Congratulations to Mike Biggs and colleagues – ‘A Class Act’


Mike Biggs is the latest of many inspirational WEA students to be nominated for an Adult Learners’ Week award.    (Don’t forget there is still time to make nominations online as applications close at 5pm tomorrow, Wednesday 17th December  see )

Feedback from WEA staff and partners has confirmed that Mike is one of the many students in WEA courses for whom learning has had a huge effect on their lives.   A passion for creative writing has led to involvement in many courses, the establishment of an informal local writing group in Selston and most recently the publication of an anthology of poetry and prose ‘A Class Act’.  This has been edited by Mike and colleagues from the course in order to showcase the powerful examples of creativity and writing produced by Mike and his peers on this course.

Mike Wareham as WEA tutor of the Creative Writing course which Mike Biggs has been a student said:

‘Last summer the members of my ACLS/WEA creative writing class at the Tin Hat Centre, Selston decided to produce an anthology of their writing. Mike Biggs, a long term member of the class, took on the role of editor, assisted by me and Cindy Rossiter, another member of the group.

This was a huge task, as all 14 members of the group put in a number of poems and prose pieces, all of which had to be copy edited, and sent back and forth between us and the writers, for comment and improvement. Mike coordinated this task with endless patience, skill and enthusiasm, often taking especial pains to help individual writers.

The book, A Class Act, that he has created, is a thoroughly professional production in spined paperback, of 195 pages. Mike has done a great job in liaising with the printers and ensuring the book looks and feels as good as it does.
Any publicity we can get with the book would be great as we would like to sell as many as possible, obviously! They are for sale from the Tin Hat Centre, Selston in order to raise money for this local charity.’

The snowball effect of learning continues well beyond the class room and impacts on local communities, learners families, and in addition in this case creates a lasting legacy in the form of a publication that will form part of the history of this town.    Mike has put in ‘literally hundreds of hours’ of work into this passion for learning and sharing the fruits of his learning.   Many congratulations to Mike and the rest of the group for such a marvellous achievement, and now the rest of the Adult Learning World has the chance to be inspired by Mike’s efforts and say congratulations too!

Creative Writing News from the East Midlands from Debs Tyler-Bennett

It’s a real privilege teaching creative writing and seeing someone’s words and ideas form on the page, whether this is for the first time or whether they’ve been writing and shaping work for ages.

As a tutor teaching three groups in the East Midlands (Derby, Beeston, and Loughborough), as well as being a published writer of poems and short fictions myself, I’m increasingly struck by how lucky writers are that the East Midlands is such a creative centre, and that their work, should they wish it, has many potential outlets locally as well as nationally.

Recently, Mike Wilson at Loughborough Branch hosted a poetry evening (Not National Poetry Day) which once more acted as a reminder of where creative writing might lead.

I thought I’d share a few of my students’ successes from the WEA across the region, both to celebrate their work and maybe to encourage those new to writing to have a go at sending work out when they’re ready.  The students mentioned are only a handful of those achieving both personal and national successes with their work.

From Derby, Maureen Neal has had several short works of science fiction and fantasy anthologised, and has performed from these at readings at Quad.  She was also short-listed for a novel competition, winning a professional critique of her work.  Peter Shanks, an active member of Wirksworth Wordminers, regularly performs his work and has poems in the Wordminers’ anthology Upright and Eating Salad, the title of which was taken from one of his pieces.  Also, Joy Revell was commended in the Southwell Apple Poetry Competition.  

Liz Brownhill a member of the Loughborough group has had work displayed recently at an exhibition on World War One in Belton.  I was also thrilled that Liz attended my creative writing workshops for the Heritage Lottery Funded Diseworth and Kegworth World War One project, and that one of her poems from the workshop was chosen to form part of the community play, ‘Till The Boys Come Home directed by the Chorus Theatre.  The play (shown over the weekend of the first week of September this year) was really moving, and I was delighted Liz’s excellent poem was part of it.

Many other writers from Loughborough, Beeston, and Derby are being anthologised regularly in magazines (including my own Coffee House), and being placed in competitions, Jonathan Hill winning a prize for his poem on New Walk for a past WEA project.

Stephanie Bowes, another Loughborough student, has had a running series of stories in The Trencherman, the Richard III Society’s magazine.

But it isn’t just literary places where a students work might appear. Much of Brenda Boggild’s work (Beeston branch) is included at events on Anglo-Indian history, while Elizabeth Dodds (also Beeston) uses her writing to depict a Scottish childhood and memorialise changed places.  Robert Howard runs his own Littlehand Press Blogspot, and has just co-authored a fantastic History Guide on the 35 Bus for Travel Right.

Most recently, WEA Beeston’s Jan Norton had her poem ‘Miner’s Welfare’ published by Writers’ Forum, had a short story ‘Bristol Cream’ short listed for The Penfro Book Festival Short Story Competition, and her poem ‘Hiraeth’ was one of two runners-up in the Elmet Trust Poetry Competition.

In fact, these students’ stories demonstrate the great thing about writing; you never know where something will appear, or who will be interested in it.  Some students, like Loughborough’s Roy Kershaw, are working on longer pieces, such as his memoir, Mother and Me.

And the WEA affects tutors’ work, too. For example, my latest collection of short fictions Turned Out Nice Again from the King’s England Press tells the story of a group of variety performers during the 1940s.  During my research for the book (where all the stories are linked by fake news cuttings and music hall histories) I got in touch with the Max Miller society.  I’m now a member, and write regularly for their magazine There’ll Never be Another.  After a recent reading in Brighton, a woman came up to me who’d worked with the great Max, and told me about her time with him.

This anecdote may not seem to have much to do with the publication and teaching experiences I’ve been writing about, except that my work on variety has informed my writing and my teaching more than I would have thought possible, and I’ve designed several writing exercises for my WEA classes based on it.

So that’s what I’d tell anyone thinking of doing a creative writing class for the first time. You may be nervous of sharing your work with others, and this may always be the case.  But all writers, even the most published ones, are nervous of this.  So I’d say, give it a go and when you’re ready, think of those students who’ve found publication, and send your work out.  Or, even if you’re just writing for family or yourself, imagine a wider public reading your pieces and those pieces will undoubtedly improve (on the other hand, it’s amazing how many published writers begin with a desire to jot down family history).  Writing and creative outlets for it are adventures in themselves, and you never know where something you created will end up!  So, I’d say, get writing, and as the Cheekie Chappie himself would have said, make sure the things you say are snappy!

Must have – updated 5 minute session plan and evaluation

5 Minute lesson plan

A friend and former colleague, who was involved in an Ofsted inspection a couple of weeks’ ago, shared this helpful file with me. You can type in the text boxes on each shape or simply run some copies off and write on them.  You might also want to change some of the lower  box headings, eg put in Social Purpose/Critical Thinking or one of the themes of Employability, Cultural, health and well-being and Community Engagement.

Page 2 has an evaluation/review to prompt you to do this, too.

There’s a link at the foot to a relevant website if you want to explore possibilities further..

Churchill – the man and the myth

Nottingham branch committee have asked if anyone could offer a course in autumn term 2015 (September onwards) about Winston Churchill.  They were thinking of either a 7 week x 2 hours or 9 weeks x 1.5 hours course probably at Nottingham Mechanics. They’ve suggested the working title: Churchill the man and the myth –  but this can be changed it just gives some idea of what they want the course to be about.

The sort of topics they have suggested are:

Family background, personal life, politicial career, his key speeches, the War, the man and the myth, his place in 20th century history and possible revision of this –  of course we’re open to suggestions about course content.

A long shot, but if any tutor in easy reach of Nottingham could offer such a course I’d love to hear from you. Or if you know someone who’d be interested.

Nikki Cleaver Nottingham branch organiser

Tel: 0115 9628418 (leave message and I’ll get back to you)



Fruit carving tutor needed

The Tin Hat centre in Selston would like to be able to run a fruit carving course on a Monday or Tuesday in Spring or Summer. They have lots of centre users who have seen these type of table decorations on holiday and would like to learn how to do this.

If anyone is interested and available please let me know by emailing

Adult Learners’ Week

ALW_LogoV3The Adult Learners’ Week Awards 2015 are now open and awaiting your nominations. We want to hear the very best stories about adults of every background, age and stage who, through learning, have transformed their own lives and the lives of their families, the communities they live in and the places they work.

The 2015 Awards will be presented to the most remarkable individuals, tutors, projects and employers. So, if you know any inspirational people, nominate today. Every year, Adult Learners’ Week produces some fantastic stories from truly inspirational award winners who have experienced life-changing benefits from learning.

We want to hear about:

Individuals who have made a significant difference to their lives through learning, and who would inspire others to do the same.

Tutors who are passionate and dedicated to learning, and make invaluable contributions to the lives of adult learners from all walks of life.

Projects that have made a positive difference to learners’ development and helped people change their lives for the better.

Employers that invest in outstanding staff training, and use learning to develop the skills of their workforce to improve productivity, raise morale and enhance their business performance.

Don’t miss out! The deadline for nominations is 5pm on Wednesday 17 December 2014.

Nominate now:

Tutor Organiser 101 Hinckley Road Leicester

The region has the following vacancy currently available:
Job title: Tutor Organiser
Location: Leicester
Hours: 35 per week
Salary: Grade D: £29,865 – £34,129 per annum, pro rata
Contract: Full time
Job summary: This is an exciting opportunity to manage a varied programme of learning within a vibrant local learning centre in Leicester. The post holder will also manage outreach learning provision through community partners. You will need to have experience of managing course provision and tutors, knowledge of accredited and non-accredited adult learning, and a good understanding of the WEA and the wider adult and community learning sector.

The successful applicant will have experience of teaching and working with groups of adults; be able to support a team of staff; hold a teaching qualification and be educated to degree level or equivalent.

Interviews will be held Thursday 11 December 2014

Closing date: 9am 08 December 2014

If you or someone you know are interested download the application pack from here

‘Women Going Through The Change’

Andria Birch:

Free learning event and film screening for all – please share with with colleagues and students.

Originally posted on Women Leading Learning:


Photo: John Sturrock /

Free WEA / WLL Screening of this brilliant film in partnership with Nottingham Friends Meeting House, Nottingham and with guest speaker Bridget Bell, Secretary of NWAPC, as part of Nottingham Women’s Festival and the commemoration of 30 years since the miners strike.

Bridget has been actively involved with WAPC for 30 years and, as a member of the North Staffs Miners’ Wives Action Group, following on from the work of supporting the strike, helped set the Trentham Pit Camp in January 1993 and, with two other women, occupied the pit in May of the same year. In 2003 as Joint Secretary of NWAPC, Bridget was instrumental in organising the twenty anniversary celebration of NWAPC which is featured in the film.

This event is open to women and men and free tickets available but limited, so please let us know you are coming by adding a comment…

View original 151 more words

Tutors needed in Leicester city centre

The WEA 101 Branch is urgently seeking tutors for their programme, on site and across the city.  Subjects include:

  • computing (accredited and non accredited)
  • sewing (basic skills and making simple items, using sewing machines, soft furnishings and Asian dressmaking (kameez and shalwar)
  • arts and crafts for people with learning needs and difficulties
  • Other recent requests have included health and beauty (including Mendi), and sugarcraft.

If you are interested, please contact: Helen Salisbury, Organiser WEA 101 Branch, or 0116 255 6614