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Posted on July 4th 2016
Brixton Bard, Alex Wheatle, Inspires Years 7 & 8
On Wednesday 8 June, the ‘Brixton Bard’, Alex Wheatle, visited Years 7 and 8 and told them the story of his life. It contained some truly shocking and deeply sad events.
From being abandoned as a baby, growing up in care, suffering cruelty and rejection, having to leave school at 14, taking part in the Brixton riots and ending up in prison, Alex is now a prize-winning author, involved with many charities, schools and young people’s groups, sharing the importance of reading and writing in turning his life around.
Empathy and compassion
Alex says: “For me, encouraging young people to read is not simply about them learning good grammar, sentence structure, increasing their vocabulary skills and enjoying a rattling good story. Healthy reading can also promote empathy, compassion, respect of life and understanding of others.”
After an unfinished education, Alex taught himself about life and especially black history from books in the prison library. He showed the students his copy of CLR James’s The Black Jacobins, the story of Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, which had a powerful impact on him and helped him start to change his life.
Alex is the author of eight novels so far. His first, Brixton Rock, tells a fictionalised account of his own life story. His most recent, Liccle Bit and Crongton Knights are specially written for teenagers and feature instantly recognisable and endearing characters who face problems at home and on the streets.
After speaking to both year groups, Alex met students in the library at lunch time and signed copies of his books for them. He then shared some of his writing skills and ideas with students in two workshops in the afternoon.
One student said, “Reading Liccle Bit is like reading about my life. If I’d known reading could be like this, I’d be reading all the time!” And several others want to be writers now that they have met Alex. Alex had a wonderful day at our school and was really impressed with how well our students listened and the questions they asked. He would like to come back and meet our older students too. So watch out for his return… and his next book!