Michael Rosen Live at the Fitz!

Michael Rosen kindly composed a new poem called "The Listening Lions" recently commissioned by Historyworks to tell the story about the stone lions which recline above the steps of The Fitzwilliam Museum.

Friday December 5th 2014

On Friday 5th December 2014, a wonderful morning of poetry, song, and performance for schoolchildren took place at the Fitzwilliam Museum with the poet and former British Children’s Poet Laureate Michael Rosen, poet and rapper Inja, composer Kirsty Martin, and music outreach officers Tizzy Faller and Mario Satchwell.

The event, organised by Historyworks who devised the day with support from partners and funders, Cambridge Music Education Outreach (CaMEO) and John Lewis Cambridge Music Award, was hosted by the Fitzwilliam Museum. It involved 125 children from four schools all sharing in a collaborative workshop with fantastic practitioners.

The day started at 9:30am when the children arrived at the museum, making their way past the great stone lions that inspired Michael’s poem The Listening Lions, expertly guided by the Education Team at the Fitz to see the lions and view them carefully before entering into the museum.

There they were welcomed by the MC of the proceedings Helen Weinstein who had organized for the first singers using the wonderful space in Gallery 3 to be the King’s Choristers singing The Listening Lions Song, composed by Kirtsy Martin. Tizzy Faller and Mario Satchwell, Outreach Officers at CaMEO, also led the arriving primary school choirs in some warm-up exercises, including a reworked version of “Who stole the cookie from the cookie-jar?” that they had altered perfectly for the event to “Who made the lions roar?” Earlier in the week, Tizzy and Mario had worked with Helen Weinstin to create an online resource for primary teachers to teach body percussion, which has been piloted with the children of St Phillip’s Primary School who were all set at the Fitz to show others how to be creating music using only their mouths and hands on their bodies, and the pupils took their newly learnt body percussion skills with confidence to the session and shared them with the other schools.

Helen Weinstein, Creative Director of Historyworks, and Rachel Sinfield, Head of Education at the Fitzwilliam Museum, gave an introduction to the day’s events, the history of the museum, the stone lions, and the links that the founding donor of the Fitz, Richard FitzWilliam, the man whom the museum is named after, had to music and collecting important scores.

Michael Rosen then stepped to the front and provided the room with a reading of his poem, The Listening Lions, followed by twenty minutes of poems, performance, and insights into what inspires his writing and how the children and teachers can do it too. The room rang with the laughter and joy that Michael created as he performed his poems, sharing the importance of repetition, repeating patterns of words and sounds and actions.  Michael worked with the children to think about how you take a subject like the stone lions and explore the creative potential, and got them to mimic the faces depicted in the decorative plasterwork above everyone around the walls of the red walls of gallery 3.


Now that Tizzy and Mario had warmed the children up vocally, and Michael had warmed them up creatively, the poet and rapper Inja led them in another workshop activity. This time they were to think about the lions and shout out the words that they had thought of. Tizzy and Helen were the appointed scribes towrite these words on big flip charts. Inja used his creative vocal and lyrical dexterity to freestyle a rap based on the children’s suggestions which amazed many of the primary participants!

The room was in awe and when asked if they thought Inja should come to their schools to do this again they all roared out a "Yes!"


The children then got the opportunity to work on their own ideas in small groups, to share and develop a short poem based on Michael’s approach to the lions and his earlier encouragement for them to be creative.

The children, inspired by the morning’s events, got straight down to the task, talking with each other in groups of three, formulating ideas, and putting pencil to paper.

They were then asked to share their poems with the room, and Michael, Inja, and Helen all helped take a phrase or a line from each new poem and put it to a beat or harmony for everyone to sing, showing just how easy it can be to be inspired and translate that into writing and performance.

This activity marked the end of the workshop but the children did get the opportunity to go visit the lions one more time as Helen invited everyone to be gathered on the portico steps for a press photo, before returning back to school.

The morning of activities, delivered by remarkable performers in an equally impressive venue, was a great example of how accessible, engaging, and rewarding these types of collaborative creative tasks can be.

Historyworks is creating a series of very short films of the day, including videos that will assist teachers who would like to develop these activities with their own classes alongside lesson plans from the artists. These films and associated lesson plans will be available soon, so that Cambridge primary school teachers can use the resources from January 2015 to teach poetry writing and performance, song writing and music composition, riffs and raps and body percussion.

To view photography from the day click on our our slideshow below or follow this link: Historyworks Flickr


Created with flickr slideshow.
Michael Rosen Live at the Fitz!


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