Culture vulture

16th September 2005 at 01:00
Fairy tales and the sounds of the Sixties float Dave Borrie's boat

Favourite reading

I'm reading The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason, about a man who gets sent out from London to Burma in 1885 to tune a piano. You get this lovely sense of a person out of his own world. My favourite book of the past year is Geraldine McCaughrean's Stop the Train, which is set after the Oklahoma land rush. She came to school and showed the children her drafts, notebook and old photographs she'd used for reference.

Traditional tales My grandfather was blind; I used to go for walks with him and he would tell me wonderful traditional stories. I would picture them in my mind and memorise them. I love the rhythm and pattern they have. I like classic tales, such as the Grimms' "The Frog-Prince" (pictured), but also an unusual selection by Ruth Manning-Sanders called A Book of Witches. I embellish the stories and use them in assemblies. Once a year I turn them into school productions. Last year we did Molly Whuppy, an English story with three brothers, three sisters and an ogre. I rejigged it and set it in the 1930s, with Baron Ogre who does experiments on children rather than eating them, and lots of zombies: Year 5s with white face paint and white chains from the local DIY store.

Treat in store I've started writing next year's production, but no one finds out what it is till January. I will say it's Russian, from Old Peter's Russian Tales, collected by Arthur Ransome (Jane Nissen Books).

Monster music I use songs from the Sixties and Seventies in my play. Things such as "We've Got to Get Out of this Place" by The Animals, and "Monster Mash".

That went down well.

Finding Brangwyn I love art galleries. I recently saw the Dal! exhibition in Rotterdam, which was superb. I like vibrant art. In school I'm about to use a picture, The Buccaneers by Frank Brangwyn, a Welsh impressionist. It's an amazing picture of these half-dead men in a boat. It's obviously a failed attack, but you have to piece together the story from the imagery. The boat behind them has a different flag; somewhere in the distance there's a ship on fire. I saw it in a BB in Sussex and tracked it down on the internet.

Dave Borrie is head of Shaw primary school in Wiltshire. Interview by Karen Gold

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