Last Monday I was lucky enough to be invited to a meeting to mark the Ladybird, Ladybird centenary project and its fantastic new exhibition area at Charnwood Museum.
There were a number of reasons why I was lucky, not least because the organiser – a lovely, chirpy lady named Tatty – had remembered I’m a coeliac and ordered me a beautiful lunch of salad with feta cheese.
Another reason was that I had the pleasure of spending two hours with a group of people who, rather unusually, overlapped three of those areas of my life which make my brain tingle: my creative self, the self which catches fire at the thought of history and heritage, and the self – and I surprise myself a little in admitting this – which is passionately interested in the education of young people.
I say I’m a little surprised because when I was made redundant from teaching, I swore I’d never engage with the education system again. And yet here I am, almost three years later, employed by a University and increasingly involved with schools through my work as a governor.
One of the topics at Monday’s meeting was the importance of creativity and culture to our happiness and well-being. I agree whole-heartedly with that. Having lost my place in the world of work and freed briefly from the need to earn a living (thank you, redundancy money!), I took the opportunity to do something I’d been wanting to do for some time. I developed my writerly self. I read books, attended writing workshops, joined classes. I networked with other writers, joined a writing group.
And it wasn’t just writing: when offered the chance to do something ‘different’, I took my lead from Danny Wallace and said ‘Yes!’ Which is how I came to train as a local tour guide, how I came to work with the local youth service and why I went on so much excellent training about what makes young people tick. As well as how I came to hop on trains, visit museums, listen to lectures, apply for jobs I’d never have considered before, meet people from all different spheres of life, have sooo much fun.
Basically, I had the time and financial freedom to experiment for a while, to try out new things and question who I am. I’m really pleased with the answers I came up with, as well as surprised to remember how many of these new interests existed within me as a child.
Childhood should be about experimenting, about having the time, freedom and opportunity to try out new things and find out who you are. That point was made several times on Monday and is one of the reasons I’ve become interested in education again. There’s an awful lot about the current education system that I don’t approve of and I can be very vocal about that when prompted. But it’s all we have for now, and the best hope for the young people within it is to work with what’s there and make it the best it can be.
So that’s what I’m trying to do, to do my bit to help make things better. But I’m still hoping someone, soon, will make bigger, lasting changes, to give our young people the childhood they deserve.
* The Ladybird, Ladybird project involved young parents receiving storytelling training from the UK’s National Storyteller, Katrice Horsley. The results she achieved – and the knock-on effects of her training on the confidence and skills of those she worked with – were one of many positive outcomes of the project. In this video Katrice tells the story of how she became a storyteller: I particularly like the sentiment of her closing line.