Let in the Stars Family Festival brings the local community together to celebrate poetry, art and science

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Stanley Grove Primary Academy and the Manchester Children’s Book Festival teamed up to host a Family Festival full of activity at Longsight’s community celebration of stars, winter, science and crafts.

The event began at Longsight Library with craft tables and science activities based around the theme of space happening all over the community space. Everything from lantern making, face painting and moon crater ping pong entertained the children. Outside, there were tents hosting stained glass and glow chain making.

The Manchester Children’s Book Festival stand encouraged children to make their own star shaped books ready to be filled with poetry. Over in the Storytelling Tent, poet Dom Conlon told the groups of children stories about space, using his magic umbrella to show them the stars. Conlon said,

“This event helps to show the entire community that we’re together and we’re learning about poetry and the difference it can make. Mixing science with it can make a difference to our lives, it shows how it affects us all the time, and how it can make us happy. It’s great! It’s a very happy fantastic feeling. My advice for young writers is that writing and reading are the two most important things, and to be silly and to not be frightened of not being daft. The dafter you are the better!”

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Over in the Pakistani Community Centre, poet Mandy Coe presented poetry performances by students from the local primary schools. Children from Stanley Grove Primary Academy, Rushbrook Primary and Cedar Mount Primary each performed their poems on the theme of stars and space.

Mandy Coe said, “Events like our Let in the Stars Festival model for the children a sense of partnership and a sense of creativity, rather than the common culture around us now of buying things, watching and consuming. So for them to see how communities can pull together and create, and for them to see both adults and children do this is very reassuring.

“We can achieve amazing things, the seeds that are planted now we may not even see in our lifetime, but these children each time it’s an act of faith in them, and an act of faith in us to create something great. They will remember this all of their lives.”

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The Starlab, an inflatable planetarium provided by Manchester Met’s Faculty of Education, attracted a lot of visitors, with the attraction teaching children and parents about the constellations and planets. Siblings Zahida, 7, Ayaan, 6, Arsalan, 5 and Anaya, 4, said that they had really enjoyed the Starlab and they had learnt that Pluto was the smallest planet in the solar system. Their mother Sadia Naseer said: “Today has been fantastic. It’s really important for the community as it brings the schools and everyone together, and it gives the kids something to do outside of school.”

The arrival of the Lord Mayor of Manchester Carl Austin-Behan official opening the Festival and was met with the sound of a saxophone, and a line of excited families waiting to grab a selfie.

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When asked about the importance of these types of events within the community, he said: “I think it’s important as it’s a way of people getting people that may have just been given a book and been told to go off and read it to read what they love. If you can do a collaboration where you’ve got the resources like the library and the schools, the book festival, the museums and Jodrel Bank all coming together, it makes it more fun and interesting.

“When I was a kid, I didn’t find anything exciting within the idea of reading, whatever the book was I just wasn’t interested. With events like this, when you have the teachers, people from other agencies explaining why it’s fun and explaining the reasons behind the story makes a massive difference to people. Children are expressing themselves a lot more through writing and poetry than they were twenty years ago. I love the fact that communities come together like this, it makes a massive difference, especially with the different beliefs and cultures here today.”

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Councillor of Longsight ward Suzanne Richards said that the event was always popular, “Events like today are really important because it gives visibility to the schools and community, and children who attend different schools can come together. Stanley Grove have involved all of the different schools today, they’ve involved wider siblings as well so it’s not just about the children at Stanley Grove. It’s about instilling a passion in children about books and reading which is very important, especially for children in Longsight, as lots of our children speak English as an additional language when they start school. Anything that we can do to inspire energy and enthusiasm about books and reading really helps the children in the development of their language skills.”

The event concluded with a spectacular lantern parade, where the children, parents and teachers light up the local street with stunning homemade lamps and lanterns.

Manchester Children’s Book Festival Director Kaye Tew summed up the success of the event: “This is the first time that we’ve collaborated with Stanley Grove on a full event. It’s really important to bring the Manchester Children’s Book Festival out into the community. The fact that Stanley Grove have centred the event around our Let in the Stars anthology is brilliant, and we hope to bring the importance of reading and poetry out into the different communities in Manchester.”

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