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Newman Catholic College pupils perform at British Library after Black Boys Book Club

PUBLISHED: 07:32 06 August 2019

Newman Catholic College students at the British Library's Africa Writes festival. Picture: Newman Catholic College

Newman Catholic College students at the British Library's Africa Writes festival. Picture: Newman Catholic College

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Boys at Newman Catholic College received a standing ovation after performing poetry for the first time at the British Library.

Rossana Amado at the Africa Writes festival with some of her students. Picture: Newman Catholic CollegeRossana Amado at the Africa Writes festival with some of her students. Picture: Newman Catholic College

The pupils from the Harlesden Road school are part of the "Black Boys Book Club" which was set up by their English teacher to help connect them with black writers - some aspects of whose work they could relate to more than those usually included in the curriculum.

English teacher Rossana Ernesto Amado came up with the idea for the club after attending the "Africa Writes" festival at the British Library last year, Her goal was to have students perform at the festival this year.

She said: "The whole idea behind the book club was to get the boys to interact with contemporary literature from Africa, because they don't have a chance to connect with that otherwise in the mainstream.

"They read everything from poetry to plays to novels and they were engaging with so many different texts, so all of them can find something they like."

George the Poet launches the Black Boys Book Club at Newman Catholic College. Picture: Newman Catholic CollegeGeorge the Poet launches the Black Boys Book Club at Newman Catholic College. Picture: Newman Catholic College

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The book club met for an hour once a week after school and though the boys were reluctant at first, the sessions soon went for an hour and a half because they were so engaged in the conversations.

The boys were mentored by writers such as George the Poet, who performed at the royal wedding last year, Nick Makoha and DD Armstrong. And at the festival last month, the boys performed their own poetry about their experiences of being young, black and British today.

Lead mentor Belinda Goodin said: "We were extremely proud of the boys to come out of their comfort zone for performing in front of an audience. They were well received and got the biggest round of applause and standing ovation, and that helps their confidence and raises their self esteem."

George the Poet and Newman Catholic College headteacher Daniel Patrick Coyle. Picture: Newman Catholic CollegeGeorge the Poet and Newman Catholic College headteacher Daniel Patrick Coyle. Picture: Newman Catholic College

Assistant head and the school's black Caribbean "champion" Celine Donne said the aim of the programme was to change the negative stereotypes and narrative that the boys face.

She said: "At the moment, everyone is always talking about crime, but what's the alternative? Has anyone told them what to do?

"We keep telling them to change their ways but we don't give them the opportunities. Teachers have to come up with ideas to open up opportunities for them."

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