Sir Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate from 1999 to 2009, visited the Oratory School recently to run a workshop on Creative Writing and to deliver a lecture on the subject of “Boys and Reading”.
Sir Andrew, who was knighted in 2009 for his services to literature, was invited by the Hopkins Society, which promotes culture and the arts at the school in Woodcote.
Twenty-four boys in Year 7 (aged 11), were treated to the workshop by Sir Andrew as he explored the process of writing poetry with them and helped them produce their own finished poems.
“I thought it was going to be boring,” said Archie Sykes, 11, who lives in Woodcote. “But it was really good fun.” Ruaridh Watt, 12, from Henley, said Sir Andrew was “a really inspiring figure and role model”.
Sir Andrew then went on to deliver an evening lecture to 350 parents, staff and boys gathered in the Oratory School Chapel. The theme of the lecture was “Boys and Reading” and Sir Andrew set out the reasons why he felt that boys sometimes fell out of the habit of reading and yet how important it was for boys, particularly, to be keen readers as a way of coping with the traumas and uncertainties of adolescent life. Sir Andrew said: “Apart from developing the creative powers of the imagination, reading as a teenager helps you to come to a sense of who you are, to define your own identity.”
He then went on to describe his own teenage experiences with reading. Though his mother had been a keen reader, as described in his powerful and moving childhood memoir, In the Blood, his father only ever read one book: The Lonely Skier by Hammond Innes. “And he never finished that,” Sir Andrew said.
The encouragement of an inspirational teacher led Sir Andrew into the world of books and ultimately into his career as a poet, novelist, biographer and literary critic as well as being Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway College, University of London. He also said he had the previous day finished writing the sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, to be published later this year.