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Posted on February 10th 2017
Author Bali Rai Inspires Our Students
“Humans are natural story tellers,” said award-winning author Bali Rai during his visit to the academy yesterday.
Bali, whose parents emigrated to Britain from India, became a writer because of his experience of growing up in Leicester ("the most multi-cultural place in England").
Although as a child he read several books a week, he couldn’t find characters or stories that represented the world he knew. “My books explore what it means to be brown or black in a country where most people don’t look like you,” he said.
Bali, whose stories include The Gun, (Un)Arranged Marriage and Soccer Squad visits schools across the UK to enthuse children about writing, reading and being creative. “The students here had so many interesting questions,” he said. “Often you have to bleed questions out of students but not here. I got more questions from your Year 9 than at any other school I've visited. I was really impressed.”
Bali talked about the importance of writing in your own voice, using the world around you for inspiration. After the assembly several boys followed Bali into the library to ask more questions ahead of the creative writing workshop for selected students in years 8-10.
"Conflict and resolution"
Creative writing forms an important part of the English curriculum and Bali showed students how to structure stories using challenges, conflict and resolution. “If you want to be a writer my best advice is to practise,” said Bali, who wrote his first novel between 6am and 8am after working all night managing a nightclub. “You’ll never be a good footballer without practice and it’s the same with writing.”
During the assemblies students quizzed Bali about how he got started as a writer, where his ideas come from and how long it took to write his books. “Having someone like Bali coming here helps me with my ideas,” said Jem, Year 9. Dwayne, Year 9, added: “He included all of us in his talk and encouraged us to ask questions, which I liked.”
Read, learn, check facts
"I think Bali made a lot of sense to our boys, as shown particularly by how well the year 9s and 10s listened to him, the quality of their questions and the conversations that several boys had with him in the library at break time and after school," said Jo Mead, Learning Resources Manager. "It was great to have him put across the message that it is not only cool but essential to read, learn, get knowledge and check the facts – otherwise you cannot possibly know what is true and what is not in the world today. He also made the boys think about knowing who they are and what their identity is, especially if it is different from their parents."
Martin Pugh, Assistant Principal, said: "Bali Rai was a really good speaker. His story of how he became a writer will surely have inspired some of our students to think that they can do the same."
Bali’s visit is the latest in a series of author talks organised by the library team, who pick authors they know our students will relate to. Authors gain from the experience too. “Coming to schools like this keeps me in contact with young people,” says Bali. “I keep in touch with school culture and the way people speak, and even find students’ names creeping into my fiction!”