Schools from across the city come together

'Soundtrack To Our Lives' compiler Brian McGilloway (centre), pictured with Eugene Martin, Branch Manager, Central Library, Foyle Street and Jenni Doherty, Guildhall Press on Thursday night. 2606JM06
'Soundtrack To Our Lives' compiler Brian McGilloway (centre), pictured with Eugene Martin, Branch Manager, Central Library, Foyle Street and Jenni Doherty, Guildhall Press on Thursday night. 2606JM06

Author and teacher Brian McGilloway gave the best endorsement of a project designed to inspire some of the city’s young writers when he said he wished a similar initiative had been around when he was at school.

Luckily, for the 56 students who contributed to the ‘Soundtracks To Our Lives’ the project has existed, and has given all of the young people involved a chance to see their writing published in a credible anthology.

The collection marks the first collaboration between the English departments of the post-primary schools in the city and beyond. Each school was invited to select up to five students to participate in the ‘Soundtrack To Our Lives’ project. Supported by their English teachers and Heads of English, the pupils were asked to write a short story inspired by a song. The project was funded by the City of Culture and the Big Lottery

“Everyone in that anthology is a writer, no question,” said Brian this week, ahead of the book’s launch at Derry’s Central Library.

“I’ve read some of the stories and thought, that person will definitely be published. All 56 writers have a real talent.”

The St Columb’s College teacher said the young people from schools across Derry had been given a real taste of what it felt like to be a writer, with strict deadlines and a realistic short story brief.

“It introduced all the pupils to the process of being a writer and everything that entails. They got to experience the process of production, from the writing through to the editing process and the publicity around the launch of the book. At the start of February, all the students attended a one-day workshop with five local writers: Dave Duggan, Freya McClements, Felicity McCall, Claire Allan and Marilyn McLaughlin. The pupils worked in groups, reading one another’s stories and offering feedback. The pupils were encouraged to attend the workshops out of uniform and groups were designed in such a manner to ensure that all the pupils mixed and worked with those from other schools. They were supported in the drafting of their original work that day by the five writers, a number of local English teachers from the various schools involved and the PGCE English students from the University of Ulster, Coleraine.

As part of the writing process, the pupils also attended a Literary Lunch in April with the international best-selling children’s author Derek Landy and had an opportunity to spend some time discussing the craft of writing with him and gaining insight from his experiences of writing and being published.”

Foyle College pupil Cara McBride admits she’s ‘hooked on writing.’

“In school, we’d be asked to write stories of a certain length and usually around one or two pages. I’d just keep writing until it was about ten pages long. I just absolutely love writing,” says the Year 11 pupil.

“I think it’s really amazing that we’ve had our work published. I didn’t think I’d ever get the opportunity to do something like this. The whole experience has been fantastic, we really got that knowledge of what it’s like to be a writer and we had the pressure of the real deadline. I’d like to have a career that’s involved in writing in some way and I feel like this has given me a real start and a real introduction to what it’s all about.”

St Columb’s College pupil Chris Dillon says he has been ‘writing forever.’

“I write all the time, and force people to read it,” laughs Chris.

“I’m delighted I got the chance to take part in something like this. I read absolutely everything I come into contact with and I blog occasionally as well.

Praising the young people who contributed work to ‘The Soundtrack of our Lives’ Brian McGilloway said each one of them had produced something to be proud of. “I’m immensely proud of all the kids. We started this entire project in February so this is a relatively short timeframe to complete such a big task in. They took something from an idea and now, less than six months later, we have a finished product. We have the book in front of us. Given the fact that this project is part funded by the City of Culture I think we can say with certainty that this book is something solid which will have been produced during 2013.

“The big events we’ve seen so far are fantastic but I think it’s essential that the year leaves a legacy and what you have here are 56 of the best writers of their generation in Derry. And even if five or six of those are inspired to go on and keep writing, and get published, there will have been a value in this.

“The Soundtrack To Our Lives marks a distinctive contribution to the City of Culture 2013 celebrations. Each of these stories, inspired by a song or piece of music, offers a glimpse of the talent and potential of the young people in the city and beyond. Each one offers an insight into this generation of writers, all aged between 15-18. From personal to political, funny to fantastical, classical to rock inspired, this collection gathers together 56 brilliant stories from 56 great writers,” says Brian.