A laughter filled poetry workshop with Chrissie Gittins

By Georgia Penrose 

Award-winning writer Chrissie Gittins warmly introduced herself to her young audience in her Friday workshop. The children were immediately drawn in by Chrissie’s talk, which covered her work in a Scottish school, her travels to Bangkok, her writing, including short stories, poetry and radio dramas. From the start everyone was excited to join the workshop.  

Chrissie began by reading selected poems from her latest book Adder, Bluebell and Lobster. She involved the children by allowing them to join in with the chorus. She went on to ask, ‘what do you take into the shower?’ and the audience was suddenly filled with children wriggling around on their chairs, hands in the air, eager to give their answers. She chose a few children and then continued to read her poem about a Cauliflower in the shower. The marquee filled with the infectious laughter of the young audience. Interaction was a key factor in Chrissie’s workshop, varying from listening to the children’s ideas to choosing one child from each of the groups to read the poem that they had created. Evidenced by their confidence in speaking into the microphone, the children were becoming more comfortable around one another and really opening up about their thoughts. 

Using a poem that she had written called ‘Files not found on the computer,’ based on human sensations known as ‘The Touch file,’ The Taste file’ and ‘The Aroma file,’ Chrissie encouraged the children to imagine aspects of nature and the countryside and to create their own poem. It was clear that Chrissie was not only interested in amusing children; she also wanted to educate them. ‘I am not satisfied with just names or just birds. I like naming things specifically,’ she told the children before encouraging them to use adverbs and adjectives to add detail and description to their work. 

Following the workshop, Chrissie spoke about her work. The author worked as both an artist and a teacher prior to her career as a writer , a career that she has now been pursuing for 27 years. Chrissie told the audience that she hasn’t always preferred poetry, but that she has also enjoyed writing prose and dramas. She also spoke about her initial inspiration for writing – ‘reading!’