Mike Barfield
Mike Barfield

All About Mike Barfield

Mike Barfield is an author, poet, performer and award-winning cartoonist based in Helperby, a village just north of York, North Yorkshire. His educational entertainment show SWAT!, based on Mike’s children’s picture book of the same name, was a sold out hit at this years Hay Literary Festival. Mike is currently the Cartoon Art Trust Strip cartoonist of the year.

Trained as a scientist, Mike has a first class biology degree from King’s College, London but on graduation switched to pursuing a career as a comedy writer as making jokes had always been his abiding passion and friends kept telling him he was funny.

Since then he has written for numerous radio and TV programmes. His television writing credits include children’s TV, game shows and many comedy shows. He has written for Spitting Image, Rory Bremner, Saturday Superstore and even Dennis the Menace and Gnasher.

For five years he was the writer on the legendary quiz Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, as well as many other game shows. He also wrote, produced and presented his own TV series Comic Cuts, all about the world of comics and cartooning.

Mike is also a widely published poet and author, and has written for newspapers and magazines including The Oldie, Punch, Private Eye, The Times, The Guardian and The Independent. His books include Panic Station, Cram Me With Eels! This Septic Isle and SWAT! A Fly’s Guide to Staying Alive. Mike has also contributed to many other titles, with his comic children’s poems appearing in many collections, including A First Poetry Book and The Silly Book of Side-Splitting Stuff.

Somewhere along the way, he also began working as a cartoonist, with his cartoons being a regular feature in Time Out magazine and Private Eye. He has now been a feature of Private Eye for the past 18 years and is currently the Cartoon Art Trust’s Strip Cartoonist of the Year. He also has a new regular cartoon feature in The Oldie magazine.

He is CRB checked, and has Arts Award training to Silver standard. He also delivered a three month long programme of science, maths and English modules to gifted and talented pupils as a Creative Practitioner at an academy school in Hull, and was for many years a workshop provider for Newcastle City Council’s scheme for gifted and talented children.

Mike’s School Visits

Mike has experience of working with all year groups from primary to secondary – KS1 to KS4.

KS1/KS2 workshops/visits

SWAT! A Fly’s Guide to Staying Alive half-day or full day performance and workshop, with science explorations sessions and a final fun quiz. For KS2 classes predominantly. Based on Mike’s critically-acclaimed children’s picture book of the same name detailing the hazards faced by a housefly called Buzzter, and highlighting food webs, life cycles and predation, as well as animal anatomy and the diversity of life. The day begins with a 75 minute theatrical show, full of props, songs, and audience interaction in which pupils learn about insect anatomy, minibeasts, food webs, predation and how flies are adapted to survive – and why they must die!  After a break, pupils then conduct a number of simple scientific tests – comparing themselves to a fly – as well as making simple paper models of a fly and a fly trap – before learning how flytraps catch their prey.

Mike also shows the original artwork for the book and talks about its creation and production. In addition, he will also talk to younger classes, show them props and a real living flytrap, play the ukulele and take questions.

The SWAT! show was a sold-out hit in The Cube at this year’s prestigious Hay Festival!

“What a marvellous day you gave us yesterday! Thank you once again.“ Michelle Moore, Head, Scotton Lingerfield Primary School.

Awesome Autumn An interactive one hour performance poetry and music show with attendant writing workshops. The show is suitable for KS1 and KS2, but the additional workshops most benefit KS2 children. Everything autumnal is covered in the show, including the changing weather, leaf fall, conkers, bonfire night and Halloween. Children get to produce their own autumn poems, explore the language of autumn, and even produce a best dressed spud ahead of Mike’s visit. Can be half-day or full day, or the show can be booked alone. The show toured as part of the Ripon International Festival in 2011, for which Mike was Poet In Residence.

‘What a brilliant day! The children wrote so much!’ Librarian, St. Peter’s Brafferton School.

Verse Noel! A second seasonal show exploring the Christmas season through poetry and music, in a manner similar to Awesome Autumn. The one hour interactive show can be booked separately as an inspiring Christmas entertainment, or can be included along with attendant writing workshops.

Hi Summer! His third seasonal show, similar in scope and format to the above two shows.

Wish You Were Here? A half-day (one class) or full-day (two or more classes) workshop session designed to especially engage reluctant writers and stimulate the imaginations of pupils of all abilities. Pupils fill-in a paper passport during the course of a number of fun writing games. However, the key exercise is a postcard-writing challenge in which pupils select any number of unrelated postcards and link their images in an account of a surreal holiday adventure. The small size of the cards encourages reluctant writers and the fun aspect of the challenge and the pictures on the cards serves as a real kick to the imagination and creativity of pupils. The pupils then all share their work in a very enthusiastic, supportive and encouraging atmosphere. Oh and Mike begins the sessions dressed as a border official, inspecting and stamping every pupils passport.

“I’ve never been able to get them writing like that. Some of them just want to keep going! It’s amazing.” Mr. Barry, Year 3 and 4 teacher, St Peter’s Brafferton.

Cheer for Lear! A one hour poetry and puppetry show presented by Mike in the guise of Edward Lear and featuring masks, music and oodles of audience participation. The show is suitable for KS1 and KS2 and touches on both Lear’s life as well as his many nonsense works. It can be booked as a standalone show, or with additional complementary writing workshops. Children produce their own limericks complete with illustrations, as well coming up with their own odd Lear-like words, animals and plants. Excellent for encouraging reluctant poets through its sense of fun and humour.

Jab for Life A biographical poetry performance about Mike’s own experiences and memories of primary school in Leicestershire in the 1960s and 1970’s. This is followed by workshops aimed at getting children to produce a suite of poems about their own experiences at primary school right here and now.

Professor Turnkey’s Clockwork Circus A hilarious – and probably unique – one hour demonstration of vintage and replica clockwork toys from Mike’s own vast collection. He presents it in the guise of Professor Ivor Turnkey and features toy animals, people, cars, spaceships and much more! The show was an inaugural attraction at the Edinburgh Museum of Childhood as part of Scotland History Week and also ran for three days last year at the Lightwater Valley Dickensian Christmas fair. It is suitable for all stages and all ages and was well as being entertaining, Mike explains how the toys work, plus demonstrates a range of other old fashioned toys.

This show is perfect as an end of term whole school entertainment, and also accompanies KS1 history modules looking at how toys have changed over the past centuries. Scope exists for Mike to also run follow-up workshops in which children can design and make their own simple Victorian style toys.

KS3 Workshops/Visits

Mike has extensive experience of working with secondary school pupils, including a number of highly stimulating English-based full day workshops, as well as a talent for producing bespoke workshops to meet distinct needs, such as encouraging boys and reluctant writers to enthuse and engage.

Sue Plum, Librarian at Priory School, Hitchin, said of his ‘Reluctant Boys’ Football-based workshop:

“I wanted to write and thank you for delivering such a successful English Football Workshop yesterday. It is obvious that you put an enormous amount of effort into the workshop both on the day itself but probably more importantly into researching the topic and in the production of materials used by the students. Your enthusiasm and interest in the subject is infectious and your desire to engage and inspire the students is self-evident. Involving a penalty shoot-out linked to their written work was a master stroke!”

Mike spent three months as Creative Practitioner at Sirius Academy, Hull, in 2011, researching, compiling and delivering weekly all-day sessions for year 8 students in English, Maths and Science.

Pupils’ comments from his final evaluation included:

“It made us more positive about classwork”
“I talked more with my parents about this class”
“You can have fun and learn at the same time”
“It’s fun. It made me want to tell people what it was like”
“Things stick in our head. It made us remember things, particularly the  making”
“It’s more creative. We got to do things we don’t usually do”
“You don’t feel under pressure as much. I can be myself more”
“Mike thinks ‘outside the box’ and helped us to do it”
“How to improve teaching at this school? Get twenty Mikes.”
Mike can offer a number of full day workshops, particularly suitable for stretching more able pupils:

Unpicking the Dictionary A full day session that gets students thinking creatively and imaginatively about words and their meanings. It draws on Mike’s own comic dictionary ‘This Septic isle’ (Ebury, 2008) and explores the creations of language and how we use it. Students participate in a large number of fun writing exercises and in the process compile their own mini-dictionaries of favourite, unfamiliar and invented words.

This course was also offered as part of Newcastle’s programme of activities for gifted and talented pupils.

“I would just like to offer you our thanks again for the workshop on Friday; we appreciate the work that you did with our students who thoroughly enjoyed the day. I don’t think they realised that dictionary work could be so much fun!  We would love to have you back to work with more of our students.” Helen Brown at Sacred Heart School, Redcar
The Name’s The Game A workshop again aimed at more able pupils, and to encourage them to think creatively and imaginatively about names. This includes their own names, as well as those of characters, animals, and objects. Students compile a comprehensive workbook of material, and exercises include naming and designing chocolate bars, cars and furniture. There are lots of opportunities for sharing ideas between pupils and the session works particularly well in a large space such as a gym or hall that is also provided with tables and seating.

Additional Opportunities

As a multi-talented creative person, Mike is able to also offer help with writing and cartooning in a wide variety of capacities. He can also be engaged to talk to pupils about the life of a writer and cartoonist. He also presents an illustrated show about his many fields of work that is suitable for most audiences, including adults, and touching on his cartooning for Private Eye as well as his extensive work in television.

Mike’s Book


Reviews and Recommendations

‘Thank you Mike for your time and patience with us last Friday! The feedback from students has been unanimously excellent! When I get the entries for the limericks in, I shall be sure to send some to you! Thanks again for last Friday!’ – Mark, Graham School, Scarborough

To Make a Booking

To make an enquiry about Mike Barfield, 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

Further information on Mike Barfield is available from his website: http://www.mikebarfield.co.uk