October 30 2019

One of the country’s leading young writers has visited Biggar High School to encourage pupils to take up the pen and create their own stories, inspired by the world around them.

Daniel Gray brought his ‘Delights’ workshop to the South Lanarkshire school to meet pupils studying for their Higher English qualification as part of a project aimed at ensuring people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to consider creative writing.  Daniel is the author of a number of books including the ‘Delights’ series and Stramash: Tackling Scotland’s Towns and Teamsa travelogue which takes him across 12 Scottish towns. As well as appearing on STV’s People’s History Show, Daniel has been nominated twice for Saltire Awards for his books ‘This is Scotland’ and ‘Homage to Caledonia.’

The session saw Daniel introducing the concept of ‘delights’ – short, reflective written pieces about the simple pleasures people take from life (The sound of rain on a tent, seeing a brightly-lit Christmas tree through a window, getting home to the smell of a parent’s cooking…) and the way in which they can unite people. Daniel talked about his own inspirations and the process of imagination, writing and editing that goes into his work, giving pupils a unique insight into the work of an author and the publishing process. Pupils were then encouraged to come up with their own ‘delights’ in class, with input from Daniel, and share them with others.

The visit was funded as part of a partnership between Nil by Mouth and the Scottish Book Trust’s Live Literature Program. Live Literature brings reading and writing to the heart of Scotland’s communities by part-funding author events. Each year Live Literature supports around 1,200 author visits, reaching approximately 50,000 people across all 32 local authorities in Scotland. Nil by Mouth works in schools across Scotland through it’s ‘Champions for Change’ programme with more than 25,000 pupils taking part since 2015.

Some of the titles chosen by pupils at the school.

Daniel Gray said:

 I get a real thrill from working with young people – their imaginations are inspiring. The Biggar pupils absolutely excelled themselves, coming up with all sorts of creative, clever and often amusing ideas and words. We talked about how inspiration for writing can come from the most seemingly mundane situations, and how writing can help us appreciate the simple joys of the world around us.’ 

Teacher Donal Good said:

It was a pleasure to welcome Daniel Gray to our school.  In attendance was a Higher and Advanced Higher English class.  Daniel spent a double period with our pupils but it felt like 10 mins – always a good sign.  He spoke passionately about writing and guided them through the myriad of messy steps that make up the creative process – from inspiration to tortured editing.  For pupils to hear about this process from a professional writer was extremely valuable. They are in the middle of that very process right now for their Highers and I know that they now have more of an appreciation of the work that is involved as a result of hearing Daniel’s experiences .  Daniel encouraged the pupils to look to their own lives for inspiration and showed them, in a very accessible and interactive way, that inspiration and, eventually, great writing, can come from the unexpected and the mundane.’

Nil by Mouth Director Dave Scott said:

‘So much of our work focuses on the power of language and the use of words to demean or attack others. That is why we are investing in this programme which will see Daniel help young people find more positive ways of expressing themselves and using the power of words to explain their world to others. This project will also take us to places like Stirling and East Kilbride and compliment our own education work with the schools involved.’