For your pleasure
In association with Language Farm Productions This is the first in a projected series of five videos and support packs aimed at students taking A-level English language, although it has relevance for any student involved in creative and personal writing. I've never seen anything quite like it. Its refreshing and down-to-earth tone is a delight.
The video is acted out by teachers and students with their own problems and priorities. It uses the testimony of a stand-up comic and a spoof game show host. An anonymous "girl" is put in the care of those "scrumptious men - no, symbols", Troy Persuasion, Billy Entertainment and Shane Information. They whisk her away on a tour of "some of the most sparkling resorts in Britain" (Blackpool, Bradford and York), where she experiences all their wiles, and meanwhile allows the watcher to form a synthesis of varied styles and kinds of writing.
Intercut with all this is the experience of a class exploring personal writing, each pupil embarking on a journey into form and expression. The video is compulsive viewing - a combination of excellent editing and structuring makes a virtue of its lack of gloss.
The support pack, a hefty 80-page spiral-backed A4 book, is a worthy companion, intelligently if sometimes perhaps too intricately set out, with useful transcripts from the video script, a detailed commentary and plenty of activities. The main concern is the prose, which can be cloudy.
This resource is made with the heart. It works because it takes the student from a state of paralysis at the daunting nature of the task ahead to a set of real insights about process, structure, kind and audience. It's well worth a long, hard look.
* Dennis Hamley is a former English adviser for Hertfordshire.