Ilkley Literature Festival partnership heralds a new chapter for The Grammar School at Leeds

Ilkley Literature Festival partnership heralds a new chapter for The Grammar School at Leeds

Book-loving young people are set to enjoy a host of creative opportunities as one of the leading schools in northern England teams up with one of the region’s top literature festival.

The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL) is the major sponsor of the Children’s Festival at Ilkley Literature Festival, where the keynote author is Michael Morpurgo amongst a wide choice of events for children aged from three to 12 during the dedicated Children’s Weekend.

‘With English central to a strong academic curriculum at GSAL the partnership with the festival is a natural way to extend learning beyond the classroom, while primary school pupils from around the area are also set to benefit,’ said principal Mike Gibbons.

‘Thanks to the partnership GSAL has scheduled workshops with leading children’s authors into its schools outreach programme – Discover – designed to stimulate, enthuse and engage pupils in Years 5 and 6 and, maybe, even find the next JK Rowling.’

Top of the bill are popular children’s authors Curtis Jobling and Michelle Paver, who will run workshops at GSAL’s Alwoodley Gates campus for pupils from local primary schools. In addition, Year 6 pupils from Pool C of E and Bramhope Primary Schools will have the chance to meet former children’s laureate Michael Rosen at a Festival event in Ilkley.

Pool’s headteacher Mark McDermid said: ‘We are committed to providing opportunities to enrich our curriculum with trips and visits wherever our resources allow. GSAL’s support with this additional event is therefore much appreciated and our staff and children are looking forward to meeting Michael Rosen, whose work has entertained and informed us over the years.’

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Rachel Feldberg, director of Ilkley Literature Festival, added: ‘Every year Ilkley Literature Festival offers a huge range of exciting events for children and their families. GSAL’s sponsorship will enable us to extend our outreach work in schools and community groups across West Yorkshire. We look forward to involving their students and staff in festival activities.’

As well as literacy events, GSAL’s Discover programme offers sessions in history, maths, science and cross-curricular activities at the school and other venues.

If you would like your school to get involved please contact Louise Marshall on 0113 2291552 or email

Reading between the lines

If this year’s Ilkley Literature Festival was a book it would be War and Peace. It boasts more than 200 events in 17 days, making it one of the biggest, busiest and buzziest book events in the country.

Dozens of writers are making their debut appearance this month including travel writer and Monty Python stalwart Michael Palin; Michael Portillo, who’ll be discussing life in and after politics; distinguished broadcaster Sandy Gall, who will be opening the 2012 festival; sports broadcaster Clare Balding; Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine; and comedian, author and radio presenter Sandi Toksvig.

Once you’ve got your breath back, there will also be opportunities for visitors to meet, greet and grill award-winning Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell; poets Benjamin Zephaniah, Roger McGough and Lemn Sissay; Booker prize-winning Regeneration author Pat Barker; Pultizer Prize winner Richard Ford; best-selling children’s favourite Michael Rosen; novelist Jake Arnott; Paddy Ashdown talking about a daring Second World War raid; former poet laureate Andrew Motion on his new Treasure Island novel; actress Harriet Walter; and Bob the Builder creator Curtis Jobling.

Spoiled for choice doesn’t quite cover it, especially when you consider the festival’s humble beginnings as a result of the 1970s’ postal strikes.

Ilkley Literature Festival began in 1973, the brainchild of Michael Dawson, first director of the newly-formed Yorkshire Arts Association, who found himself with extra time on his hands because of the lack of new mail. He began browsing a stack of arts festival brochures from across the country (as you do) and discovered that while Cheltenham staged a literary festival in the south, nothing of the kind existed in the North.

So he launched a new event in his home town with WH Auden making one of his last public appearances.

And what was a biennial offering until 1988 is now a major event on the national literary calendar, drawing big crowds with residencies, literary walks, discussions, commissions, workshops, exhibitions, performances and readings from some of the biggest names in literature.

Ilkley Literature Festival runs from September 28th to October 14th, with booking online at or via the box office on 01943 816714

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