Back to school

Allan Ahlberg

This project brought International best selling children’s author, Allan Ahlberg, back to the Black Country school he went to as a child in the 1950s, and the school where he did his teacher training in the 1970s (Rood End and Bleak House respectively).

During 2011, Multistory worked with Allan on a project that took place in Rood End School and Bleakhouse School. Multistory commissioned a number of regional artists to carry out a series of workshops, working closely with the pupils and teachers in both of the schools. All of the children worked with the following:

  • a performance poet – so the children could perform Allan’s stories and poems and to write their own poems.
  • a sound artist – so the children could create audio stories.
  • a drama worker – so the children could re-enact scenes from Allan’s books or from their own stories.
  • an illustrator – so the children could illustrate their own stories using the style and techniques of Janet Ahlberg.

The main thrust of this work was driven by the books of Allan Ahlberg (particularly The Boyhood of Burglar Bill, My Brother’s Ghost and Woof) and by Allan’s poems which draw on his childhood and teaching experiences. It was also influenced by Allan’s books written for younger children and illustrated by his wife, Janet Ahlberg, (for example, Burglar Bill and Funny Bones) which use the look and feel of the Black Country. But, in particular, it used Peepo, based on his memories of Oldbury as a child.

An interactive exhibition of the project, including the children’s work, took place at The Public in West Bromwich during the Summer of 2011.

He tells stories of the football team, the lessons he taught and what the school was like 50 years ago. There are also some readings, including a wonderful unpublished work about his dad.