Story-teller and Author Pete Kalu Wows Lunchtime Audience At Addey and Stanhope School
Source: Deptford Town Talk 25 September 2015
You could hear a pin-drop in the library at Deptford’s Addey & Stanhope School as Manchester-based author Pete Kalu chose to open his recent lunchtime meeting with young Lewisham readers and aspiring writers with a gruesome and scary rendition of a traditional ghost/shaggy-dog story. It proved a great ice-breaker and a lively talk and Q/A session ensued.
“Pete Kalu is a terrific performer with young people, and the football theme of his novels involving young boy and girl players and their dreams and challenges proved a real draw,” said Addey & Stanhope Library manager Elizabeth Bentley. “Sometimes it can be challenging for youngsters to focus when authors read at length from their books – especially if it is a new publication and unknown to the audience. Instead, the tale Pete told of the boy haunted by the ghost of the man whose liver he stole was gripping and completely won over today’s audience, who were really receptive when he moved on to discussing his books and suggesting writing tips.”
Mr Kalu used a part of his session to explain the origins of the female protagonist in his second novel in the Striker series ‘Being Me by Adele Vialli’ published just the week before his visit to Addey & Stanhope School. Students were intrigued to learn that she became his priority thanks to feedback from the readers of his first football novel for young readers, The Silent Striker, in which she featured only as a secondary character. “People told me they really liked her spirit and said they wanted to know more about her – so I had to shelve my plans to write about Leonard who spends all his time on the bench waiting for a game. He’ll be the focus of novel three, I suppose.”
There was lots of laughter as Pete explained his own chequered footballing history and an adolescence spent thinking he shared the skills of his Silent Striker hero Marcus when in fact permanently bench-sitting or subbed Leonard was far closer to his actual experience. And asked about the difficulties of describing the action on the pitch during a game, Mr Kalu pointed out that really it is the emotions and conflicts taking place in side-lines and changing-rooms that intrigued him the most.
This lead on to a discussion of writing itself, and Mr Kalu left his audience with a strong sense of the importance of redrafting and how essential it is for writers to be readers. “It is also crucial that you try to have as much lived experience as possible – writing about what you know usually means it is convincing,” he suggested. “Also – keep a diary: in there you’ll be able to capture the raw experience of moments in your life when you faced choices or doubts and those conflicting feelings are what can inspire stories rather than the neatly- packaged afterthoughts we tend to put together once decisions have been made.”
“I enjoyed his talk and hearing about his background,” commented year 8 pupil Adam Abdullah. “It was interesting learning about how books are put together and the design of the covers. Mr Kalu told us how he had rejected the first cover of The Silent Striker because the boy on it looked too young. “
“It is wonderful for students to have a chance to meet real authors in the flesh,” said Addey & Stanhope headteacher Jan Shapiro. “It was great seeing so many boys in the audience and the writing tips he offered were terrific. Also, the example he provided of energetic story-telling will be really useful for those students in the audience who will be contributing to a Poetry Jam event we are planning as our contribution to National Poetry Day next month.”
My visit can involve me telling one or more stories to many different age groups or combined age groups. Each story lasts around 20 minutes. There are follow-up activities: these include story writing, drama and children devising in groups their own stories and telling them to the full group.
For 4 – 11 year olds
Pete Kalu delivers storytelling across the age range. For the 4 – 11 year old age group he tells a variety of West African and Caribbean trickster tales and dilemma stories.
Trickster tales feature assorted loveable rogues from Anansi the Spider, to Monkey, to Tortoise. The stories are a warm introduction to aspects of West African and Caribbean culture, and promote the universal virtues of brains over brawn, of inventiveness, quick-witted-ness and resourcefulness under pressure. Delivered in Pete Kalu’s own inimitable style, the stories are funny, engaging and always surprising.
These stories are adaptations and modernisations of traditional African dilemma tales. They always feature a knotty, moral dilemma at their end which the audience has to resolve. They are good for provoking debate and stimulating thinking skills. Most dilemma stories are funny, some are sombre. Dilemma stories have proved popular with adult as well as child audiences. They are told as stories, but lend themselves to adaptation as mini dramas.
Pete Kalu has told his stories to all age ranges from reception class age to eleven year olds and in contexts including state schools, supplementary schools and youth services. He automatically adapts the material to the audience before him. He has worked with a classroom assistant/ interpreter when taking classes containing children whose first language is Punjabi. He has collaborated with musicians and visual artists.
Fees available on request