Kate Fox, First Story writer-in-residence

‘I went to secondary school in Bradford but have done most of my work as a poet in the North East. Working with the girls at Feversham College in Bradford takes me back to my own school days. Though being part of a writing group like First Story would have accelerated my writing by at least fifteen years! love the way the group develops over the year, as trust grows and we all get more confident to try new things, knowing that the group’s openness and enthusiasm will help us through. It’s a real luxury to have school, teachers, students and a national organisation all on the same page – and working towards the goal of the anthology gives us such a focus. It didn’t seem real to the girls in the first year but they and their families were so proud of the book and suddenly the First Story group went from being this slightly odd thing a few people did in the library to being the hottest ticket in school – with a waiting list. Our discussions about the anthology title and cover were particularly important this year because they led into a discussion about how the girls want to be seen as writers. Feversham is for Muslim girls and the group are aware of all sorts of pre-conceptions about them in the wider world and in the media. They debated whether a book was the right place to challenge that or whether creativity should be a separate thing to identity. The resulting title: “Into Our World” led to a late flurry of brilliant pieces inspired by the Asian headscarf, the hijab. As Urooj said: “People ask ‘what’s underneath the hijab?’ I tell them ‘thoughts. And I‘m going to write down every single one'”. Maybe I was more surprised than I first let myself notice that they were as likely to quote One Direction, the Hunger Games or Doctor Who as any group of students I‘ve worked with. I‘m proud and privileged to have a part in them writing about their very varied selves and worlds and showing how creativity and identity are rarely separate-but can interact with each other in all sorts of interesting ways.’

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