One week after his moving and powerful presentation of A Day to Remember, performance poet Toby Thompson returned to School to lead a workshop and Q&A session.

In the workshop Director Jesse Jones challenged the Fifth Form, who are studying the poetry of conflict in English, to consider and then share ‘What grinds your gears’; then to think about what they loved. Toby gave each pupil a photo of a former Downside pupil who died in the First or Second World War to act as a trigger for a piece of writing about being a soldier and finally pupils wrote their own responses to a call to arms. The format of the workshop mirrored Toby’s working practice and pupils were able to see how he meshed research with his own emotional responses to create powerful poetry. 

After lunch, Second Form pupils were treated to a Q&A session that held them spellbound. Toby talked about his life as a poet and how his career has evolved so far. His director followed suit demonstrating the range of opportunities for careers in the creative industries. So many insightful questions dealing with complex issues answered thoughtfully and in depth. The minutes flew by and still the questions kept coming. Clearly the event last week and the session in the Petre Library had made a deep impact on the pupils.

As one teacher said after the performance, “Toby is art with arms and legs.”