Remembering Yoruba – Sharing Poetry Across Languages

Kate Clanchy

A collaboration between Creative Multilingualism, Kate Clanchy, Timileyin Amusan and students from Brampton Manor Academy. The poems in the booklet Remembering Yoruba were created during lockdown in May – June 2020. Listen to the poets read their work and discuss what they learned from their experiences here>>

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There are more than 100,000 Yoruba speakers in the UK, and very many in our secondary schools – but you wouldn’t know. Students who speak the language don’t tend to celebrate it, inheriting perhaps an attitude from their parents, and from their parents’ schools in Nigeria as well as the UK, that only English is the language of education, and that only European languages ‘count’ as Modern Foreign Languages.

But all second languages are huge enrichment, and all linguistic diversity helps educational achievement and boosts creativity. In a bid to convince some sixth formers of this, we went, even in the middle of lockdown, into a London secondary school, Brampton Manor Academy, to work with some Yoruba speaking Sixth Formers. We brought with us a secret weapon: Timileyin Amusan had discovered his talent for poetry while working with Creative Multilingualism’s Prismatic Translation strand in an Oxford comprehensive. He’s since published a pamphlet, had his poems set by the Orchestra of St John’s, and been a BBC Local Poet. Timi’s best known poem was called Learning English, and we now commissioned a companion piece, Forgetting Yoruba, which called back his home language. We created a pamphlet of Timi’s work, culminating in the new poem, and sent it out to the sixth formers so they could understand his work and his message.

When we followed this with a live online reading of Timi’s poems, and a question and answer session, the students were visibly, even online, thrilled. When they wrote their own poems, and Timi and I gave feedback on them, it was moving to see how many of them had chosen to write at least partially in Yoruba, and to talk about how important it can be. The poems were collected in a pamphlet. We hope that the book will stay in the Brampton Manor Academy Library as a reminder of what a beautiful gift another language can be, inspiring other students to explore the creative resources of their own languages.

Kate Clanchy
June 2020

You can download a copy of Remembering Yoruba here >>

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Kate Clanchy is a teacher and writer. In 2018 she published England Poems from a School, a collection of her migrant students' poems and was made MBE. Her most recent book is Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me, described by Sir Phillip Pullman as the 'best book about writing and teaching and children I have ever read.' 

Kate has produced a series of short films demonstrating some of the poetry activities she uses with pupils – visit our resources section to watch the films.