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Blackburn bookworms festival – read all about it

Blackburn Children’s Literature Festival has been reimagined as a virtual event after being postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Organised by Christina Gabbitas, Founder of Children’s Literature Festivals Charity, whose mission is to give children and families from all backgrounds, cultures and abilities an equal opportunity of having access to books with free literature festivals, is being funded by Blackburn with Darwen Council, Blackburn BID, Newground Together, and Poems and Pictures Ltd, supported by Blackburn Central Library, Blackburn Children’s Literature Festival was due to take place in April 

Award-winning children’s author Christina Gabbitas, best known for her educational rhyming books, said the ‘Virtual’ Schools Fest will give all of Blackburn with Darwen’s 63 schools an opportunity to experience live author/illustrator sessions on September 17 and 18. 

She said: “Each school will receive their own personal invitation to join the event. 

“I am so grateful to Newground Together, Blackburn with Darwen Council, Blackburn Library and Blackburn BID for supporting my enthusiasm to make this work and reach more children who have suffered during lockdown. 

“We want to help bring some positivity and enthusiasm about stories, books, words and illustration with an explosion of creativity to children’s lives. 

“Lockdown has affected everybody in ways we could have never imagined.” 

The virtual event will feature artists including award-winning South Asian Author Salma Zaman, Blue Peter Book Award Winner, Andy Seed, Edinburgh Festival author Stuart Reid, National Poetry Day ambassador Matt Goodfellow, Lancashire Poet Dom Conlon, Illustrrator Liz Milion and local award-winning illustrator Ursula Hurst. 

Mick Smith, Managing Director of Newground, said: “The event encourages children’s imaginations, helps to improve literacy, supports the development of children’s confidence and skills, helps to boost aspirations and ultimately can make a huge contribution to their future.” 

Blackburn-born Christina will also be holding a socially distanced event in Blackburn Central Library with her story, No More Knives, which was commissioned by the Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office. 

The story has been endorsed by various police personnel and focuses on a group of friends who are groomed into county lines activity before realising the dangers of carrying knives for protection. 

Aimed at teachers, parents, carers and anyone who works in child protection, the event is being held on September 17 from 6.30pm-8.00pm in Blackburn Central Library. 

Christina has also been commissioned by Blackburn BID to write a story about Blackburn town centre, with a view to the book being released in November, ahead of Christmas. 

She added: “I met with the team in January but have since changed the story to reflect our changing world with Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“I was born in Sumner Street in Blackburn in the old fire station, and the listed tower appears in the story along with Blackburn Museum, King Georges Hall, the old police station, Blackburn Library, Blakey Moor School, Blackburn College, Cathedral and The Mall.” 

Nationally it is recognised that there are failing literacy levels, with England being ranked bottom of the table in the developed world for 16-17 year olds. Last year, over a third of children (35%) in Blackburn with Darwen left primary school failing to reach the expected standards for reading, writing and numeracy and only 9% of children in the borough reached higher than expected levels of attainment. 

The first Blackburn Literature Festival was held in 2018 and together with the 2019 festival, 4,000 children and families engaged with the events, and 2,500 books were given away to children who took part.   

For further information about Ms Gabbitas’ Blackburn story visit: believeinmagicbtc.com. 

More information on the knife crime project can be found here: nomoreknofecrime.com.  

Any teachers wanting information on the virtual literature festival should email info@christinagabbitas.com or call 07852 804999. 

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