Posted by Steve

Allan Ahlberg visits his old school

Writer Allan Ahlberg, author of such children’s classics as Peepo, The Jolly Postman, Woof and Funny Bones, came back to visit his old primary school, Rood End in Oldbury, today.

He was visiting as part of project that BCT is doing in collaboration with Multistory and The Public. We are using several of Allan’s books as a starting point, and working in two schools he has a close association with – one which he attended as a boy and the second where he had his first teaching job. A new exhibition will be created reflecting Allan’s experience and work and also the work and experience of the present day pupils. The exhibition will be mounted in The Public over the summer and is called “Allan Ahlberg and the Art of Stories.”

Over the last few weeks, workshops with various artists have been taking place in the schools and today Allan visited for the first time, as part of the project.

In a packed assembly they sang songs he’d written – “What shall we do with the Grumpy Teacher?” being a hot favourite, and Allan read them some of his poems and told them of his time at the school – including being caned in the Headmaster’s office and another story which we were made to promise we would not repeat, so I can’t.

Afterwards he met artists working on the project for a working lunch at The Public, where we discovered how much was true and how much made up in books like “The Boyhood of Burglar Bill”, how he went from being a gravedigger to a teacher, all because his supervisor discovered he had A Levels (funny bones must have had a very different meaning to him then) and how he “nearly had a trial with the Baggies”. Clearly football’s loss was our gain.

Tomorrow, he will visit the second school and meanwhile, workshops with the artists continue….

Steve Johnstone

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