Hackney's children write back

Amanda Kelly & Warwick Mansell

Pupils from a deprived London borough have turned to poetry. Amanda Kelly and Warwick Mansell report

PUPILS in Hackney have produced a bitter-sweet collection of verse describing life in one of London's most troubled boroughs.

In a moving anthology of 70 poems, children from Gayhurst primary express their despair at the poverty, drugs and violence that so often plague the streets where they live and study. But they also describe a place rich in diversity and excitement and one they believe will one day be free of crime and deprivation.

The poems were written by Year 2-5 youngsters at the 525-pupil primary during their literacy hour.

Felicia Lord-Attivor, its literacy co-ordinator, said: "We wanted to produce something that recognises the problems, but highlights the positive aspects and bright future we believe Hackney has."

More than 1,000 copies of the book Hackney: the Borough of Life have been published with the help of funding from two local regeneration initiatives, The Heart of Hackney and Haggerston SRB Partnerships.

The project was inspired by a school visit from broadcaster, writer and former headteacher Chris Searle, who works with Young World Books, a charity that aims to advance education and promote racial harmony through young people's writing.

"I believe strongly that out of poetry comes a betterment of life. Through their writing, youngsters apply criticism but also look at what can be done to make things better."

Mark Lushington, a spokesman for Hackney Teachers' Association, said the artistic achievements of Hackney schools often got overlooked because of the bad publicity surrounding the local authority.

"Hackney is a hotbed of creativity, despite the bad press."

'Hackney: the Borough of Life', price pound;3.50, is available from Young World Books. Tel: 020 7435 4547 THE COLLECTED HOPES

My Future Hopes I see, People fighting, People swearing, People look at you up and down.

But I'd like to see, People hugging, People kissing, People having fun.

I hear, People swearing, People crying, People smashing bottles on the ground.

But I'd like to hear, People singing, People clapping, People saying I love you.

Morenike Akinwunmi, 10 Other People They say my town's a muck up But only because they're stuck up.

They say Hackney's no good It's as good as their neighbourhood.

The people are rough they say, You should see the lot down their way.

They say it's unsafe at night, What makes them think they're right?

The education's on the blink?

They're strange in the head I think.

They say there are crooks everywhere But it's them who always despair.

They tell me there's graffiti on the walls, It's in any town, those fools, Litter everywhere they say, Same as any town each day.

So when they say Hackney's no good I stand up, because it's my neighbourhood.

Ellie Corbett, 11

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Amanda Kelly & Warwick Mansell

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