals in the Beyond Words Project. Each year, this enormously successful venture is a transformative experience for the young writers who take part. And for each participant, their attendance marks a huge milestone – all are too unwell to attend school, but they undertake long journeys, overcome considerable pain and discomfort or crippling anxiety to participate in this project.

Participating in Beyond Words helped my daughter grow in confidence, resilience and self-belief. It re-energised her sense of self-worth and empowered her as a writer.

Extended writing workshops at inspiring venues, such as Slimbridge, Sudeley Castle and Museum in the Park, are led by a writer- in-residence - Caleb Parkin in recent years. Students who are normally taught in isolation, in their own homes are encouraged to draw on life experiences in their writing and work in a group setting. As the weeks go by, trust is developed from this intense experience and a lasting bond from which friendship often grows.

As a group they are given ownership of the whole publishing process; from selecting which of their pieces to include, identifying the theme and selecting the title and artwork for the cover, to contributing to the illustrations and editing process.

Beyond Words came along at a time when my son was VERY low. It was the first thing that he had engaged with in a very long time. A little light in the darkness!

The culmination of the project is when the resulting anthology of poems is performed by the students at the Young Writer’s Showcase at the Cheltenham Literature Festival itself. Every year, the difference in demeanour and confidence of the students from the start of the project to the end is truly remarkable. But don’t just take our word for it, here’s what some of the students said:

I would like to say a big thank you – not only have I been visiting lots of different places and getting out, I have also made some amazing friends and am more confident.

Thank you so much – you have truly transformed my life!

I write a lot more now. I actually want to write rather than it being a chore.

This project has helped me break through th e barrier of anxiety and depression and all the illnesses I had. I feel like me again.

It’s the opportunity to really express yourself fully. Emotionally and creatively. I definitely achieved way over what I expected.

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