Michael Rosen hosts Corn Exchange workshops as pupils honour refugees
Michael Rosen, the much-loved author, broadcaster and poet, visited Cambridge last week for workshops and performances with local pupils during Refugee Week and Holocaust Memorial Day.
More than 3,000 school children were involved in the project, including from primary and secondary schools, and sixth form colleges. Compositions were invited and developed in the workshops. The compositions reflected on what happens when individuals, families and communities are driven out of, or wrenched from their homes, because of war or climate catastrophe, persecution or threat of genocide. The sessions “also considered the continuing difficulties survivors and refugees face as they try and build new homes and recover from the trauma of their experiences, and how we may bring words of comfort as acts of kindness in words to show our humanity and love for others”.
The resulting poems, songs, and raps inspired by the workshop at the Corn Exchange on Wednesday (June 23), became part of the free civic event at the Corn Exchange on the Sunday.
“We find lines written by the children and Michael assembles them into an order,” said Helen Weinstein, a historian and creative director at HistoryWorks.
“Some children who’d written a poem performed it at the Wednesday workshop, and also on the Sunday. I teach history and Michael teaches poetry and it all comes together.”
Michael, who is Poet in Residence at Cambridge-based education service HistoryWorks, performed his new poems ‘Hope’ and ‘Nothing is Forever’ – specially commissioned for the event and set to music by local composer, Andrea Cockerton, and performed by the DoSoCo Foundation Community Choir and the CAP Singers from Cambridge Academic Partnership.
Michael reflected with poetic lines about what it means to be “Tracing” what happens to missing relatives, which has inspired a new dance composition, which will be performed by the Youth Elevation Dance Group from Hills Road Sixth Form College, with choreography by Helen Garner and music composed by Alex Cook.
Helen added: “This year we are collecting donations for the Refugee Hardship Fund which is administered by Cambridge Ethnic Community Forum Refugee services, supporting refugees, especially newly arrived refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine, and destitute asylum seekers. Please consider making a donation and go to the fundraising information page.”
“The show was a mix of Michael’s poetry with big choir pieces, with dance and drama inspired by Michael’s poetry. It went really well with about 200 performers and so tons of people have posted up photos on social media with comments about how awesome and moving it was.”