In June this year Eoin Colfer, our brilliant Children’s Laureate, visited the St Catherine’s (aka Wetlands) halting site homework club in Kilkenny. He had put out a call at the start of his Laureateship asking people to send in requests for places to visit on a proposed storytelling tour. I sent one in asking him to come to Wetlands and, happily, he agreed.
The age range of the children he told stories to was quite wide but he kept them perfectly enthralled. The week after his visit one of the Homework Club workers asked young Rocky whether he could tell him the story that Eoin had told them. He recounted it back to him almost word perfect. It was that kind of story.
Peter Salisbury was down with his camera, Nessa Mahoney organised everything in her inimitable style (!) and Eoin’s friend Chris was there recording the event for a podcast. In addition Irish Traveller TV sent a camerawoman there to record the event. An interesting outfit, a volunteer based production and website group dedicated to improving the image of Travellers and Gipsies in Ireland today. Their website is here.
I sat and watched and wondered at the ability Eoin has to tell an engrossing story about something small and everyday. All the elements were there – plot, tension, characters, mighty dialogue, humour (and more humour) and, of course, the essential nappy and a few embellishments. The images he created in the story are as clear in my mind today as they were the day he told them. And the same goes for the children. That’s a gift.
I volunteer at the homework club once a week and have learnt a lot from being there. Great work being done by the full time staff who run it and by the children themselves. St. Catherine’s Halting Site has been a temporary halting site for thirty years. This year houses are being built there. The Father McGrath centre produced a report on the living conditions at the site from a Children’s Rights Perspective. It can be viewed here
This post is really just by way of thank you to Eoin, to Nessa, to Peter, Chris and CBI who all made the visit possible. To the community at Wetlands who welcomed them with open arms. To Micky, Emmet, Rocky and Claire who run the Homework Club and do such fantastic work there. And especially to the children who listened to the story and told Eoin some stories of their own!