Writer-in-residence at Kentish Town school mentors pupils to become published poets and writers

A writer-in-residence at a Camden secondary, who left school without any GCSEs, is trying to foster a love of literacy and creativity among pupils.

Shauna O’Briain, aka MC Angel, is taking part in an ambitious national campaign First Story, to improve literacy at Acland Burghley School, in Burghley Road, Kentish Town.

The spoken word and hip-hop poet from Somers Town, attributes her own success to finding a mentor at the age of 21 when she met former The Belle Stars vocalist Jennie Matthias, who ran an arts company helping young people develop confidence.

Ms O’Briain said: “Having positive encouragement to express myself creatively was invaluable.

“I was studying drama and Jenny encouraged me with my poetry. She got me my first gig and it all just spiralled from that point onwards.”

She has performed at various festivals including Latitude and is currently working with the band Asian Dub Foundation.

She was spotted at the Oxford Literary Festival and was then shortlisted and selected by Acland Burghley’s English department, which was “looking for someone upbeat and urban”.

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Ms O’Briain, who started the year-long project on Monday, said: “I want to positively encourage young people to believe in the power of their voice and the power of their words.

“I’m passionate about inspiring young people creatively and helping build their self-esteem.

“Good self-esteem equals happy people.”

She will spend the year working with a group of 15 pupils from Years 7 to 11, working towards a published anthology of poetry, prose and short stories.

First Story arranges and pays for authors to run weekly school creative-writing workshops in secondary schools around the UK. They will produce a professional anthology for each school and host a book launch.