March 20, 2007

My site has been rebuilt and relaunched by a genius.It is now almost ready and you can have a look at it. This is the URL for my website proper:

and on it you'll find all the world wide scrapbook called Bard on the Wire, all the archives and the pages based on each of my books. And of course the purchase page.It is now a purchase page you can actually buy direct from. Just click on a button and one of my books can be heading your way. This relaunched site has everything in fact except poem of the month, which you will find here on the blog instead.

The blog will remain as a chatty extension to the main site,

but if you want the real McCalway, it's on

March 06, 2007

Soccer chants are ancient history

Press cutting from the TES

by Warwick Mansell, Times Educational Supplement
Published: 23 February 2007

Is there poetry in football songs? Gareth Calway, head of English at Smithdon high in Hunstanton, Norfolk, and official poet of Bristol City FC, thinks so.
The ritual of chant and counter-chant is a "beautiful example of the poetic craft", says Mr Calway, who last year recreated the intensity of the terraces in a series of lessons.

Some might question the poetry in "We are the boys in red and white/We love to drink and love to fight", or "We love you city, we do" - but not this supporter, it seems.

The centrepiece was a CD he played of a Bristol City song, in which the fans let their opponents know where they are from and then, not very gently, mock their arch rivals, Bristol Rovers.

Some sections of the following extract have to be handled with care in the classroom. The chant runs: "Everywhere we go/People want to know/Who we are/Where we're from/We are from Bristol/Bristol City/ We are the boys in red and white/Love to drink and love to fight.

"We hate the Rovers/But City we love you/We love you city, we do/We love you City, we do/We love you City, we do/Oh, City we love you."

The class is then invited to devise its own, slightly sanitised, version, with "love to drink and fight" replaced with "love to do our work all night", and with another local school replacing Rovers, which they then sing.

Mr Calway used the football songs in a lesson also covering traditional African hunting chants and the poetry of the Bible. It finished with pupils writing their own verse on a subject of their choice but using the rhythmic structure of the football anthems.

Mr Calway believes football matchday rituals follow in a long tradition of oral poetry, dating back to the choruses that formed the backdrop to ancient Greek theatre.

"The pupils love the lesson," he said. "I also use drums and old football rattles to add to the atmosphere in the classroom. I even said the aim was to get complaints from other classes about the noise. Actually we didn't have any. Some of the boys I taught really wanted to learn. Some stayed behind to talk about the structure of a chant they had heard at Norwich City, writing it down and then trying to learn it."

Mr Calway will be presenting a workshop on the "poetry of sport", which will also look at the lyricism of recent writing on cricket, at the National Association for the Teaching of English's annual conference in Manchester on April 1 and 2.


March 05, 2007

Workshop At Milborne First School, Dorset, Friday March 2

Ah! if only all schools were like this. The Head told me he believes that the prerequisite of all learning is that the child is happy. Very good, I thought, they all say that. But this learning environment really was a happy one. Set in a wonderful Wessex wold a few miles north of Weymouth, this well-appointed and extremely well resourced new school had a welcoming Wessex air. It wasn't just the setting or the (unusually spacious and well-purposed) modern building, it was that not only the children but the staff seemed happy in their work. I did not hear a negative whisper all day and that includes all the various support staff! Is it something in the water down Wessex way I wonder? Children got on with their work with happy enthusiasm. Staff also seemed to all like their classes, each other and their Head!! (Like I said, this is rare!). I also liked all the classes, aged between 4-9, all young enough to call me "Gareth" and show me their work with grinning pride, some so young they called me "Author". "Bye bye Author" as I left will be an enduring memory.

I have had several experiences now with the younger end of the school age-range now and I have to say, the complete lack of cynicism and the big-eyed wondering enjoyment of words and all things creative of that age range at Milborne was a real restorative. It was a six hour drive down for me after work the previous day and I also had a car breakdown and a need to call the AA (the car people not the alcoholic agency) so I was wondering if it was worth it when I travelled in to this relatively unfamiliar territory.

Well, it certainly was. Even the fact that the school was not in Weymouth (as I expected) - hence all the compensating w alliteration here - could not take the edge off a wonderful day, chanting, becoming and bespeaking animals and revisiting infant memories recorded in crayon drawings with captions like "I am four/ I poo on Daddy's shirt!!". I understand there is even going to be a 100 page booklet of the poems produced and properly printed. So all power to you, Milborne. One of my best ever days in a school!