Tuesday 7 December 2021

Around NW with Aviator Amy Johnson

Flying from Brent

Sadie Kempner and Amanda Epe

Fly Girls Wellness was awarded funding early this year, from the National Lottery's Heritage Wellbeing Fund and delivery partners Brent Museum and Archives,  for the Flying from Brent project. From Autumn 2021, we brought back the amazing story of aviation pioneer Amy Johnson, who was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia in May 1930. The project delivered activities for both adults and school children.

Through a heritage and wellbeing walk for adults, in September 2021, we walked the pathways Amy would have taken in her time living locally and training at the London Aeroplane Club in Stag Lane. Fifteen history lovers and some flying enthusiasts turned up on a sunny Saturday morning, to walk and talk and connect with people after a period of isolation from the COVID-19 social restrictions. Led by actor and activist Sadie Kempner, we met at Kingsbury Station and walked from Kingsbury to Edgware for the first part of the walk. Sadie, dressed in Amy Johnson flying gear,  had a wealth of information on the life of Amy Johnson and the local De Havilland factory.

Using our route and material,  Philip Grant of Wembley History Society has worked with us to prepare an illustrated self-guided walk document. If you want to follow this walk, "In Amy Johnson's footsteps", and get more depth on the history related to her time in Kingsbury, you can read and download the document from the Brent Archives website here

Heritage and Wellbeing Walk 25/09/21

For part two of the wellbeing walk, we took bus 302 to venture besides the Welsh Harp Reservoir. This was where Amy Johnson met actress Anna Neagle, on the 1st of April 1931, for the launch of the speedboat racing season. Unknown to them then, it would be Anna who played Amy Johnson in a film about her life, ten years later. 

For the younger ones, the Flying from Brent project went into primary schools in October 2021. Starting in Oliver Goldsmith, Kingsbury, children watched a short film on the life of Amy Johnson played by Sadie Kempner, who then appeared in the classroom for an entertaining time tunnel drama. The children loved going back in time, and then were given the task to write letters, as Amy Johnson regularly did to her family. 

Sadie Kempner at Northview School

The next school we moved to was Northview Primary, in the neighbouring district of Neasden. Here Sadie delivered a whole school assembly, acting as Amy Johnson. This was followed up by her directing the pupils to get into character as Amy Johnson, easing them into the creative letter writing. 

The adult audience has found this project to be most inspiring, following comments from feedback forms and on the day of the walk. It brought people together to be active through walking and mentally stimulated, learning about history through an inspiring story. 

We have had fun, and it's been a great learning experience, on this opportunity to write and share local heritage. For the link to our legacy film production visit here: Flying from Brent.

Wednesday 30 June 2021

How awards can help writers growth

Queen's Honours Awards

Reflecting on June's journey in my work of girls and women empowerment I humbly received the honour of a BEM award from the Queen's Honour birthday list, this prompted me to do a blog post to share the importance of accepting awards and why one should. Whilst working to support women and girls in the community is a vocation and not expectant of awards, there is also a joy of being celebrated and your work recognised. The Prime Minister officially acknowledges the panel's shortlisted candidates, after the government hands them over to the Queen who has the final approval. Why would one dismiss the awards under Order of the British Empire? Well, one reason Black Asian and Ethnic Minorities, BAME people do not accept these awards is because of the title being associated with empire? 

Tuesday 29 June 2021

Why Race is a major component of failing school inclusion

 Women and Writers of Colour

Last week my blog post was on inclusion failure as schools celebrated School Diversity Week, and this week gives further evidence on this matter. Not only are activists seeking to address the lack of black history in the school curriculum, but there are also findings that only 7% of women writers being studied at GCSE level English Literature, and a shocking 0.7% of writers of colour being included in the English Curriculum Key Stage 2- 4. The race equality think tank Runnymede Trust and Penguin Random House collaborated to investigate the lack of representation from ethnic minority authors and writers of colour. 

Monday 21 June 2021

Why Inclusion is Failing?

 School Diversity Week

This week schools work on celebrating LGBT+ & Equality and Inclusion from 21st - 25th June. Last week I posted on Autism and Inclusion discussing why we need to celebrate our differences. But when the week is over, things return to normal, and only when the nation has campaigns do we remember to celebrate or create changes for excluded people. This is the same for Black History Month, a time when there is a possibility for black professionals to be invited into schools to give talks, and for our history to be shared in lessons. Things have improved recently with some schools taking time to collaborate with black-led organisations. The celebrations include the start of mandatory black history as The Black Curriculum since June 2020 campaigned for this to be actioned, and have trained over 3,300 teachers and 3,500 students reached to date. But why is inclusion failing?

Monday 14 June 2021

Why do we need to celebrate Autistic Pride Day?

 Autism and Inclusion

This year's theme for World Autism Day is "Inclusion in the Workplace: Challenges and Opportunities in a post-pandemic world." It's such an important topic, particularly because we see autism as a challenge and they rarely highlight the advantages in various institutions. I began working in compulsory education in a secondary school at the beginning of the Millenium as a Learning Support Assistant where I worked with pupils registered with special needs. From the onset in that school and in future schools and colleges I've worked in, I remarked at the high intelligence many of the autistic pupils portrayed. However, their strengths went uncelebrated. Schools focused on ensuring that mainstream pupils' exam grades put the school in good stead. Until the world unlearns to define what "normal" is, we will be forever fighting for inclusion for all people. 

Monday 7 June 2021

Lessons COVID taught us about technology for wellbeing

 Pros and Cons of Digital Learning during lockdown

Today tech lovers snapped the latest MacBook up for those able to purchase it and add it with their other Apple products. Reflecting on the increase of internet use over the last year I thought about the national digital divide, the have's and have nots. We assume every Western household has a PC or laptop of some sort, and some are more fortunate to have this for their personal use. Unfortunately, many children and students who schooled at home during lockdown could not access their school online lessons for either not having access to their own laptop amongst their siblings in different age/class groups and or no technology at home at all. Some of my creative writing students could not continue their sessions because of this issue. With public libraries also closed there weren't any problem-solving suggestions for young people to continue their creative writing projects.

The cohort of young people I work with fit under the psychographic of introverts, autistic and special needs, and some demographics show they are from economically disadvantaged communities. The benefits of working in small groups with my target audience have been to tackle social isolation and encourage community integration and build confidence with one-to-one creative writing sessions, therefore the lack of physical community workshops has been taxing on their well-being for those with no laptop at home. 

There were advantages of online lessons for those who had access to a laptop and internet service. Workshops and individual sessions were essential to increase participants' self-confidence and boost their creative writing and speaking skills, having not interacted for almost one year. Human contact and community is a fundamental psychological need according to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs theory. With the diverse learning styles of individuals, it will become normal for options to either use digital learning spaces or physical community spaces for learning.

Prior to lockdown, I have mentored young people in creative writing who are homeschooling or required additional-curricular activities. As we continue to watch the unsettling work from home and homeschool situation, the online learning uptake increases for those who want to advance themselves or belong to a digital community to improve their wellbeing through communication and self-expression. 

There are abundant lessons taken from the pandemic, and the stories shared are ongoing. Creativity has peaked, people have found more time to write creatively and make time to journal. It has been a lesson for me to adapt to working online as a creative writing teacher and upskill with online teaching training. I look forward to furthering partnerships as a mentor with inspiring future creative writers.