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Sahrish Shaikh, Teacher

‘It helps nurture interest in creative writing and freedom of speech. Students are able to explore their ideas without the constraint or pressures of exams which helps to build their self-confidence further and helps them to build friendships with those that they may not necessarily socialise with during the school day.’

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Daniel Vanstone, Teacher

‘Every single part of this programme is beneficial. It opens windows and doors to the literary world and to literature as a whole; it provides students with new and exciting experiences; it allows them to play, experiment and experience literature and the literary world with new or renewed vigour and excitement; and it allows them to go beyond the […]

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Inez Bright, Student

‘First Story has made me rediscover how much I loved creative writing and has allowed me to find an alternative way to express how I’m feeling […] I got to see the potential I had locked away so long ago. Later on, I got to work with First Story for work experience, which has given […]

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Alan Buckley, Writer-in-Residence

‘Time and again I see that young writers just starting out already have the essence of their own unique voice. This voice is coupled with a freshness and vitality that comes from writing instinctively, and from not being caught up in complicated ideas of what ‘a writer’ can and can’t do. The clarity of that […]

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Nicola Koch-Osborne, Teacher

‘I’ve been amazed by the students’ engagement with the project […] The group have worked brilliantly together and I am sure their First Story journey has shown them how their own culture and view of the world is important, and that they have discovered a way to express them through poetry.’

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Donavan Christopher, Writer-in-Residence

‘First Story has provided the opportunity for students to express themselves and be part of a publication of their own work. […] In a world where nothing seems new, it has proved a breath of fresh air to read of their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Their powerful thoughts have been brought to life simply because they love to […]

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Gemma Thorpe, Teacher

‘September 2015: shy, curious faces awaited the arrival of Brigshaw’s first ‘resident writer’. Biscuits in hand, our pupils pondered and questioned ‘what a resident writer was’ and what exactly awaited them on their first ever First Story experience. Soon enough it became clear what these sessions were about: confidence building, challenge, overcoming fear, self-discipline, showing […]

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Steve Cawte, Writer-in-Residence

‘To see the students speak with eloquence, understanding and passion about a subject they cared not even a little for sixteen weeks ago is simply magic. Equally, hearing tales of how they have applied our extra-curricular work to gain academic results gives merit to the fun we have had. Seeing teachers join in the workshops […]

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Azfa, First Story alumna

Azfa Ali took part in the First Story creative-writing programme at Oxford Spires Academy in 2011-2012, working with poet Kate Clanchy. In 2012, she opened our second Young Writers’ Festival, inspiring hundreds of new young writers, and went on to win the prestigious Christopher Tower Poetry Prize in 2013. She is currently studying English and Creative Writing at Warwick […]

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Brett Wigdortz, Founder and CEO, Teach First

First Story has demonstrated a clear and consistent demand for its services over a sustained period of time, proving hugely popular with both schools and pupils. By placing writers in schools for the duration of an entire school year, we know First Story is serious about making a sustained impact which is why I am […]

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Roland Chambers, First Story writer-in-residence

‘First Story is all about getting children to understand how rich they are – that their stories are already inside them – and it’s wonderful to be a around when this most important lesson starts to work its magic. I teach at two very different schools, but the students in each respond in much the […]

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Anthony Cartwright, First Story writer-in-residence

‘I’ve worked with groups at Islington Arts and Media School for three years now. We’ve had different members of a couple of families join the groups across the years – brothers, sisters, cousins – and this has added to the sense of community and team-work around the project, as well as giving a kind of validation that […]

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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 […]

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Paula Rawsthorne, First Story writer-in-residence

This has been my first year as a writer-in-residence for First Story and working with the group at Nottingham Emmanuel School has been a hugely enjoyable and inspiring experience. As a writer of YA novels I visit many schools to do one-off workshops but it’s been such a gift to work with the same students […]

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Esme, First Story student, Downing Street reception 2014

‘The chief reason why First Story is so important is that they provide value. My work is taken seriously, not as a student or a teenager, but as a writer. This program provides contact with published authors who talk to me as if I were a peer. I cannot tell you the significance of authors […]

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Patrick, First Story alumnus, Young Writers’ Festival 2014

‘Some people only write for themselves. They only whisper their stories. It might be because they’re not confident enough to share them just yet. Well, there’s no need to worry: First Story is going to turn your whisper into a shout!’

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Hattie, First Story alumnus, Young Writers’ Festival 2014

‘I’ve learnt so many things from amazing writers and made real family at First Story.’

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Philip Pullman, Writer, Young Writers’ Festival 2014

‘With First Story you will be able to find out what you really want to say and who you want to be.’

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Clare Barlow, Teacher, Nottingham University Samworth Academy

‘The impact that First Story has had at NUSA has exceeded my expectations. In the writing sessions I have seen a side of the students that they keep hidden during class time. It is as if they are freed in some way to explore this skill on their own terms and by setting the agenda […]

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Lorna Dodds, Teacher, Quintin Kynaston Community Academy

‘Thank you so much for your vision, energy and kind understanding over these past three years.  I can say  honestly that I have learnt so much from my involvement with First Story:  from gleaning inspiring teaching methods to being inspired to hone my own  creative voice.  Thank you very much indeed.’

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Lucy Preston, Teacher, George Green’s School

‘First Story, for both the pupils and the adults involved, became more than a creative writing group. It became a sanctuary. It became a place where I, after a gruelling five-period day, went   to remind myself of the beauty of words and the extraordinary minds of the students of George Green’s. No data. No lesson plans. […]

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Dillena Basra, Head of English, Quintin Kynaston Community Academy

‘This has been an absolutely wonderful chance for our students. They are on free school meals, live in tough areas and have really challenging lives. It has been a chance for them to develop a love of language, of writing, to enjoy reading and the process of expressing themselves in a way that is so […]

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Peter Hobbs, First Story writer-in-Residence

‘Coming to school even once a week was something completely new in my life and very refreshing.  I find it incredibly rewarding and just constantly surprising.  I go in thinking I’m not sure this exercise will work, I’m not sure I’ll get any good pieces back, or they won’t be inspired by this one, and […]

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William Fiennes, First Story co-founder

‘The ability to write well gives you so much.  It’s not just going to be incredibly helpful to students in whatever walk of life they’re going into, to be able to express yourself clearly and powerfully and vividly.  There’s more to it than just those kinds of practical benefits.  If you’re able to write, to […]

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Mayowa, First Story student

‘How ironic, I’ve been writing for the past 9 months and now I can only think of one word to describe it. Speechless.’

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Gemma, First Story alumna, The Inclusion Project at Oxford Upper School

‘First Story has helped me socialise and know more about my class friends. It has also helped my ambitions on being a journalist when I’m older. It was nice at the end of each of the lessons when our poems were read out. Some weeks they were emotional and at other times they were funny. […]

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Mark Haddon, Writer

‘First Story is a fantastic idea. Teenagers are under increasing pressure to tailor their work to exams, and to value themselves in terms of the results. First Story offers young people something else. It helps them find a voice. Creative writing can change people’s lives: I’ve seen it happen. It’s more than learning a skill. […]

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Dave Eggers, Writer and Co-founder of the literacy project, 826 Valencia

‘First Story not only does an invaluable thing for the young and under-heard people of England, it does it exceptionally well. Their books are expertly edited and beautifully produced. The students featured within are wonderfully open and candid about their lives, and this is a credit to First Story, whose teachers thoroughly respect, and profoundly […]

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Boris Johnson, First Story’s fundraising dinner, April 2009

‘I am delighted to support such a magnificent venture.’

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Zadie Smith, Writer

‘First Story is an inspiring initiative. Having attended a school with a lot of talented kids who didn’t always have the opportunity to express that talent, I know what it would have meant to us to have real-life writers dropping by and taking our stories seriously. And what an opportunity for writers, too, to meet […]

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Alain de Botton, First Story’s fundraising dinner, May 2010

‘I think that First Story is a hugely valuable organization. What it does is it gives people a voice. It helps create a sense of what we can do about injury, lacking of voice, and in the broader sense it creates communities, true communities of understanding.’

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Philip Pullman, Writer

‘First Story is a very exciting idea. Having been a teacher myself, I know how writing – real writing, not the artificial exercises produced for tests and examinations – can liberate and strengthen young people’s sense of themselves as almost nothing else can.’

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Philip Pullman, The Oxford Literary Festival

‘Many times I saw how liberating it is for young people to be allowed and encouraged and enabled to write about the things that really matter to them. To write not to get a grade, or pass an exam, or to help their school tick some silly little box, but simply because writing is the […]

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Chelsea, First Story student, The Inclusion Project at Oxford Upper School

‘When someone else reads out my work it makes me feel quite emotional that I have written a piece of writing that I feel good about. Most of my poems are sad. First Story has helped me to bond with the group. Kate [Clanchy] is really supportive and easy to get on with and I […]

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Haengeun, First Story student

‘Thank you very much for First Story. To me, it has become one of my most memorable experiences in my life: the feeling of having my very first book in my hand – that I will never forget…’

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