FIRED UP BY LITERATURE | Daniel Morden, Hay Festival Scribblers Tour 2018

FIRED UP BY LITERATURE | Daniel Morden, Hay Festival Scribblers Tour 2018

According to The National Literacy Trust three-quarters of a million (770,129) UK school children don’t own a book. Of these children, those who receive free school meals, boys of all ages and teenagers are the most likely to say they have no books of their own at home.

The research report, Book ownership and reading outcomes, found that children who own a book are 15 times more likely to read above the level expected for their age and are four times less likely to read below the expected level.

A literature festival in rural Wales is going to be a stretch for many young people: you need an adult to get you there, and then there’s the price of the tickets. To address this, Hay Festival schedules two school days (24th and 25th May this year) before the public events begin. In 2017 as one of the featured authors I performed to two thousand students. Hay always has a unique buzz, but to see so many screen-fixated teenagers fired up by literature was an inspiration.

In these straitened times many schools can’t countenance a coach to the site. If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed…

I have just finished a Hay Festival Scribblers tour. We have spoken to high school students at five universities across Wales. What a treat! Every day I have told ancient folktales and spoken about my journey from geeky teenager in a Cwmbran Comp to published author. My Partner–in-Crime has been Eric Ngalle Charles, poet, playwright and raconteur, a modern day Odysseus. Trafficked from Cameroon at the age of 17, he found himself homeless, friendless and penniless on the streets of Russia. For two hellish years he survived by dint of his quick wits and the kindness of strangers.

Most days the students have been eager from the outset, but once they arrived silent and guarded. It was moving to watch them relax as the day progressed, and intensely rewarding to sit amongst them at the end of the session, sharing tales and riddles. That is the day that will stay with me.

Thank you Hay.

Daniel Morden is part of the Hay Festival Scribblers Tour 2018, which takes writers direct to pupils across Wales in events at Welsh universities. Find out more here.