UK and International School Specialists
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Tony Walsh
Tony Walsh

All About Tony Walsh

Tony Walsh, sometimes known as Longfella – he’s two metres tall – “is one of the UK’s most renowned performance poets.” His impactful and accessible poetry has been showcased nationally including on BBC 1, BBC Sport, Sky Sports, BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music. Tony has also performed his work internationally and been published in the UK, the USA and translated into Russian. Now a full-time professional writer and performer, Tony’s education work is underpinned by nearly 20 years experience of leading housing, regeneration and community development partnerships in some of the UK’s most deprived communities. Tony is based in Manchester and is married with two teenage children.

As an inspirational and passionate educator, Tony devises and leads a wide range of poetry and writing programmes for all ages and has a wealth of experience working with primary and secondary schools, in sixth form colleges, adult education, pupil referral units (PRUs), special needs groups, universities, youth and community projects, prisons, care settings and with writers’ groups of all abilities. Tony’s workshops are as fun as they are inspirational with an emphasis placed on participation, empowerment and developing confidence.

With his work for adult and teenage audiences, Tony has given hundreds of acclaimed performances around the UK, in Ireland and Europe – everywhere from The British Library, The RSC’s 50th Anniversary celebrations at Stratford-Upon-Avon and at The Palace of Science and Culture in Warsaw (Poland) for The British Council. In 2011 he was website Poet in Residence for the world-renowned Glastonbury Festival. Tony has also performed professionally at music and arts festivals including Latitude, The Big Chill, Kendal Calling, Electric Picnic, Wychwood and Shambala, and at prestigious literary and poetry festivals including Ledbury, Bridport, StAnza (Scotland), Strokestown (Ireland) and Manchester. In 2008 he finished runner-up in ‘The Times’ Cheltenham Literary Festival UK All-Stars Poetry Slam final. He was also the 2010 Comedy Poetry Slam Champion at Manchester Literature Festival. A leader of poetry workshops at the National Football Museum in Manchester, Tony was commissioned to write and perform the official tribute poem at the unveiling of Sir Alex Ferguson Way at Old Trafford in 2013.

“Absolutely brilliant! Unbelievable!” Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United

Equally at home on the page and the stage, Tony’s poetry has featured in numerous publications and anthologies at home and abroad. His words have appeared in the glossy music magazine Q and everywhere from The Guardian to Viz. His first full poetry collection for adults and older teens, Sex & Love & Rock & Roll, was published by Burning Eye in 2013 to great acclaim. Tony’s writing and education work has, in recent years, increasingly included pre-school and primary aged children, enjoying the same acclaim as his work for older audiences. His first rhyming picture book for children aged 3-7, I Can Draw My Alphabet was published in 2013 by Flapjack Press with hilarious, colourful illustrations by Paul Neads. Tony’s eagerly-awaited first full collection of poetry for children is coming soon from Caboodle Books.

Tony’s School Visits

Primary Schools

Tony has a wealth of material suitable for all ages from reception to year 6, much of which is very funny and which encourages children to join in, sometimes with actions for the younger ones. Many pieces are also written as direct encouragement for the children to read and to write for pleasure, to create and to perform. Tony’s passionate talks and poems inspire children and give them “permission” and the aspiration to be creative themselves, to find their “voice” and to use it, regardless of their background.

An author visit from Tony could begin with a short performance to the whole school or to several year groups, if required. The remainder of the day would be filled with performances, talks or workshops with smaller groups, classes or year-groups ranging from around 30 minutes with very young children, to 60-90 minutes with years 4, 5 and 6. By agreement, the sessions could either feature Tony leading the writing of a collective poem, setting an exercise and supporting the class to write poems of their own or in pairs, or the demonstration of a selection of poetic ideas, structures and techniques to be followed up by the teacher. The day could end with pupils sharing their work before the whole school if required, a session to which parents and carers, governors, councillors, partner agencies and the local press could perhaps be invited.

In dialogue with teachers, Tony is happy to tailor his sessions to fit in with any aspect of the curriculum and with initiatives such as World Book Day, National Poetry Day, anti-bullying, healthy eating, World War One, the Olympics, the World Cup, cultural celebrations, transition to high school, etc.

Tony could also become involved in summer schools, awards ceremonies, writing competitions, able or reluctant writers’ groups, or in devising and leading in-school or inter-school Poetry Slam competitions – think X-Factor for young poets! What about an after school write club? Or a school Poetry Slam team! Tony prides himself on the way that his sessions inspire and empower young people plus, from a literacy point of view, can include techniques and forms including rhythm, rhyme, free verse, haiku, acrostics, kennings, limericks, tongue twisters, raps, personification, metaphor, simile, etc.

Secondary Schools

As at primary and adult levels, Tony has a wealth of material and the experience to engage and inspire pupils across the secondary and cultural spectrums. Whilst frequently working with year 7’s and 8’s, working with up to year 11’s and full year groups could all be discussed, although class-sized or smaller groups are preferred.

An author visit from Tony sometimes begins with an introductory poem or two to the full school or year group, but usually comprises of a full day of performances, workshops and talks. Each session can last between 30-90 minutes dependant on the timetable. By agreement, the sessions could either feature Tony leading the writing of a collective poem, setting an exercise and supporting the class to write poems of their own or in pairs, or the demonstration of a selection of poetic ideas, structures and techniques to be followed up by the teacher. If preferred, the day could end with pupils sharing their work before the whole school or year group, a session to which parents and carers, governors, councillors, partner agencies and the local press could perhaps be invited. Half-day, full-day or multi-visit sessions could all be devised, as could longer-term “Writer in Residence” relationships.

Tony could also become involved in a Q&A, enrichment sessions, family sessions, summer schools, awards ceremonies, writing competitions, the Poetry By Heart competition, able or reluctant writers’ groups, interviews for the school website or magazine, and in devising and leading in-school or inter-school Poetry Slam competitions – think X-Factor for young poets! What about an after school Write Club? Or a school Poetry Slam team!

Material and facilities needed

Tony’s requirements are generally straightforward: an appropriately sized room where it’s ok to be reasonably noisy, paper, pens and something to lean on for the pupils, plus a whiteboard or a flip-chart (with pens!) for himself. The means to show some clips from YouTube or from a memory stick is always appreciated if possible.

Reviews and Recommendations

“Thank you so much for coming along to help us celebrate World Book Day at Bruche Community Primary School. Our children were blown away with your performances both within the whole school assembly and the individual class workshops. Our KS1 teachers were particularly impressed with the level of concentration that the children had, you held their attention from the moment you started the day and throughout their class performances. You captured their attention and imagination perfectly with material that was just right for their age and interests, the children were mesmerised with your performances and were really inspired to write more and more. In fact a child from the year 3/4 class wrote a kenning poem at home last night and brought it into class to share. In addition to this, Miss Glynn whom teaches year 3/4, has added future learning objectives to her plans that have been inspired from the work you performed yesterday. Overall, you enthusiasm and dedication to poetry and writing has had an immediate impact on our school. The children thoroughly enjoyed the whole day.” – Alicia Dignan-Smith, Bruche Community Primary School

“We all had a fantastic day with Tony. His successful formula combined the inspiration of creativity with the demonstration of ways to improve some of the techniques of poetry writing. He helped the children to diagnose where their poems didn’t sound ‘quite right’ and helped them to find a cure!” – Elizabeth Berry, The Gleddings Preparatory School

“We were all impressed with Tony Walsh’s dynamic poetry, enthusiasm and professionalsim at Prestwich Arts College. Students and staff alike enjoyed the opportunity not only to hear Tony’s own poetry, but to participate in a creative writing workshop. The numbers of students who were willing to share their creative writing was a clear sign that Tony had activated their ‘creative muscle’. After being asked to be a judge in last year’s local poetry slam (which Tony organised and hosted), it was a pleasure to book him for World Book Day and to see him in action again.” – Sau-mai Rawcliffe, Assistant Head of English, Prestwich Arts College

“Tony’s poetry sessions were absolutely  fantastic; he is enthusiastic, motivational and inspires the pupils to make a personal connection with poetry, even when they thought that poetry was not for them. He judged our internal Poetry Recitation competition and made all of the competitors feel at ease and feel that poetry was ‘cool’. Pupils from all three sessions left the room buzzing about poetry and about poems they had either recited, written or heard. We look forward to having him back in school soon!” – Esther Spence, Acting Head of English Department, Stockport Grammar School

“Tony Walsh worked with us this week on the theme of ‘Engineering our Future’. it was a great way of helping us to focus on our future career and how we can contribute to the world. I was very impressed with what we all achieved in a short and fun workshop. I hope it helped those involved to be more confident about their future career in engineering. It was great to work with Tony and a really memorable occasion.” – Dr Therese Lawlor-Wright, School of Mechancal, Aeronautical and Civil Engineering

“We would like to say a big thank you again for working with us recently. We liked how you shared your poetry and stories with us and encouraged the children to think creatively. The children in Year 3 enjoyed writing acrostic poems about working to their full potential in school and then Year 4 wrote about their Theatre Of Dreams. I have a banner up in my classroom now that reads ‘Let’s use our enormous potential to create something unique’.” – Lee Moran, Year 4 Teacher, St Mary’s CE Primary School, Stockport

“He is the real deal!” Benjamin Zephaniah

“Fired and inspiring” John Hegley

“There is formal skill from Tony Walsh…”Carol Ann Duffy, UK Poet Laureate

To Make a Booking

To make an enquiry about Tony Walsh, or any of the other authors, poets & illustrators listed on this website, please phone Trevor Wilson on +44 (0) 1535 656015, or email him at trevor@caboodlebooks.co.uk