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On Thursday 23rd September, we were excited to welcome author Sophie Cleverly and slam poet Harry Baker to St Mary’s, as part of 'Leaf to Leaf', our series of special events celebrating the opening of our new library and garden.

Harry Baker gave two high-energy performances in the library to an audience of our Fifth and Sixth form students. From his world slam-winning poem, Paper People to the engaging prime-number love poem, 59, (a fusion of his two passions – maths and poetry), Harry struck the perfect balance between pathos and humour. The audience were encouraged to participate in his poem, Falafelloeffel, which caused much hilarity and in a change of pace, he performed the affecting poem Unashamed, which explored the value of ‘being yourself’. All agreed that a great connection had been achieved between performer and audience and, remarkably, throughout these fast-paced often tongue-twisting performances, not once did Harry trip over his words!

Sophie Cleverly, the writer behind the popular and well-loved and bestselling Scarlet & Ivy series, spoke to our Fourth Form students over two sessions. She shared her journey to becoming a writer and explained how she had found much inspiration from historical photographs.

She also stressed the importance of reading a lot – and she shared her favourite books and authors (she loves Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman!) She also suggested to everyone to read widely, in order to start finding one's own writing ‘voice’.

With Scarlet & Ivy, she chose to set the stories in the 1930s as, although this is now almost 100 years ago, there is a lot about boarding school life and the lessons that were taught then, that students today could still relate to now. Also, given that her stories were mysteries, she did not want people to have access to modern technology, as it would be too easy to get people together and solve the situation. She then went through the process of developing a mystery, including clues, twists, red herrings - and a satisfying solution! Sophie followed her session with a book signing, which proved to be very popular, with some pupils even requesting dedications to their younger sisters. It was lovely to see everyone sharing their love of stories and reading!