Pupils meet one of Britain’s top writers for teenagers

8th March 2017

Bradford Grammar School (BGS) was delighted to welcome Melvin Burgess, the acclaimed author of teen fiction, as part of this year’s World Book Day celebrations. Melvin gave a talk to the whole school in assembly and led writing workshops in the School Library for Years 9, 10 and 12 during their English lessons.

Melvin Burgess built his reputation as one of Britain’s top writers for teenagers on the back of a novel about drugs. Published in 1996, his heroin novel Junk came just a few months after Danny Boyle’s film of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting shocked audiences with its vision of addiction in Thatcher’s Britain. Junk went on to achieve cult status, multiple awards and a legion of loyal fans.

In 2018 he will be the UK nomination for the Hans Anderson Award, the most prestigious international prize for authors of works for young readers; a prize judged on the whole body of an author’s work rather than a single title.

Melvin said: “Around this time, good schools like to include visiting speakers in their array of activities. From my point of view, it’s fantastic and always great to meet your readers. There’s also a lovely element of reading for pleasure at Bradford Grammar School that’s’ taught in English lessons and I’m a big believer in this.”

Lesley Purcell, BGS Library Manager said: “We are very much involved with helping pupils with reading for pleasure, which then lends itself to research skills and independent learning, which is really important particularly when our pupils go into Sixth Form.”

Melvin continues: “Novels are all about relating and understanding. The primary relationship in written fiction is between the reader and the text – not between the class and the teacher. It’s best done alone, in the privacy of your own imagination. Perhaps the most special feeling you can get from a book is that feeling of recognition, one that speaks directly to you about things that involve you, that matter to you.”

“The world opens up and fiction for teenagers is the only genre that has no censorship. You know that when you go into a school like BGS with an ardent reading culture there will be spirit of enquiry and intellectual curiosity. This then makes them more open to other ideas in general.”

Along with getting the chance to meet Melvin, pupils enjoyed a day of literary-related activities with an array of presentations and workshops and a book signing.

“A good school Library, particularly with a good Librarian can be the center of a School and is an amazing asset to have. You can see the staff and pupils feel lucky to have this at BGS. What do they say? A good Librarian will put the right book into the hands of the right child, and you can then start someone off on a lifetime of reading.”

Lee Hanson, Head of English at BGS said: “We were thrilled that Melvin ran this day of literature workshops and we all really enjoyed the unique opportunity this gave our pupils to get creative with the help of such an experienced teenage book writer.”

Melvin spoke about his visit to the School: “I felt honoured to be asked to visit BGS and it was particularly nice to be asked to appeal to young writers in assembly. There are always more people that want to read than write so it’s important to tease this passion from young people. Online sites, courses, writing groups and competitions are great for constructive feedback. But my main advice would be never stop – just keep reading and writing and follow your dream.”