Belhaven Hill School

Co-ed Boarding & Day School for ages 5-13

Sir Michael Morpurgo's Engaging Encounter with Local Children

Sir Michael Morpurgo's Engaging Encounter with Local Children

Unveiling the Magic of Literature and Inspiring Future Storytellers with His New Book, ‘Tales from Shakespeare’

Belhaven Hill School, a small independent boarding and day school for 5-13 year-olds in Dunbar, East Lothian, welcomed Sir Michael Morpurgo OBE to speak about his new book, ‘Tales from Shakespeare.’ The visit marked World Book Week and was an exciting element of Belhaven’s ‘Read More’ campaign.

Above: 200 local primary school children joined boys and girls from Belhaven to welcome Sir Michael Morpurgo to East Lothian.

Visiting Scotland to promote his new book at the Mainstreet Trading Company in St. Boswells, Mr. Morpurgo generously agreed to speak to as many children as possible from the local area. Eager to ensure that we did not miss this incredible opportunity to welcome one of the greatest influences on children’s storytelling in living memory, the school invited fourteen local state and independent primary schools to the special book event.

Belhaven received such a high level of interest that the number of spaces had to be limited to 20 boys and girls per school. So, on Tuesday 5th March, 200 local primary school children aged 9 to 12 joined the 141 children from Belhaven to welcome Mr. Morpurgo to East Lothian.

The author had lunch with the school’s English department and Head Girl and Boy, as well as the winner of the school’s recent creative writing competition, before entering the packed auditorium. The 80-year-old storyteller had his audience gripped from the very start.

  

Above: Belhaven classrooms were decorated with Morpurgo book themes for the special visit.

‘Tales from Shakespeare’ is a collection of retellings of 10 of Shakespeare’s plays from Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, to Hamlet and King Lear, written in Morpurgo’s warm and accessible style.. His encouragement to the children to read his book and then go to see a Shakespeare play aims to combat the increasing reluctance to grapple with the 16th century Bard’s complex language which can create a barrier to the magic of his plays. Michael Morpurgo’s reading from ‘Macbeth’ gave the audience a taste of what to expect from this important new work.

Mr. Morpurgo went on to prove the value of a good story by explaining the inspiration behind many of his wonderful books. Having a moment grounded in personal experience, he said, was vital. The opening chapters of ‘The Butterfly Lion’, for example, were brought to life in front of our eyes as he re-told a story from his own childhood. Starting from that moment he was able to open a door into a fictional world that encourages its readers to confront the reality of the ups-and-downs of life. He encouraged everyone to write, every day, about the one thing that has made its mark on them.

 

“Occasionally, he would ask the children to lean forward and listen particularly carefully. They were asked to hold their breath – and exhale,” says Mr Olly Langton, Headmaster of Belhaven Hill School.

“The vast majority of the audience of 7-to-13 year-olds had already read many of his books and the few that have not yet were applauded for their bravery in admitting the fact. The atmosphere was one of warmth, humour and truth, gently spoken and it was as refreshing as it was inspiring.”

Every single child then got to meet the author. Handshakes and smiles, book plates and autographs – and then back to the bus, away home and a return to reality for us all.

 

Left: Sir Michael Morpurgo greets every child after the event. Right: Sir Michael Morpurgo being thanked by Mr Olly Langton, Headmaster of Belhaven Hill School in East Lothian.

It was a magical few hours spent in the company of a master of his craft. The encouragement to all of the children to live an interesting life, to ask questions and to listen will surely live with them all forever.

 

Left: A special cake and card made by the Belhaven community for Sir Michael Morpurgo's visit. Right: Belhaven children clutching the master storyteller’s books.