Teachers' Tales

500 young writers in The Royal Hall

by Simon Blower
on June 22, 2016


12th June 2015

We have just completed one of our biggest Pobble Days to date. Over 150 pupils wrote stories for a competition organised with our friends at the Harrogate Literacy Festival. The Pobble team reflects on the session. We’re proud of the impact they have been able to have on the 7 attending schools and the group of Year 5 and 6 pupils…

We look out at the Grand Circle of the Royal Hall, one of Harrogate’s most beautiful buildings. Always looking to raise the bar, I proclaim to the team that next year I want to fill the floor. We calculate this will mean running a writing session for over 500 pupils. A challenge has been set!


May 27th 2016

Ever since we started, at Pobble we have prided ourselves on going the extra mile; running events that others would deem too challenging. We have taught writing workshops in the world’s tallest building, in the biggest stadiums in England, and in the presence of royalty. Even so, running a 2 hour writing session for over 500 young writers was maybe our biggest challenge yet!

At 9.30am, 22 schools, 50 teachers and 500 pupils enter Harrogate’s magnificent Royal Hall. As the music plays, the pupils calmly make their way to their seats. This is to be a literacy session with a difference! We had agreed on a theme of time travel to ignite the children’s imagination, and had invited author Jason Beresford. As I walk onto the stage, it is evident for the first time how many children we were really trying to teach. What on earth had we gotten ourselves into?

Over the next two hours, the children enjoy a number of different learning opportunities. Jason Beresford brings to life the WAGOLL: a specially prepared time travel story. Three teachers model writing for the group. Anna and I race around the hall with microphones sharing ideas from the excited pupils. This was taking ‘magpie-ing’ to a whole new level!


Pupils attend The Big Write 2016 at the Royal Hall in Harrogate - Chris Hall at ceejayshotsphotography.com

Pupils attend The Big Write 2016 at the Royal Hall in Harrogate – All images by Chris Hall at ceejayshotsphotography.com


Halfway through the morning, I take a few minutes out to sit at the back of the hall. Jonny is in full flow talking to the children about using feelings to describe their journey through time. In the morning we had discussed behaviour management – something many teachers worry about daily. How would we keep 500 children engaged and focused? How would we stop them talking when we had instructions to give? I look around the room… 500 pupils looking to the front. Then, as Jonny sets them off to write again, 500 heads drop to focus on their clipboards. They begin to write vigorously, eager to get all their ideas down.

As the morning continues I speak with the gathered teachers: their feedback is incredible. Many are in shock that we have engaged over 500 pupils for nearly 2 hours. Others are writing down ideas for their own lessons. Some are busy talking to pupils who have written more than they have ever written before. We all agree that the children are so well behaved because they are completely engrossed in the task. The setting is different and the topic is exciting. The music, the photos and the resources have ignited their imaginations. And, above all else, the children know they are going to become published authors and they’ll have their writing shared with the world.

As the morning comes to an end, I stand on the stage listening to some of the children read out their masterpieces. I ask the children the question I always ask at the end of my Pobble sessions: “who is proud of their writing today?” Without hesitation, 500 hands fly into the air and smiles beam back at me. I think back 3 years ago, and the exciting moment when a school from Leeds first shared a 100 word story on our site. I work out that in a little over 2 hours the children of North Yorkshire have produced over 100,000 words which will be published on our site for the world to enjoy. I, too, am proud, proud that we were brave and took on a challenge that others wouldn’t have. Pobble has once again shown those attending that we really do make writing ridiculously exciting. The question is now: what next?

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Jason Beresford’s WAGOLL

Harry was in Tesco’s shopping with his Mum when his time-travelling-trainers began to light up. Before he could blink, he was sucked through a space-time vortex then spat down into a queue of bearded men standing in a field. The men seemed to be waiting outside a cattle shed and although Harry had no idea where he was, it was definitely a long way from Tesco’s. Snow like rice pudding slopped over his trainers and he thought he could hear a baby crying.

Just then an official with a scroll hurried over. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said to Harry. ‘We were only expecting three wise men. Not four.’

‘W-w-what?’ stuttered Harry, shivering in his Justin Bieber T-shirt.

The man checked his scroll again. ‘You’re not on my list. I should send you away…But it’s alright I suppose.’ He gently opened the shed door and Harry gasped. Time-travelling was always exciting but it had never taken him anywhere like this before! He was at the very first Christmas!!

The three wise men in front of him lay down their gifts at the manger, then the man with the scroll said, ‘And what do you have for the little Prince of Peace?’

Harry was still carrying his Mum’s Tesco basket. He looked inside and gulped. He wasn’t supposed to change history when he time-travelled but he knew that what he did now would be written in the Bible and studied for centuries. Nervously, Harry began to pull out what he’d brought. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘to go with the gold, frankincense and myrrh I’ve got: some frozen oven chips, an onion, three toilet rolls and a pair of Spiderman pants that glow in the dark.’

Harry knew he was in BIG trouble. How on earth was he ever going to get out of it?

Copyright Jason Beresford 2016