Poet Valerie Bloom inspires Gants Hill pupils for Black History Month
PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 October 2014
A children's poet captivated school pupils as she performed and taught Jamaican Patois to celebrate Black History Month.
Valerie Bloom Facts
Valerie was born in Clarendon, Jamaica in 1956.
She studied English with African and Caribbean Studies at the University of Kent.
The poet trained and worked as a teacher in Jamaica before coming to the UK.
Valerie once worked as a steel pan instructor.
The Jaws and Claws and Things With Wings writer doesn’t eat meat.
Her first published novel was called Surprising Joy in 2003.
Valerie is a passionate gardener.
She’s the eldest of nine children.
Her first published work appeared in a Jamaican newspaper when she was in Primary School.
The writer has an MBE for her services to poetry.
Writer Valerie Bloom, who was awarded an MBE in 2008, got children at Gearies Primary School in Waremead Road, Gants Hill, to learn about Jamaican language and culture as well as performing a selection of children’s poems to an excited crowd.
The wordsmith, who moved from to Kent from Jamaica in the late 70s, wanted to raise awareness of the importance of black history in Britain, while the pupils learnt about a different culture in a fun and creative way.
Valerie, who writes about everything from fruits to slavery, is using poetry as a way of engaging young people in writing.
She said: “Poetry is universal, I’ve been everywhere from Kuwait and Qatar to all over the world and the response to my work has always been brilliant.”
Valerie put on poetry workshops between performances at the school last week, with pupils creating a dedicated Valerie Bloom display in honour of her visit.
The poet said of Black History Month: “It’s really important to raise the awareness of our history and how it affects everyone in this country - I was in a school the week before where the children had not heard of black history month.
“I think if you take out all the black history out of Britain we wouldn’t have Britain as we know it anymore. Our histories are interwoven and intertwined and we should all know about our past - if we all understood it better, I think there would be less conflict.”
Valerie, who is renowned for her use of Patois in her work, has also written poetry focussed on harder-hitting subjects in poems such as Legacy - written to commemorate the abolition of slavery.
“Someone pointed out to me that I wrote a lot about food but I do like to tackle most things, there are some things I wont tackle because I’m not interested and some subjects are just overdone.
Valerie, who released her first collection of poems Touch Mi! Tell Mi! in 1983, said: “I don’t think I can add to some subjects sometimes - I remember I was writing about apartheid and everyone else was also writing about it at the time.
“The amount of poems that were coming out was turning people off from listening, but sometimes when you feel it you just have to write about it.”
The poet admitted enjoying writing for younger audiences.
She said: “I write for children because they’re so responsive, with children, I like to use a lot of rhyme and rhythm and that’s what children love.
“What the children should take away is that poetry is fun and it’s something that they can enjoy, I was doing a workshop and one of the girls couldn’t believe she was learning, which is just amazing.”