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Literary opportunities open doors for young people in the South West

  • Date: 13 May 2014
  • Area: South West
Group of young people - Science Festival Young Journalists

Cheltenham Science Festival Young Journalists. Credit: Courtesy of Gloucestershire Echo

Following the recent success of their Jazz Festival, Arts Council England's National portfolio organisation, Cheltenham Festivals, are set to use their upcoming Science Festival as a platform to inspire confidence, ambition, imagination and literacy in young people in the area this summer.

The new student journalist programme will offer local Sixth Form students a unique opportunity to develop their journalistic writing skills. Ten budding student journalists, studying either Media Studies or English Literature, will be given official Science Festival press passes, allowing them to attend events and produce articles alongside professional reporters from local and national press.

Over the course of the Science Festival - 3-8 June - the team will work together to write, edit and print newspaper spreads featuring stories inspired by the festival and the newspaper produced will be available on the Science Festival's site, free for Festival-goers. The students will also be tweeting and producing a podcast about their experience.

With a varied programme, exploring everything from giant telescopes to dinosaurs and dementia to string theory, The Times Cheltenham Science Festival will provide ample content for young aspiring journalists to get their teeth into. Audiences will hear from the likes of ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and writer Richard Dawkins; journalist, medical doctor and producer Michael Mosley and comedian and science enthusiast Robin Ince.

The Festival's education team have a track record of delivering great projects that unlock talent and enrich lives. The journalism project develops the offer, illuminating career opportunities for young people that might not otherwise have access to programmes like this.

Demi Wheeler, 17 year old All Saints' Academy pupil said: 'I think it will teach me how to interview people because I have never done that before. I'm excited but scared too. '

Ali Mawle, Director of Education, Cheltenham Festivals said: 'Cheltenham Festivals is always finding fresh ways to connect young people with industry professionals drawn to Cheltenham each year for the Festivals. Inviting students to join our press team for Science 2014 is just one of these. We are looking forward to experiencing the Festival through the students' eyes, and enabling them to hone their journalism skills; get a taste of different careers; and to know that these opportunities are available to them.'

Chelsea Craven, 18 year old, All Saints' Academy pupil said: 'I want to pursue a career in broadcast journalism and I thought it would be a fun experience and interesting to get a taste of the field.'

Cheltenham Festivals have further plans to develop their programme of literary education by bringing the First Story programme to Gloucestershire this autumn.

Tried and tested with brilliant results, the First Story programme places professional writers in challenging secondary schools to run year-round creative writing workshops, supporting and motivating creativity, literacy and confidence in pupils and their communities. First Story currently runs in 40 secondary schools in the East Midlands, Lancashire, London, Oxfordshire and Yorkshire.

Across all schools taking part in First Story in 2012-2013: 100% of teachers reported an increase in students' confidence, imaginative faculties and aspirations; 99% of students said they themselves had become more confident; 97% of teachers said that students' writing had improved beyond predicted levels and  95% of students said they plan to continue writing for pleasure.

Cheltenham Festivals are currently awaiting confirmation of funding to launch the First Story programme in Gloucestershire. Watch this space!

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: 'Cheltenham Festivals runs internationally acclaimed music, jazz, literature and science festivals every year. We are very excited to see how their education programmes are overlapping with these, fusing artistic excellence with engagement from all parts of society.'

Find out more about The Times Cheltenham Science Festival here and more about First Story here