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First Story helps the young people of Hull tell their stories in their own words

First Story Regional Programme Officer, Jessica Fear, shares with The Hull Hub why creative writing is such an important experience, and how hundreds of young writers across Hull have been harnessing its power to tell their stories.

It is a truth widely observed that writing helps process and heal all kinds of trauma. Whether it’s bullying or the climate crisis, a fallout with friends, or the death of a loved one, getting your feelings down in words is a great way of coming to understand how you feel, and that – we can all agree – is the first step towards acceptance and change. It’s vital to express yourself and to articulate your experience of life. Sharing your words is a validating act. To have someone recognise an emotional experience in something you have written reminds you that we are all more connected than we often realise. What could be more important than that in this time of physical isolation?

This is something that the creative writing charity, First Story, has been helping young people across England to understand since it first started in 2009, and in the Humber region since 2017. First Story is working towards a society that encourages and supports young people from all backgrounds to write creatively, for their mental wellbeing, for agency, and just for fun! We believe there is dignity and power in being able to tell your own story, and that writing can transform lives. Our flagship school programme places professional writers in schools, where they work intensively with students and teachers to develop confidence, creativity, and writing ability. It is through this core programme, and through extended activities including competitions and events, that we expand young people’s horizons and encourage aspirations. 

I started working for First Story nearly two years ago. Having moved up from Devon, where I worked as a secondary school teacher, I arrived in Hull knowing nothing of its people or its character. But no job could have provided a better induction! I have met so many students, teachers and writers – some of whom are Hull born-and-bred, and some who have moved here for various interesting reasons. Through their creative writing, I have gained many golden insights into what it means to grow up in Hull, and to live as a teenager in Hull, in this sometimes mad (and maddening!) 21st century world.

And so I’d like to use this platform to showcase some of our young writer’s wonderful thoughts and insights. I’ve no doubt you will enjoy and appreciate their words and their worlds. If you love what you read, and want to support us in our work, please do follow us on Twitter (@FirstStory) and on Instagram (@FSBooks). Equally, if you’re a teacher reading this and you feel inspired by our work, do get in touch – we have no doubt that there are many more unique stories and poems to be written and shared, and we’d love to work with your students to produce them.

On school

‘Sirius’ by Jack McLeod from Sirius Academy North

You had the best intentions, but showed the worst side of me
You are my past, my present and my future
You are my childhood, my teenage years, my adolescence
You have been on every part of my journey with me
All the long hours I spent looking at your blank walls
Hoping, somehow, you would tell me the answer
Every cold winter’s day, entering your doors
Knowing your warmth was sure to be there at the door,
Waiting to greet me.
You had the power to control my thoughts, my feelings, my 
But now it is time to gain it all back.
You have been in charges; you helped me to make my mark
and my story
But walking out the door, I take control
I head out, knowing I have to write the rest of my story on
my own.

On the climate crisis

‘Facts’ by Umar Sajid
There is five hundred times more plastic in the ocean
than stars in the sky.
If the stars fell, the ocean would burn.
The oceans are dying faster than us.
If the plastic stays, the oceans say ‘bye’ – 
We should be making a big fuss.
For if it carries on,
the fish and chips will be gone!
I’m not being sarcastic,
but you can’t swim in plastic.
Can’t you see why what you’re doing is wrong?

On life and advice

‘Dear Future Child’ by Rosie Thompson from Hull College 14-16
Please, don’t live life with regret.
Make yourself happy and remember:
be yourself no matter who is watching.
Please, always tell the people you love that you love them – 
don’t let it be too late.
Tell me how you feel.
Tell me what you have to say.
Tell me if you’ve done something wrong.
I’ll always make you feel ok.
Please, try not to fall in love too young.
But if you do – tell me.
I love you,

On optimism

‘Taste the Rainbow’ by Jazmin Crawford
Why do we eat Skittles together? 
All the colours mixed up, 
scrambled. Yet we still eat them 
and enjoy them. 
So, when nothing’s going your way, 
you’re feeling torched, 
like nothing’s going to get better, 
your whole world crumbles apart 
like an old Flake chocolate bar 
and there’s nothing you can do about it. 
I mean, those aren’t the flavours 
you asked for when you 
dipped your hand in the 
Skittles bag called life. 
We don’t like these flavours, 
and we still live with them. 
We have no choice but to 
enjoy them.

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