A BLAENAU Gwent school has attracted a number of well-known faces to appear at its online literary festival.

Brynmawr Foundation School decided to host its own virtual festival after an annual trip to the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts was cancelled again this year due to the ongoing pandemic.

The five-day online event, called New Horizons, will feature a number of famous names including actor and author Stephen Fry, who will be opening the festival.

Anyone who has a love for the written and spoken word is able to attend for free, and primary schools in the local area are participating.

The festival begins at 8am on Monday June 14. You can get involved through https://www.brynmawrfoundationschool.co.uk/ where you can find out more information about those involved, and the schedule.

Among those involved in the festival are: New Zealand-born British actor Chris Rankin, best known as Percy Weasley in the Harry Potter franchise; young adult author Kat Ellis from North Wales; and Jackie Morris, a prizewinning, international best-selling illustrator, artist and author of more than 40 childrens’ books.

Former Wales and British & Irish Lions fly-half and current Wales coach Stephen Jones and ex-Welsh rugby international and endurance athlete Richard Parks will also be taking part.

Speechwriter Simon Lancaster who wrote for members of Tony Blair’s cabinet; Aaron Dembski-Bowden - New York Times-bestselling novelist, and fantasy and sci-fi writer; and ex-Brynmawr pupil Justin Davies, best known for an acting role in TV comedy drama Stella, will participate too.

Blaenau Gwent Council, Impact Wales Education, Crickhowell bookshop Book-ish, Oxford University Press, and the Hay Festival are backing the festival.

Book-ish will also be offering discounts and exciting prizes to the pupils along with other opportunities throughout the week to celebrate literature.

Brynmawr Foundation School headteacher Gerard McNamara said: “Our pupils relish any opportunity to become immersed in literature and reading, and they especially enjoy our annual visit to the Hat Festival. The pandemic has impacted so many of our educational plans this past year and, the disappointment of yet another cancelled event got us thinking why not create our very own literacy festival here at the school.

“Thanks to the amazing work of our staff and the willingness to be involved from some real star names, the idea has gained real momentum and grown into an exciting celebration of literacy and learning which we’re delighted to be able to share with all. I’m very proud of our wonderful school and this is just the start of many more exciting things to come.”


The school’s literacy co-ordinator, Nathan Atkins, said: “Improving pupils’ literacy is one of our key priorities and we have just invested in the accelerated reader programme as we begin the venture into the creation of our own school library which we hope to open in September.

“The virtual and electronic world of reading are valued and enjoyed by many, including our pupils and staff, however, to immerse yourself in a book is often easier done without a screen nearby.

“Providing our pupils with opportunities to explore literature, encouraging them to read and stretch their imagination and ensuring their ambitions are achieved is vital for their future progression and success.

“Creating our own literary celebration will help to further put literacy and reading on the map for our pupils and further help to celebrate our pupils, not only in Brynmawr but across Blaenau Gwent and even further afield. We’re all very excited here in Brynmawr and can’t wait for June 14 to come.”

Councillor Joanne Collins, Blaenau Gwent Council’s executive member for education said: “I’m so impressed with the festival that’s been put together by Brynmawr Foundation School. It looks so exciting, and I’m delighted that all our schools will have the opportunity to get involved throughout the week.

“We’re committed to continuing to work closely with our schools to make sure that our children and young people have the very best opportunities available in order to thrive and reach their full potential.”

Sadie Evans, Head girl of Brynmawr Foundation School will be recording her own session for the festival:

"I am really excited to be taking part in my own school's first literary festival! This is such a great opportunity for all of our pupils and the local community to share in a celebration of literature and the arts."