PUPILS at a Trowbridge secondary school have been taking part in a literature festival designed to celebrate the written and spoken word.

The festival, called The Word, was staged last week at the John of Gaunt School and celebrated the joy of the spoken and written word across year groups with a mix of major events and fringe activities.

Students enjoyed headline sessions with champion slam poet, Ash Dickinson and, Carnegie shortlisted author, Chris Vick.

The spirits of some 200 Year 8 students were lifted by Ash Dickinson’s energised poetry performances of Page Against The Machine; Mango, The Reading Retriever, and Shadow Boxing Snowflakes.

Using the format of the Spanish Shadorma, he then coached the children in crafting poems ranging from England's defeat in the Euros, unusual pets and plastic in our oceans.

Prizes were awarded to those who showed the courage to read their poems and to those who crafted the most-inspired work.

Mr Dickinson said: "This was only my ninth face-to-face visit since the pandemic struck - under normal circumstances I might have achieved that in a fortnight.

"Accordingly, I was as happy to see them as Year 8 seemed to be to see me. Certainly they used the catharsis of poetry to ease the heartache of England's Euros defeat the night before!

"Some terrific poetry was written in a short space of time."Chris Vick delivered engaging author talks to Year 7 and Year 9 pupils.

Covering his life as a writer and his love of surfing, Cornwall and Morocco, he guided students on the essential ingredients of stories.

Pupils asked an array of questions, from finding inspiration to getting published. Many Year 7s had copies of the acclaimed Girl. Boy. Sea. for Chris to sign.

In addition, 45 Year 10 pupils went on a trip to the Theatre Royal in Bath to see the ghostly thriller The Woman in Black.

Trip organiser, Dr Stephanie Clayton, said: “After the long closure of the theatres, it was heart-warming to see our students literally on the edge of their seats, fully engrossed in a live performance.”

The final event of the festival was a belated celebration of World Book Day with staff dressed up in literary costumes.

With 300 nearly new teen books donated, a Book and Bake Takeaway was also held in the school library.

Ulrika Bruton, Learning Resources Manager and The Queen of Hearts, said: “We hope students will be inspired to keep reading over the summer – especially those who may not have access to many books at home.”

A central festival activity was a competition for students to write 100 words on the falcon – the school’s majestic icon and royal badge linked historically to John of Gaunt. Up to £35 in vouchers for each year group were given to the strongest entries.

Headteacher, Paul Skipp said: “It was fantastic to see our students engaging so well with the visiting authors and poets.

"I extend my thanks to Garston Vets, Tymbark Supermarket and We Love Pets Trowbridge for sponsoring The Word. Hopefully, the festival will grow year on year.”